Dodge


The History of Dodge

   

Dodge is a United States-based brand of car, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and, until 2009, pickup trucks, manufactured and marketed by Chrysler Group LLC in more than 60 different countries and territories worldwide. Founded as the Dodge Brothers Company in 1900 to supply parts and assemblies for Detroit’s growing car industry, Dodge began making its own complete vehicles in 1914. The brand was sold to Chrysler Corporation in 1928, passed through the short-lived DaimlerChrysler merger of 1998–2007 as part of the Chrysler Group, was a part of Chrysler LLC owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity investment firm, and is now a part of the Chrysler Group LLC which has an alliance with Fiat. Fiat has plans to eliminate some Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep existing vehicles in favor of Fiat-Chrysler co-developed vehicles.
After the founding of the Dodge Brothers Company by Horace and John Dodge in 1900, the Detroit-based company quickly found work producing precision engine and chassis components for the city’s burgeoning number of car firms. Chief among these customers were the established Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the then-new Ford Motor Company. Dodge Brothers enjoyed much success in this field, but the brothers' growing wish to build complete vehicles was exemplified by John Dodge's 1913 exclamation that he was "tired of being carried around in Henry Ford's vest pocket."
By 1914, he and Horace had fixed that by creating the new four-cylinder Dodge Model 30. Pitched as a slightly more upscale competitor to the ubiquitous Ford Model T, it pioneered or made standard many features later taken for granted: all-steel body construction (when the vast majority of cars worldwide still used wood framing under steel panels), 12-volt electrical system (6-volt systems would remain the norm up until the 1950s), and sliding-gear transmission (the best-selling Model T would retain an antiquated planetary design all the way until its demise in 1927). As a result of all this, as well as the brothers' well-earned reputation for quality through the parts they had made for other successful vehicles, Dodge Brothers cars were ranked at second place for U.S. sales as early as 1916. The same year, Henry Ford decided to stop paying dividends to finance the construction of the new River Rouge complex, leading to the Dodge brothers filing suit to protect approximately a million dollars a year they were earning; this led Ford to buy out his shareholders, and the Dodges were paid some US$25 million.
Stagnation in development was becoming apparent by 1925 and the public responded by dropping Dodge Brothers to fifth place in the industry. That year, the Dodge Brothers company was sold by their widows to the well-known investment group Dillon, Read & Co. for no less than US$146 million (at the time, the largest cash transaction in history).
Changes to the car, save for superficial things like trim levels and colors, remained minimal until 1927, when the new Senior six-cylinder line was introduced. The former four-cylinder line was kept on, but renamed the Fast Four line until it was dropped in favor of two lighter six-cylinder models (the Standard Six and Victory Six) for 1928.
On October 1, 1925, Dodge Brothers, Inc., acquired a 51% interest in Graham Brothers, Inc., and the remaining 49% on May 1, 1926.
Chrysler wanted Dodge Brothers  for its name, its extensive dealer network and its factory.  He bought it in July 1928, when Chrysler and Dodge engaged in an exchange of stock worth $170 million. Production of existing models continued, with minor changes here and there, through the end of 1928 and (in the case of the Senior) into 1929. The new Chrysler-designed models for 1930 dropped the "Brothers" name and were marketed as just Dodge.
For 1930, Dodge took another step up by adding a new eight-cylinder line to replace the existing Senior six-cylinder. This basic format of a dual line with Six and Eight models continued through 1933, and the cars were gradually streamlined and lengthened in step with prevailing trends of the day. The Dodge Eight was replaced by a larger Dodge DeLuxe Six for 1934 and which was dropped for 1935. A long-wheelbase edition of the remaining Six was added for 1936 and would remain a part of the lineup for many years.
Post-war, production at Dodge was restarted by late 1945, in time for the 1946 model year. The “seller’s market” of the early postwar years, brought on by the lack of any new cars throughout the war, meant that every carmaker found it easy to sell vehicles regardless of any drawbacks they might have. Like almost every other carmaker, Dodge sold lightly facelifted revisions of its 1942 design through the 1948 season. As before, these were a single series of six-cylinder models with two trim levels (basic Deluxe or plusher Custom).
Styling was not initially Dodge’s strong point during this period, though that began to change by 1953 under the direction of corporate design chief Virgil Exner. At the same time, Dodge also introduced its first V8 engine — the Red Ram Hemi, a smaller version of the original design of the famed Hemi. The new 1953 bodies were smaller and based on the Plymouth. For 1954, sales dropped, the stubby styling not going over well with the public.
New corporate “Forward Look” styling for 1955 began a new era for Dodge. With steadily upgraded styling and ever-stronger engines every year through 1960, Dodge found a ready market for its products as America discovered the joys of freeway travel. This situation improved when Dodge introduced a new line of Dodges called the Dart to do battle against Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth. The result was that Dodge sales in the middle price class collapsed, and the Polara was dropped at the end of 1961.
