by Justin Paulson, Chrysler K-Car Club
The Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries — the original K-cars — were more than just new small cars from a company not known for small cars. They showed that Chrysler could once again move at the front of the pack, and beat the imports at their own game.
The cars were absolutely essential to Chrysler’s survival; loan guarantees had been granted based partly on the existence of the K-cars in the engineering rooms, and the existing products could not sell well enough to keep the company viable. It was absolutely essential to sell hundreds of thousands of the little K-cars, or Chrysler would fail, and tens of thousands of people would walk the unemployment lines, slamming America’s economy. Chrysler had lost nearly $2 billion in 1980; thanks to the K-cars, they were profitable by 1983. [Chrysler in 1981]
As part of Campaign K, Chrysler worked with K-mart, then visited by near half the country’s adult population at least once a month, with over 1700 K-marts nationwide. Every Chrysler-Plymouth Dealer was invited to partner with a K-mart during their "K-Days" annual sales event. Thousands of scratch-to-win tickets were printed with the K-mart and the K car logos; winners got a car, others were invited to take their ticket to the dealer for a second-chance drawing. Ten to twenty K-cars were to be given away nationally.
Most of the K prototypes were out, displayed at K-marts when the local dealer didn't want to be involved, but most driving around with signage promoting K-days. Chrysler hyped the K-car as hard as they could, knowing the future of the company depended on it, and fall 1980, sent a big packet to every dealer on how to keep the K "hot" and increase sales.
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