Chrysler, now FCA North America, has been one of the most enduring brand names in automobiles. Established in 1925 by Walter Chrysler from the remnants of the Maxwell Motor Company, Chrysler quickly became synonymous with value and sophistication. It is still regarded as one of the "Big Three" of the United States automobile industry, alongside Ford and General Motors. Through the years, Chrysler has gone through a myriad of changes and leadership, but one thing always has remained at the forefront of Chrysler design: Quality.
When a company has been in business for nearly a century, a car company in particular, you can expect them to deliver products that are emblematic of the brand — automobiles that have stood the test of time as exemplary models with widespread popularity and are still revered for their design, craftsmanship, and reliability.
This isn't to suggest that every car rolling off a Chrysler factory line was a credit to the brand. There were certainly some clunkers among the classics, many of which were better left as footnotes in history as they were phased out fast and never heard from again. Some were rightfully eliminated, others are still objects of cultish fascination among car collectors and aficionados who revel in vehicular oddities of yore.
So let's take a look back at the highlights (and lowlights) of the most and least popular Chrysler branded automobiles to ever hit the market. This discussion is simply a conversation starter for those who want to take a stroll down memory lane.
Most Popular Chrysler Vehicles
This list is in no particular order, as these autos are all regarded as some of the hallmark vehicles that epitomized Chrysler manufacturing since its inception to the present.
Chrysler Town and Country. You can still buy a Chrysler Town and Country today but the one you'd be getting is part of the company's line of minivans. Back in 1941, the Town and Country was a very different beast, a barrel-back woodie wagon that became an iconic image associated with surfing and beach parties. The Classic Car Club of America has heralded it a "classic" and the vehicle got its name because the front of the vehicle looked "town" while the back half, adorned with wood elements, looked "country."
Dodge Coronet. What started out as a two-door coupe back in 1949 evolved through six generations of automobiles from the late '40s until it was finally retired in the 1980s as the Dodge Diplomat, sold only in the Colombian market. During those 40 years, this model under the Dodge name was among the first cars to come in 1953 with Chrysler's HEMI engine, that set more than one hundred land speed records before giving way in the '60s and '70s when the Coronet was considered one of the more popular American muscle cars.
Dodge Charger. Bullitt. The Dukes of Hazzard. Vanishing Point. What do they all have in common? The Dodge Charger. The Steve McQueen classic has long been considered one of the best car chases ever filmed and word has it that the Charger was too fast for the Mustang to catch up, so they had to change out the tires on it to keep it from outrunning its pursuer from the rival Ford. The car caught on almost immediately as Chrysler's first official foray into producing muscle cars back in 1968. The Charger was best known for having the company's renowned 426 Hemi V8 under the hood. The model enjoyed consistent popularity for Chrysler, seeing seven generations of the vehicle from the 1960s to the late 1980s. It was phased out for nineteen years until a new version was manufactured again in 2006. The Charger currently exists today as a much more modern version of the iconic automobile of the '60s.
Chrysler 300. First introduced as the C-300 in 1955, the model was produced for about 10 years with very little fanfare, even though it was considered the most powerful American car on the road at the time. It featured a 331 CI Hemi V8 and became Chrysler's representative in NASCAR, winning 27 races in its initial production year. This kind of dominance on the track proved it had power where it counted, but that kind of muscle never took off with the buying public. The C-300 was phased out by 1965, but the company reintroduced the 300 in 2004 as part of the Chrysler's luxury series of automobiles. With its sophisticated aesthetic look and powerful 6.1 Hemi V8, it still is one of the most powerful cars on the road today. Some critics consider the new version of the 300 among the best vehicles Chrysler has ever produced.
Company's Least Popular Models
Here are some of the back-to-the-drawing-board models from Chrysler's history. You may not have heard of some of these models and there are some solid reasons for that.
Chrysler Sebring. Probably the best-known model on this list, the Sebring was in production in sedan and convertible versions from 1995 to 2011. Most models came with 2.4 liter 173 hp engine until a V6 was introduced in 2010. The best options were available with the top of the line 235hp V6, but buyers were going to pay for it at the pump. Despite continued production in the mid-'00s the Sebring one of the least attractive cars in the Chrysler lineup because it was the subject of multiple class action lawsuits stemming from defective engines due to oil sludge buildup.
Chrysler Aspen. Remember the Aspen? Its okay, most people don't as it was discontinued back in 2009 when the market for gas-guzzling SUVs started to drop as gas prices had reached $3.00 a gallon nationwide. Another vehicle that wasn't much to look at, the Aspen averaged 14mpg (22 highway) and hit the market at a time when the Dodge Durango was clearly the more popular choice between the two offerings. The end was near for the Aspen in 2009, when Chrysler shut down their assembly plant in Delaware and shifted its focus toward creating a hybrid Ram pickup.
Dodge Neon. What started out as a promising market for the Neon ended up causing consumers countless trips to the dealership for repairs. Chrysler introduced the Neon as direct competition to other small-to-mid-size vehicles like the Ford Escort and the Honda Civic, featuring a more powerful engine with greater horsepower and torque. The company demonstrated the Neon during Sports Car Club of America Autocross events, believing this kind of performance would be popular with the buying public looking for a moderately-priced automobile that offered speed and handling. Unfortunately, something was lost between the autocross and the factory line as the Neon was plagued with repair issues, most notably head gasket failures, faulty engine mounts, and peeling paint that turned into rust.
Eagle Premier. From 1988-1992, the American public was given a choice between spending a little more of their hard-earned money for a Volvo or an Audi or the Eagle Premier that American Motors Corporation and Renault had put on the road. When Chrysler bought out Renault's share in AMC they inherited the Premier, which the company positioned as an upscale, luxurious answer to the foreign sedans that were far more popular at the time. The result, instead, was easily one of the least noteworthy cars ever made. There's nothing specifically wrong with the Premier; it's just so uninteresting. In the company's quest to emulate the body style and silhouette of an Audi or a Volvo, the designers neglected to even consider what made those cars attractive and came up with a generic, boxy snoozer that made Chrysler's K-car series look positively exhilarating by comparison.
Chrysler's Commitment to Quality
Chrysler has demonstrated a commitment to quality and excellence for almost a century and it shows in the modern automobiles they produce today. While it's true all the vehicles haven't risen to the top of their class over the years, the company has hit the mark of quality far more often than they have missed it. Many of the vehicles consider above their best are still on the road today.
As for the less-than-memorable efforts, these too reveal a dedication to producing top-quality automobiles even if their marketing intentions were not successful. It's tough for an auto manufacturer to always be one step ahead of the public and meet their ideal demands every time. So you realize, the Chrysler organization has always tried to keep its finger on the pulse of the American car buyer.
Most of the time it pays to be forward-thinking and ambitious in the auto industry, however, sometimes models are just too far ahead of the curve. This high quality commitment also carries over to Mopar Vehicle Protection Plans, products of FCA US LLC, sold by ChryslerFactoryPlans.com/ to cover your Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Fiat and Ram vehicles.