1914-1928: Dodge Brothers
1928-present: Chrysler Motors Corporation
Two brothers, John Francis Dodge and Horace Elgin Dodge, were early shareholders and builders of engines for the Ford Motor Company. In November of 1914 they produced their first car, a 4 cylinder Dodge Model 30, and soon started their own auto company, which was rightly named the Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicle Company. The brothers started building motor trucks which won acceptance among the American army and were widely used in World War I as a staff car and ambulance. Even today, Dodge is as well known for their trucks as they are their passenger cars. By 1916, Dodge was fourth in over U.S. sales with over 70,000 vehicles delivered and by 1920 they had moved up to second place. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1920 when both brothers passed away. Ownership fell onto the two widows whom hired Frederick Haynes as the company president. Consequently, by 1925 Dodge dropped to fifth place and soon the widows would sell Dodge Brothers Company to Dillon, Read & Co. for the sum of $146 million. Some minimal changes were made to the Dodge lineup and in 1927 a new six-cylinder line was introduced, the Standard Six and Victory Six.
With the early success of the Dodge Brothers, by 1927 sales had dropped to 7th place. Merely 14 years after Dodge Brothers Co. entrance into the industry, a man named Walter P. Chrysler paid roughly $175,000,000 for the company in July 1928. Chrysler would fit the Dodge line-up in between the lower priced Plymouth and medium priced DeSoto and cut production down to two lines and thirteen models. Among the other makes and models in Chrysler’s fleet, Dodge would soon make it back up to 4th place in sales by 1933.
During World War II, Dodge built tough military trucks and developed a strong reputation for itself. Following the war and with the application of 4-wheel drive, Dodge introduced the Power Wagon, a truck with car like features. Their reputation carried over into 1945 when civilian production was continued and Dodge sold a new version of their 1942 model which was a 6-cylinder model with two trim lines – Deluxe or Custom. The hemispherical (HEMI) engine was introduced in 1953, when Dodge re-introduced the V8 engines which it originally produced in the 30s. As the Dodge increased in power and styling year after year the DeSoto was soon phased out and Dodge became Chrysler’s mid-priced vehicle.
Before the hit of the muscle car era, Dodge broke out onto the compact car scene with the introduction of the 1961 Lancer. The downsize vehicles were shy of success the first few years and turned into loss of sales for Dodge. However, by 1965 things quickly turned as the new mid-size models such as the Coronet but Dodge back on the map and later when they added the Charger line, both models became sales leaders for the company. Soon, the Charger, Coronet R/T and Super Bee were the epitome of the muscle car generation.
Unfortunately with the oil crisis sweeping across the United States, Dodge models were soon viewed as insufficient which was not uncommon for automakers due to the new government mandates. Due to financial difficulties Dodge was slow to move into the compact car realm. The Coronet and Charger were soon replaced by the Diplomat and the Dart was replaced by the Aspen and their heavy-duty truck line was eliminated. Facing a decline in car sales the U.S. government was obliged to bailout Chrysler so they did not have to file for bankruptcy. Chrysler looked to leave the past behind and work on new models that would predict their future. During the 1980s, Chrysler produced the K-Car with various models, but the most popular being the Dodge Caravan which sparked the age of the minivan.
Along with all other Chrysler subsidiaries, Dodge merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998. Under the new marquee DaimlerChrysler, Dodge quickly became the company’s low-price leader. In 2005, the company introduced a new Sports Wagon, the Dodge Magnum, and reintroduced the HEMI engine. The infamous Charger made a comeback in 2006 and became a key player in the mid-size market. In the spring of 2007 Dodge became a part of the Chrysler Group owned by Cerberus Capital Management. They continue to produce cars and trucks along with minivans and Sport Utility Vehicles in various countries worldwide.