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For British 'Dodge' company, see Dodge Bros. (Britain) Ltd.
Dodge
Type Division of Chrysler
Founded 1914
Headquarters Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.
Area served Global
Key people Ralph Gilles (CEO of Dodge division)
Industry Automobile
Products Cars, SUVs, vans, pickup trucks
Parent Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat
Website Dodge.com (U.S.)

Dodge is an American-based automotive brand of the Chrysler Group LLC. Founded as the Dodge Brothers Company in 1900 to supply parts and assemblies for Detroit’s growing auto industry, Dodge began making its own complete vehicles in 1914. The brand was sold to Chrysler Corporation in 1928, passed through the short-lived DaimlerChrysler merger of 1998–2007 as part of the Chrysler Group, was a part of Chrysler LLC owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity investment firm, and is now a part of the Chrysler Group LLC which has an alliance with Fiat. Fiat has plans to eliminate some Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep existing vehicles in favor of Fiat-Chrysler co-developed vehicles. [1][2]

Founding and early yearsEdit

1915-dodge-archives

1915 Dodge Brothers Model 30-35 touring car

RoyalDodge

Dodge Brothers delivery trucks, Salt Lake City, 1920

After the founding of the Dodge Brothers Company by Horace and John Dodge in 1900, the Detroit-based company quickly found work producing precision engine and chassis components for the city’s burgeoning number of automobile firms. Chief among these customers were the established Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the then-new Ford Motor Company. Dodge Brothers enjoyed much success in this field, but the brothers' growing wish to build complete vehicles was exemplified by John Dodge's 1913 exclamation that he was "tired of being carried around in Henry Ford's vest pocket."

By 1914, he and Horace had fixed that by creating the new four-cylinder Dodge Model 30. Pitched as a slightly more upscale competitor to the ubiquitous Ford Model T, it pioneered or made standard many features later taken for granted: all-steel body construction (when the vast majority of cars worldwide still used wood framing under steel panels, though Stoneleigh and BSA had used steel bodies as early as 1911),[3] 12-volt electrical system (6-volt systems would remain the norm up until the 1950s), and sliding-gear transmission (the best-selling Model T would retain an antiquated planetary design all the way until its demise in 1927). As a result of all this, as well as the brothers' well-earned reputation for quality through the parts they had made for other successful vehicles, Dodge Brothers cars were ranked at second place for U.S. sales as early as 1916. The same year, Henry Ford decided to stop paying dividends to finance the construction of the new River Rouge complex, leading to the Dodge brothers filing suit to protect approximately a million dollars a year they were earning;[4] this led Ford to buy out his shareholders, and the Dodges were paid some US$25 million.[5]

In the same year, Dodge Brothers vehicles won wide acclaim for durability while in service with the US Army's Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico.[6] One notable instance was in May when the 6th Infantry received a reported sighting of Julio Cardenas, one of Villa's most trusted subordinates. Lt. George S. Patton led ten soldiers and two civilian guides in three Dodge Model 30 touring cars to conduct a raid at a ranch house in San Miguelito, Sonora. During the ensuing firefight the party killed three men, of whom one was identified as Cardenas. Patton's men tied the bodies to the hoods of the Dodges, returning to headquarters in Dublán and an excited reception from US newspapermen.

Death of the brothersEdit

Dodge Series 124 4-Door Sedan 1927

1927 Dodge Brothers Series 124 sedan

Dodge Brothers cars continued to rank second place in American sales in 1920. But that year, tragedy struck as John Dodge was felled by pneumonia in January. His brother Horace then died of cirrhosis in December of the same year (reportedly out of grief at the loss of his brother, with whom he was very close). The Dodge Brothers company fell into the hands of the brothers' widows, who promoted long-time employee Frederick Haynes to the company presidency. During this time, the Model 30 was evolved to become the new Series 116 (though it retained the same basic construction and engineering features).

Dodge Brothers emerged as a leading builder of light trucks. They also entered into an agreement whereby they marketed trucks built by Graham Brothers of Evansville, Indiana. The three Graham brothers would later produce Graham-Paige and Graham automobiles.

Stagnation in development was becoming apparent, however, and the public responded by dropping Dodge Brothers to fifth place in the industry by 1925. That year, the Dodge Brothers company was sold by the widows to the well-known investment group Dillon, Read & Co. for no less than US$146 million (at the time, the largest cash transaction in history).

Dillon, Read & Co. offered non-voting stock on the market in the new Dodge Brothers, Inc., firm, and along with the sale of bonds was able to raise $160 million, reaping a $14 million (net) profit. All voting stock was retained by Dillon, Read. Frederick Haynes remained as company head until E.G. Wilmer was named board chairman in November, 1926. Wilmer was a banker with no auto experience and Haynes remained as president.

