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Chrysler's history: timeline

The automaker has driven a bumpy road. Highlights include Sherman tanks, K-cars, the modern minivan. A low point was being rescued from bankruptcy by President Carter.

May 02, 2009|Scott J. Wilson

Chrysler's future may be tied up in Bankruptcy Court. But it isn't the first time the nation's No. 3 automaker's future has faced an uncertain future. From 1934's Airflow, its first commercial flop, to the introduction of the Dodge Caravan in 1983, Chrysler has had its share of ups and downs.

1925: Chrysler is founded by Detroit industrialist Walter P. Chrysler.

1928: Chrysler buys larger automaker Dodge Bros. and introduces the Plymouth and DeSoto lines. Walter Chrysler is named Time's Man of the Year.

1934: The company introduces the Airflow, the first aerodynamically designed production automobile. Despite praise for its bold design, it is a commercial flop.

1938-41: Chrysler enjoys four straight years as the world's No. 2 automaker, behind General Motors.

1940: Walter Chrysler dies.

1942-45: With auto production shut down for World War II, Chrysler plants produce Sherman tanks and other military vehicles.

1950s: Chrysler introduces a host of new features to its cars, including the "hemi"-head V-8 engine, transistor radios, fuel injection and power steering.

1960s: New Chrysler models include the Plymouth Valiant, Dodge Dart, Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Charger. DeSoto production ends.

1973: The first OPEC oil embargo drives up gas prices, devastating big car sales.

1978: Lee Iacocca, just fired by Ford, is hired as chief executive of Chrysler.

1979: Chrysler is rescued from bankruptcy by Congress and President Carter.

1980: Carter signs the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act, providing $1.5 billion in loan guarantees.

1983: Sales improve dramatically with the debut of the well-received K-car platform and the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, the first modern minivans. Chrysler pays off government loans seven years early.

1987: Chrysler buys American Motors Corp., netting the Jeep brand.

1993: Iacocca retires.

1998: Daimler-Benz buys Chrysler for $36 billion.

2001: DaimlerChrysler says it will cut 26,000 jobs at financially troubled Chrysler and idle six plants.

2007: Cerberus Capital Management buys Chrysler for $5 billion.

Dec. 19, 2008: With the company nearing financial collapse, President Bush agrees to lend Chrysler $4 billion.

April 30, 2009: Chrysler files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

May 1, 2009: Chrysler appears in Bankruptcy Court in New York to begin what the Obama administration hopes is a 30- to 60-day restructuring.

-- Scott J. Wilson

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