Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1961 Plymouth – Maybe It Should Have Been The Last Big Plymouth Forever

shot and posted by Tim Finn

What a dramatic drop Plymouth sales took between 1957 (762k) and 1961 (207k). More like a crash. Was it all due to weird styling and the residual impact of the quality problems of 1957?

The ’61 was the last big Plymouth until 1965, but given how things turned out, it might just as well have been the last one forever.

As this chart from my post “Who Killed The Big American Car” shows, there was also a massive move away from big cars during this period. In 1957, big cars still had a 95% market share; by 1961, it was down to 60%, which dropped even further to 56% in 1962.

Obviously, Plymouth’s big cars’ 73% drop over those years was a lot steeper, but then big Ford’s sales dropped 52% over the same period; not quite as bad, but…bad, nevertheless (Chevrolet big cars managed a more modest 24% drop). So yes, Plymouth got hit the worst. And it’s not much of a leap to suggest that its rather bizarre 1960 and 1961 styling really did account for that difference.

Given that precipitous drop in big car market share starting in 1958, it’s not really such a big surprise that Chrysler decided to ditch the very large and expensive new 1962 model that had originally been planned and replace them with more compact and space efficient ones. Big cars looked to be on a deadly free fall; by 1962, they had lost almost half their market share in just five short years. It makes Chrysler’s decision look to be rather obvious and logical.

The big Plymouth came back in 1965, but the big sales never came back. Its market share in 1965 actually dropped from ’64, and stayed at about 3.5% through 1969, the same as the ’63s and ’64s. And starting in 1970, big Plymouth sales started their terminal decline.

Given that there was a Chrysler Newport available at the same dealers, they might as well not have bothered with the big Plymouth’s return in 1965. And the big Dodges did even significantly worse. Ironically, Chrysler’s 1962 B-platform turned out to be more successful over the long run for Plymouth and Dodge. The 1961 big Plymouth might as well have been the last.