On October 1, 1925, Dodge Brothers, Inc., acquired a 51% interest in Graham Brothers, Inc., for $13 million and the remaining 49% on May 1, 1926. The three Graham brothers, Robert, Joseph and Ray, assumed management positions in Dodge Brothers before departing early in 1927.

Despite all this, Dodge Brothers’ sales had already dropped to seventh place in the industry by 1927, and Dillon, Read began looking for someone to take over the company on a more permanent basis.

Purchase from Dillon, ReadEdit

Enter Walter P. Chrysler, head of the recently founded (in 1924) Chrysler Corporation and former president of General Motors’ successful Buick division. Chrysler had wanted to purchase Dodge Brothers two years earlier, and had in the meantime created his own DeSoto brand of cars to challenge Dodge Brothers’ new entries in the medium-priced field.

When Chrysler called again in 1928, Dillon, Read was finally ready to talk. In a foreshadowing of much later acquisitions by his company, Chrysler wanted Dodge Brothers more for its name, its extensive dealer network and its factory than anything it was producing at the time. The big sale came about in July 1928, when Chrysler and Dodge engaged in an exchange of stock worth $170 million. Production of existing models continued, with minor changes here and there, through the end of 1928 and (in the case of the Senior) into 1929. The new Chrysler-designed models for 1930 dropped the "Brothers" name and were marketed as just Dodge.


World War IIEdit

Chrysler was prolific in its production of war material from 1942 to 1945, and Dodge in particular was well-known to both average citizens and thankful soldiers for their tough military-spec truck models and ambulances like the WC54. Starting with the hastily converted VC series and evolving into the celebrated WC series, Dodge built a strong reputation for itself that readily carried over into civilian models after the war.

Dodge TrucksEdit

Over the years, Dodge has become at least as well-known for its many truck models as for its prodigious passenger car output.

Pickups and medium to heavy trucksEdit

Ever since the beginning of its history in 1914, Dodge has offered light truck models to interested buyers. For the first few years, these were based largely on the existing passenger cars, but eventually gained their own chassis and body designs as the market matured. Light- and medium-duty models were offered first, then a heavy-duty range was added during the 1930s and 1940s.

Following World War II and the successful application of four-wheel drive to the truck line, Dodge introduced a civilian version that it called the Power Wagon. At first based almost exactly on the military-type design, variants of the standard truck line were eventually given 4WD and the same “Power Wagon” name.

Dodge was among the first to introduce car-like features to its trucks, adding the plush Adventurer package during the 1960s and offering sedan-like space in its Club Cab bodies of the 1970s. Declining sales and increased competition during the 1970s eventually forced the company to drop its medium- and heavy-duty models, an arena the company has only recently begun to reenter.

Dodge introduced what they called the "Adult Toys" line to boost its truck sales in the late 1970s, starting off with the limited edition Lil' Red Express pickup (featuring visible big rig-style exhaust stacks). Later came the more widely available Warlock. Other "Adult Toys" from Dodge included the Macho Power Wagon and Street Van.

As part of a general decline in the commercial vehicle field during the 1970s, Dodge eliminated their LCF Series heavy-duty trucks in 1975, along with the Bighorn and medium-duty D-Series trucks, and affiliated S Series school buses were dropped in 1978. On the other hand, Dodge produced several thousand pickups for the United States Military under the Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle (CUCV) program from the late 1970s into the early 1980s.

89RamF34

1989 Dodge Ram pickup

Continuing financial problems meant that even Dodge’s light-duty models – renamed as the Ram Pickup line for 1981 – were carried over with the most minimal of updates until 1993. But two things helped to revitalize Dodge’s fortunes during this time. First was their introduction of Cummins’ powerful and reliable B Series turbo-diesel engine as an option for 1989. This innovation raised Dodge’s profile among serious truck buyers who needed big power for towing or large loads. A compact Dakota pickup, which later offered a class-exclusive V8 engine, was also an attractive draw.

Dodge introduced the Ram's all-new “big-rig” styling treatment for 1994. Besides its instantly polarizing looks, exposure was also gained by usage of the new truck on the hit TV show Walker, Texas Ranger starring Chuck Norris. The new Ram also featured a totally new interior with a console box big enough to hold a laptop computer, or ventilation and radio controls that were designed to be easily used even with gloves on. A V10 engine derived from that used in the Viper sports car was also new, and the previously offered Cummins turbo-diesel remained available. The smaller Dakota was redesigned in the same vein for 1997, thus giving Dodge trucks a definitive “face” that set them apart from the competition.

The Ram was redesigned again for 2003 (the Dakota in 2002), basically as an evolution of the original but now featuring the revival of Chrysler’s legendary Hemi V8 engine. New medium-duty chassis-cab models were introduced for 2007 (with standard Cummins turbo-diesel power), as a way of gradually getting Dodge back in the business truck market again.