Dodge entered the compact car field for 1961 with their new Lancer sedan (a variation on Plymouth's Valiant). Though it was not initially successful, the Dart range that came after it in 1963 would prove to be one of the division's top sellers for many years.
Chrysler did make an ill-advised move to downsize the Dodge and Plymouth full-size lines for 1962, which resulted in a loss of sales. However, they turned this around in 1965 by turning those former full-sizes into "new" mid-size models; Dodge revived the Coronet nameplate in this way and later added a sporty fastback version called the Charger that became both a sales leader and a winner on the NASCAR circuit.
Full-size models evolved gradually during this time. After Dodge dealers complained about not having a true full-size car in the fall of 1961, the Custom 880 was hurried into production. The Custom 880 used the 1962 Chrysler Newport body with the 1961 Dodge front end and interior. The 880 continued into 1965, the year a completely new full-size body was put into production, the Polara entered the medium price class and the Monaco was added as the top series. The Polara and Monaco were changed mostly in appearance for the next ten years or so. Unique "fuselage" styling was employed for 1969 through 1973 and then was toned down again for the 1974 to 1977 models.
In an effort to reach every segment of the market, Dodge even reached a hand across the Pacific to its partner, Mitsubishi Motors, and marketed their subcompact as the Colt to compete with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Ford Pinto. Chrysler would over the years come to rely heavily on their relationship with Mitsubishi.
Everything changed at Dodge (and Chrysler as a whole) when the 1973 oil crisis hit the United States. Save for the Colt and certain models of the Dart, Dodge's lineup was quickly seen as extremely inefficient. In fairness, this was true of most American carmakers at the time, but Chrysler was also not in the best financial shape to do anything about it. Consequently, while General Motors and Ford were quick to begin downsizing their largest cars, Chrysler (and Dodge) moved more slowly out of necessity.
At the very least, Chrysler was able to use some of its other resources. Borrowing the recently-introduced Chrysler Horizon from their European division, Dodge was able to get its new Omni subcompact on the market fairly quickly. At the same time, they increased the number of models imported from Mitsubishi: first came a smaller Colt (based on Mitsubishi's Mitsubishi Lancer line), then a revival of the Challenger (though with nothing more than a four-cylinder under the bonnet, rather than the booming V8s of yore).
Bigger Dodges, though, remained rooted in old habits. The Dart was replaced by a new Aspen for 1976, and Coronet and Charger were effectively replaced by the Diplomat for 1977, which was actually a fancier Aspen. Meanwhile, the huge Monaco (Royal Monaco beginning in 1977 when the mid-sized Coronet was renamed "Monaco") models hung around through 1977, losing sales every year, until finally being replaced by the St. Regis for 1979 following a one-year absence from the big car market. In a reversal of what happened for 1965, the St. Regis was an upsized Coronet. Buyers, understandably, were confused and chose to shop the competition rather than figure out what was going on at Dodge.
Everything came to a head in 1979 when Chrysler's new chairman, requested and received federal loan guarantees from the United States Congress in an effort to save the company from having to file bankruptcy. With bailout money in hand, Chrysler quickly set to work on new models that would leave the past behind.
The first fruit of Chrysler's crash development program was the "K-Car", the Dodge version of which was the Dodge Aries. This basic and durable front-wheel drive platform spawned a whole range of new models at Dodge during the 1980s, including the groundbreaking Dodge Caravan. The Caravan not only helped save Chrysler as a serious high-volume American carmaker, but also spawned an entirely new market segment that remains popular today: the minivan.
Chrysler Corporation was sold to Daimler-Benz AG in 1998 to form DaimlerChrysler. Rationalizing Chrysler's broad lineup was a priority, and Dodge's sister brand Plymouth was withdrawn from the market. With this move, Dodge became DaimlerChrysler's low-price division as well as its performance division.
In 2007, DaimlerChrysler reached an agreement with Cerberus Capital Management to sell off its Chrysler Group subsidiary, of which the Dodge division was a part. On June 10, 2009, Italian carmaker Fiat formed a partnership with Chrysler in which a "New Chrysler" was formed and was given the name Chrysler Group LLC, which Dodge remains a part of.
The original Dodge logo was a circle, with two interlocking triangles forming a six-pointed star in the middle; an interlocked "DB" was at the center of the star, and the words "Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicles" encircled the outside edge. Although the "Brothers" was dropped from the name for trucks in 1929 and cars in 1930, the DB star remained in the cars until the 1939 models were introduced.
Following many iterations over the years in 2010, with the separation of the Ram brand, the new Dodge logo will remove the ram's head and feature the word "DODGE" with two inclined stripes.

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