Chrysler Motors Corporation
Named after the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, the DeSoto was introduced in 1928 to compete with the Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Nashes. It was established by Walter P. Chrysler and introduced in 1929 in which a DeSoto sedan cost $885 and over $90,000 of them were sold. Shortly after its introduction, Chrysler purchased Dodge Brothers which gave the company 2 mid-priced makes. A 3.4 liter straight 8 with a 9 foot 6 inch wheelbase was announced in 1930 as the world’s cheapest 8-cylinder car. However, DeSoto suffered during the Depression and sales dropped to 26,000 cars.
DeSoto followed Chrysler lines closely though in later years there was a tendency to that they moved in the higher price range than Dodge. By 1939 the cars were being made with independent front suspension and there was a choice of two 6-cylinder engines and three wheelbase lengths – DeSoto continued to offer a roomy family vehicle. Production kept increasing, and in 1941 the DeSoto Division produced nearly 90,000 cars and was in 10th place in production.
Before automobile production was shut down for the war, DeSoto wowed consumers by producing a model in 1942 fitted with “Airfoil” hidden pop-up headlights. They were the only hidden lamps in the industry that year and remained “out of sight, except at night.” After the War, DeSoto used the Deluxe and Custom model designations and in 1949 the line was completely restyled. DeSoto took on the boxy, upright styling typical of Chrysler products that year. 1949 turned out to be a fantastic year and DeSoto built 3 times as many Customs as Deluxe’s proving that buyers prefer a more luxurious, higher prices vehicle. For 1952, DeSoto introduced its version of the hemispherical-head V8 (HEMI) on the 276.1-cid Firedome.
DeSoto’s continued to sell well in 1956 and on into 1957 when they were redesigned with prominent tailfins and consumers responded by buying record numbers of the car. It faired so well, that it nearly passed Chrysler in production, falling just 8,000 units short. Even with the success of 1957, production levels dropped from 118,000 units to 50,000 units and became one of DeSoto’s worst years. Sales continued to slump into 1959 and soon rumors began that the production of DeSoto was going to stop. These rumors were denied and in 1959 a celebration was held to mark DeSoto’s two-millionth car.
However, the rumors proved to be true, when under Chrysler’s new marketing plan both Chrysler and Dodge embarked into DeSoto’s territory. In 1960, DeSoto merged with Plymouth and during the first two months sales totaled 4746. The last of the DeSoto models were constructed for 1961 but production ceased in November 1960 after only a few had been delivered. The finale of the DeSoto marque was announced on November 30, 1960 and was a dreadful end to an automobile that had brought significant status and profits to the Chrysler Corporation for more than three decades.