For a time during the 1980s, Dodge also imported a line of small pickups from Mitsubishi. Known as the D50 or (later) the Ram 50, they were carried on as a stopgap until the Dakota’s sales eventually made the imported trucks irrelevant. (Ironically, Mitsubishi has more recently purchased Dakota pickups from Dodge and restyled them into their own Raider line for sale in North America.)

VansEdit

Dodge had offered panel delivery models for many years since its founding, but their first purpose-built van model arrived for 1964 with the compact A Series. Based on the Dodge Dart platform and using its proven six-cylinder or V8 engines, the A-series was a strong competitor for both its domestic rivals (from Ford and Chevrolet/GMC) and the diminutive Volkswagen Transporter line.

As the market evolved, however, Dodge realized that a bigger and stronger van line would be needed in the future. Thus the B Series, introduced for 1971, offered both car-like comfort in its Sportsman passenger line or expansive room for gear and materials in its Tradesman cargo line. A chassis-cab version was also offered, for use with bigger cargo boxes or flatbeds.

Like the trucks, though, Chrysler’s dire financial straits of the late 1970s precluded any major updates for the vans for many years. Rebadged as the Ram Van and Ram Wagon for 1981, this venerable design carried on with little more than cosmetic updates all the way to 2003.

The DaimlerChrysler merger of 1999 made it possible for Dodge to explore new ideas; hence the European-styled Mercedes-Benz Sprinter line of vans was brought over and given a Dodge styling treatment. Redesigned for 2006 as a 2007 model, the economical diesel-powered Sprinters have become very popular for city usage among delivery companies like FedEx and UPS in recent years.

Dodge also offered a cargo version of its best-selling Caravan for many years, at first calling it the Mini Ram Van (a name originally applied to short-wheelbase B-Series Ram Vans)and later dubbing it the Caravan C/V (for “Cargo Van”).

Sport utility vehiclesEdit

Dodge’s first experiments with anything like a sport utility vehicle were seen in the late 1950s with a windowed version of their standard panel truck known as the Town Wagon. These were built in the same style through the mid-1960s.

But the division didn’t enter the SUV arena in earnest until 1974, with the purpose-built Ramcharger. Offering the then-popular open body style and Dodge’s powerful V8 engines, the Ramcharger was a strong competitor for trucks like the Ford Bronco, Chevrolet Blazer and International Harvester Scout II.

Once again, though, Dodge was left with outdated products during the 1980s as the market evolved. The Ramcharger hung on through 1993 with only minor updates, but was not replaced along with the rest of the truck line for 1994.

Instead, Dodge tried something new in 1998. Using the mid-sized Dakota pickup’s chassis as a base, they built the four-door Durango SUV with seating for seven people and created a new niche. Sized between smaller SUVs (like the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Explorer) and larger models (like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition), Durango was both a bit more and bit less of everything. The redesigned version for 2004 grew a little bit in every dimension, becoming a full-size SUV (and was thus somewhat less efficient), but was still sized between most of its competitors on either side of the aisle.

Dodge also imported a version of Mitsubishi’s popular Montero (Pajero in Japan) as the Raider from 1987 to 1989.

Model rangeEdit

International marketsEdit

Dodge vehicles are now available in many countries throughout the world.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. money (2009-10-26). "Latest Dispatches- MSN Money". Articles.moneycentral.msn.com. Retrieved on 2009-11-19.
  2. Linebaugh, Kate (2009-10-27). "Fiat Models to Drive Chrysler - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved on 2009-11-19.
  3. Wise, David Burgess. "Dodge: ", in World of Automobiles (London: Orbis Publishing Ltd., 1974), Volume 5, p.552.
  4. Wise, p.551.
  5. Wise, p.552.
  6. '"The Mexican Revolution 1910-20" by P Jowett & A de Quesada, Osprey Publishing Ltd., p. 25, ISBN 1-84176-989-4'

Bibliography / Further readingEdit

  • Brinkley, Douglas. (2004) Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, his Company, and a Century of Progress, 1903–2003. ISBN 0142004391.
  • Burness, Tad. (2001) Ultimate Truck & Van Spotter's Guide 1925–1990. ISBN 0-87341-969-3.
  • Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3. 
  • Gunnell, John A., ed. (1993) Standard Catalog of American Light-Duty Trucks, Second Edition. ISBN 0-87341-238-9.
  • Lenzke, James T., ed. (2000) Standard Catalog of Chrysler 1914-2000. ISBN 0-87341-882-4.
  • Ruiz, Marco. (1986) Japanese Car. ISBN 0-517-61777-3.
  • Vlasic, Bill and Stertz, Bradley A. (2000) Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off with Chrysler. ISBN 0-688-17305-5.

External linksEdit

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