With the 20th anniversary of the Daimler-Chrysler hook-up from hell being celebrated these days, I’ve had Chrysler on the brain, and stumbled into these the other night. They’re a bit long, but are pretty well done. If you want to refresh your memory banks, or learn a bit more about these two pivotal chapters in Chrysler’s roller-coaster history, take a gander.
This one cover the pivotal transition from the Iaccoca era to the Eaton era, right down to Lee doing the intro and Bob doing the outro. What lee neglects to say is that he resisted the transition from his box K-car derivatives to the “cab-forward” LH cars with all his might, including proposing (and having built) an alternative concept that was essentially a bigger Dodge Dynasty. Yup, that would have gone over well.
And of course what is missing in this is the fact that although this transition to platform teams and a lineup of three very modern FWD sedan lines was impressive, and madly profitable, just like it had been in 1957, the quality of all of these cars was lacking. Well, it wasn’t quite the same as 1957, as the issues took longer to materialize in some cases, but lets just say they were all brittle, and the cost-cutting and super-quick development time took its toll.
Which of course explains the “merger” with Daimler. Bob Eaton rightfully saw that this surge of huge profits from these cars was about to (or already had) melt away, as their poor rep compared to the Japanese competition was quickly developing. This was most acutely so with the Neon, but the “cloud cars” never really gained much traction against the Camry and Accord, and the big cars were competing in a shrinking segment and also were suffering from a declining quality rep. And the once bold styling was quickly getting old.
Could Chrysler have righted the ship without a partner? Probably so, but a marriage was seen as a way out of what would undoubtedly have been another difficult era for Chrysler. Which it was anyway.