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by Justin Paulson,
Chrysler K-Car Club
The Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries — the original K-cars — showed that Chrysler could once again move at the front of the pack, and beat the imports at their own game.
The cars were essential to Chrysler’s survival; loan guarantees had been granted based on plans for the K-cars. 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; but 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 1,700 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.
Prototypes were displayed at K-marts when the local dealer didn’t want to be involved, driving around at other times 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.”
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