The Plymouth automobile was introduced on July 7, 1928. It was the Chrysler Corporation's first entry in the low-priced field, which at the time was dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouths were actually priced a little higher than the competition, but they offered standard features such as hydraulic brakes that the competition did not provide. Plymouths were originally sold exclusively through Chrysler dealerships. The logo featured a rear view of the Mayflower ship which landed at Plymouth Rock, hence the name "Plymouth" as the brand.
The origins of the first Plymouth can be traced back to the Maxwell automobile. When Walter Chrysler took over control of the trouble-ridden Maxwell-Chalmers car company in the early 1920s, he inherited the Maxwell as part of the package. After he used the company's facilities to help create and launch the Chrysler car in 1924, he decided to create a lower-priced companion car. So for 1926 the Maxwell was reworked and re-badged as a low-end Chrysler model. Then at the end of the decade this model was once again reworked and re-badged, this time to create the Plymouth.
Great Depression, 1940s, and 1950s
While the original purpose of the Plymouth was simply to cover a lower-end marketing niche, during the Great Depression of the 1930s the car would help significantly in ensuring the survival of the Chrysler Corporation in a decade when many other car companies failed. Beginning in 1930, Plymouths were sold by all three Chrysler divisions (Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge). Plymouth sales were a bright spot during this dismal automotive period, and by 1931 Plymouth rose to the number three spot among all cars.
In 1939 Plymouth produced 417,528 vehicles, of which 5,967 were roadsters, or two-door convertibles with rumble seats. The 1939 Roadster was prominently featured at Chrysler's exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair, advertised as the first mass-production convertible with a power folding top. It featured a 201-cubic-inch, 82-horsepower version of the Chrysler Flathead Six engine.
For much of its life, Plymouth was one of the top selling American automobile brands, along with Chevrolet and Ford ("the low-priced three"). Plymouth even surpassed Ford for a time in the 1940s as the second most popular make of automobiles in the U.S. Through 1956, Plymouth vehicles were known for their durability, affordability and engineering. In 1957, Chrysler's Forward Look styling theme produced cars with much more advanced styling than Chevrolet or Ford, although Plymouth's reputation would ultimately suffer as the cars were prone to rust and sloppy assembly. Because of its new "Forward Look" styling, however, 1957 total production soared to 726,009, about 200,000 more than 1956, and the largest output yet for Plymouth. The marque also introduced its limited production Fury line in 1956, and it too benefited from the crisp Forward Look designs.
The Plymouth brand lost market share rapidly in the early 1960s. While Plymouth was a styling leader from 1957 to 1958, its 1959 through 1962 models were awkwardly styled cars that failed to strike a chord with the public. Plymouth also found itself in competition with its own corporate sister division Dodge when the lower-priced, full-size Dodge Dart was introduced for 1960. Rambler, and then Pontiac would assume the number three sales position for the remainder of the decade. Plymouth went into a decline from which it would never fully recover.
The marque regained market share following the introduction of the 1965 models, which returned Plymouth to full-size vehicles and more mainstream styling. Plymouth regained its traditional third place in the sales race in 1971 and 1974, primarily with its popular Valiant and Duster compact models, but as a brand Plymouth was hardest hit by Chrysler's financial woes of the late 1970s. Marketing decisions progressively thinned Plymouth lineup while giving new models to the Dodge and Chrysler brands; by 1979, the Plymouth range consisted of only the domestically produced Volare and Horizon models, and some rebadged Mitsubishi imports. Despite the introduction of popular models like the 1981 Reliant and 1984 Voyager, Plymouth sales and production numbers continued to decline. Such was the extent of the badge engineering that substantially identical Dodges and Plymouths were being sold at substantially identical prices, eroding the last of Plymouth's market distinction and quashing any significant reasons for buying one over the other.
Most Plymouth models offered from the late 1980s onward, such as the Acclaim, Laser, Neon, and Breeze, were badge-engineered versions of Chrysler, Dodge, or Mitsubishi models. Chrysler considered giving Plymouth a variant, to be called the Accolade, of the new-for-1993 full-size LH platform, but decided against it. By the late 1990s, only four vehicles were sold under the Plymouth name: the Voyager/Grand Voyager minivans, the Breeze mid-size sedan, the Neon compact car, and the Prowler sports car, which was to be the last model unique to Plymouth.
After discontinuing the Eagle brand in 1998, Chrysler was planning to expand the Plymouth line with a number of unique models before the corporation's merger with Daimler-Benz AG. The first model was the Plymouth Prowler, a modern-day hot rod. The PT Cruiser was to have been the second. Both models had similar front-end styling, suggesting Chrysler intended a retro styling theme for the Plymouth brand. At the time of Daimler's takeover of Chrysler, Plymouth had no unique models besides the Prowler not also available in the Dodge or Chrysler lines. Further, while all Plymouth dealers also sold the Chrysler line of cars, many Dodge dealers sold only Dodge; it would have caused much greater disturbance to the dealer network to discontinue Dodge than Plymouth. Consequently, DaimlerChrysler decided to drop the make after a limited run of 2001 models. This was announced on November 3, 1999.
The last new model sold under the Plymouth marque was the second generation Neon for 2000-2001. The PT Cruiser was ultimately launched as a Chrysler, and the Prowler and Voyager were absorbed into that make as well. Following the 2001 model year, the Neon was sold only as a Dodge in the US, though it remained available as a Chrysler in Canadian and other markets. The Plymouth Breeze was dropped after 2000, before Chrysler introduced their redesigned 2001 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring sedan.
Cars manufactured by Plymouth:
All items (60)