Although it may look funny with the current view, the Chrysler K-Cars are perhaps the most important product in the 87-year history of the company. During their 15 year history, the platform is made even 43 different models of all sizes (from smallest compact until long sedan), rescued the company from bankruptcy. Although the first Chrysler K-Cars available for general sale in 1981, its history dating at least in the early 1970s.
America’s first oil crisis intervention in 1973 that will last a year, but even after that, customers are increasingly turning to smaller vehicles in fear of a new oil crisis. This is certainly left to wonder American companies because their products are mostly larger cars with powerful V8 engines where economy was not in mind, a Toyota, Honda and Datsun (Nissan) overnight starting to make a name for themselves.
In early 1970s the American market come first compacts such as the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega, but Chrysler, the third largest vehicle manufacturer, had no money for a new production of similar models. The company appeals to the aid of the French carmaker Simac and sign the agreement on importing models Horizon in North America. The first such cars, which were sold in America as the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon, arriving in 1978 with a choice of two engines, Peugeot1.6L, VW’s 1.7l.
This is the first Chrysler products with front-wheel drive in the USA and with solid sales of 81.611 copies in its first year managed to prolong the life of Chrysler. The year before coming to Chrysler Lee Iacocca, who was fired from Ford in 1978, and has gained fame around the world with products such as the Ford Mustang, Pinto and the Escort and Mercury Cougar and Lincoln Mark III.
Iacocca was a native Italian, and always had a desire to sell smaller cars and American buyers, but the Henry Ford II, who was then president of Ford, strongly opposed this idea with the reason that small cars make a small profit. When Iacocca arrived at Chrysler U.S. giant has been in disarray. The company has concentrated mainly on the larger vehicles that have sold well, but problems with quality and a new oil crisis in 1979 have led to Chysler fearing for his life. Iacocca then addressed the American state, and gets $ 1.2 billion to help.
Without much time to waste, Iacocca brings together a team of young engineers with whom he worked at Ford, including the most famous name is definitely Hal Sperlich. Iacocca and Sperlich began work on a new small car with front-wheel drive, four-cylinder engine, high quality and low price – the car that are a couple of years before that persistently tried to allow, at Ford.
Chrysler knew that Ford and Chevrolet prepared its first compact front-wheel drive for the year 1981, such as the Ford Escort and the Chevrolet Cavalier, and the damaged reputation of the company in previous years that their product must be better if it wants to attract customers. In the fall of 1980, Chrysler audience introduces two new compact, which were sold as the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries.
Both models share a whole new base of only 2.475 mm long while the total vehicle length was only 4.400 mm as the standards of the U.S. was quite a bit, and the buyer has obtained a selection of coupes, sedans and station wagons. The major design change was not between the two models, the biggest difference was in grade. The choice of engine was a bit of new Chrysler 2.2L with 84 hp and Mitsubishi’s 2.6L with 92 hp and the choice of transmission was a four-speed manual and three-speed automatic.
Motor Trend magazine was the first who got the chance to test the Aries and the first results were very promising. Acceleration to 100 km / h was 12 seconds, but what has graced the American wagon was the space, comfort and low price of only $ 5.800. Aries is also very economical for a period with an average consumption of about seven liters.
The interior has come in several different versions, so the buyer could get a version with up to six seats, which was the only such a compact market. Sale was launched in 1981 with excellent results – Plymouth is the first year he sold 150 000 Reliant and the Dodge Aries added another 155 000. It is believed that one of the key reasons for the excellent sales lay in the new Chrysler warranty that offered customers the option to try the car a month and return it to the salon if they do not like.
Although this move was a big risk very small number of customers returning the cars in showrooms. Customers were also impressed with how Reliant and Aries are so comfortable, so these two compacts represent an excellent choice for those who want the comfort of large cars.
In comparison with major rivals like the Ford Escort, Toyota Corolla and Datsun B210, Chrysler representatives were more comfortable, quieter, more powerful and fun to drive. That same year, Chrysler makes its first profit and failed to repay the loan the country seven years before the scheduled time. For 1983, Chrysler added the line and larger Dodge 600 and Chrysler E-Class, which were made in the extended Chrysler K-Cars platform and became the first American middle-class sedan with front-wheel drive.
These two cars were brought several innovations such as Chrysler’s first five-speed manual transmission and 2.2L turbo engine with 170 hp that looked like a great solution because Chrysler at that time had a more powerful V6 engine. That same year, the sale comes another model who wore the label LeBaron. This car came as a coupe, sedan and wagon, but the biggest news was a convertible that was to become the first American convertible since the 1976 Cadillac DeVille.
In his autobiography Iacocca claims that the LeBaron was created six months ago after he requested the engineers to make Chrysler’s van for his personal use. Iacocca claims that he was often stopped by the crowd who asked him whether such a car go into production. Although from the outset it was clear that production will be expensive and that Chrysler would lose money on every copy sold, Iacocca is still decided, to authorize production and thereby raise the company’s reputation.
Will continue in part 2 Chrysler K cars history part 2