1996 Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, and Jeep cars, minivans, and trucks

intrepid at ctc

1996 was a good year for Chrysler Corporation, as critics found Chrysler could do little wrong, praising the new Cirrus/Stratus; while the little-car-that-could, Neon, was still considered a major achivement, both earning a profit and outperforming most competitors. The new cars were profitable, while the ones they’d replaced lost money.

Chrysler’s U.S. market share bounced up to 16.2% for the year — though the company’s market share in 1993-95 had never exceeded 14.7%. Dodge was responsible for 1.3 million sales, while Jeep came in with another half-million thanks to the popular Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. Plymouth, starved for product, sold 323,834 Neons, Breezes, and Voyagers, while Chrysler sold just under 300,000 cars and minivans; Eagle straggled in with fewer than 29,000 sales.

Chrysler earned $61.4 billion in 1996, with net profit of $3.5 billion. The company had not lost money since 1993, when the LH jumped in and saved the day. Even the Chrysler Technology Center had turned out to be a good bet, as re-created by a group including Chris Theodore.

For the 1996 model year, Chrysler had two completely new cars — the first truly new generation of minivans since 1984, and the Chrysler Sebring Convertible. Both were major hits in the marketplace. The Grand Cherokee was also heavily revised, and continued strong sales. In 1996, Chrysler could do no (or, at least, little) wrong.

1996 dodge viper

Common Technologies

chrysler round logoKey driver-facing technologies were the HomeLink® universal transmitter, a tiny device in the sun visor which allowed drivers to operate garage doors and parking-lot gates; integrated child seats (in both cars and minivans); spatial imaging stereos from Infinity; speed-sensitive wipers; sequential multiple-point electronic fuel injection on all engines; and speed-sensitive variable assist steering. The industry was transitioning from cassette decks to CD players at the same time, and the J-cars had a new set of head units to jump on the CD trend.

The SBEC III powertrain computer was used on all cars but Viper, even the Mitsubishi “joint venture” coupes; the law demanded the use of OBD II diagnostics and enhanced fuel-vapor controls as well. The SBEC III doubled its predecessor’s speed and memory; it could “talk” with the transmission computer to make shifting better while cruise control was on, and relayed the gear and speed to the instrument panel; and it had a switch to alter idle speed when the power steering pump was in heavy use (it also controlled the engine fan). The new computer had a new 80-way modular connector with selective gold plating. (Trucks and Jeeps got the JTEC powertrain controller.)

New logos were introduced — an old fashioned Chrysler seal logo, a circle-around-the-pentastar Plymouth logo (later to become a sailing ship), and a ram’s horn for Dodge.

kokomo plant

The Kokomo transmission plant opened in 1996. Harbour Report rated Chrysler the lowest cost producer in North America.

Dodge Viper

1996 dodge viper

Launched in 1992 as both a proof-of-concept for the AMC platform team engineering system and to show that Chrysler was coming back, the Viper boasted an eight-liter V10 engine (mainly developed for the Ram pickups) with 400 horsepower and 465 foot-pounds of torque, pushed through a six-speed manual transmission. For 1996, the engine was boosted to 415 horspeower and 488 foot-pounds of torque with a low-restriction rear-outlet exhaust; the frame was made lighter and stiffer; both front and rear suspension were switched to aluminum; and the driveline was given more torque capacity. The 1996 Viper was the first domestic use of Michelin Pilot MXX3 tires. Viper was the only car to use the JTEC powertrain computer. It had better top sealing, new colors, new five-spoke forged aluminum wheels, and a removable hard top with sliding side curtains as a dealer option.

Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Chrysler SebringsChrysler sold a Cirrus sedan which it had designed, and a Sebring coupe which it had not (it was a Mitsubishi). It only made sense that Chrysler would name its Cirrus-based convertible... the Sebring... and then report sales of both Sebrings together, as though they shared more in common than their engines (both used a Chrysler 2.4 four-cylinder or a Mitsubishi V6).

The export version of the convertible, confusing matters further, was the Chrysler Stratus Convertible.

The Chrysler Sebring Convertible, unlike the K-based Lebaron Convertible, had not been a rush job, was not outsourced, and was not built as a coupe and then surgically altered. Sebring Convertible was engineered early on to be what it was; as a result, it was built at lower cost, and had fewer of the traditional convertible drawbacks of weight gain, reliability issues, and poor cornering. The body was far stiffer than a traditional “coupe and convert” model.

All Sebrings used seats with integrated three-point safety belts, rather than having seat belts attach to the body; and they came standard with dual airbags, air conditioning, tilt steering, power windows, power top, glass rear window with defroster, six-speaker cassette stereo, and console with armrest. The base model was JX, with a premium JXi level. A late (Spring) arrival sold at a premium price, the Sebring convertible nevertheless garnered well over 50,000 sales in its first year, along with the now-usual accolades.

sebring's nice interior

The Sebring’s success came largely because buyers didn’t have to give up very much, other than paying for the extra cost. Rear seats were relatively roomy, and there was enough trunk space to take home groceries. The ride was comfortable edging on sporty, tuned like the Neon, Cirrus, and Intrepid; the interior controls and displays were well designed and attractive; and straight line performance was good for the time, with a responsive automatic transmission.

According to Scott Wilkins, program manager, they originally planned to simply update the existing LeBaron convertible, but found it would be hard to move production to its new Toluca, Mexico home (also home of the Neon Coupe). Looking at the company’s upcoming cars, the Small Car Platform Team chose the midsized JA sedan (Cirrus, Stratus, Breeze) as the basis for their convertible — though the JA was done by the Large Car Platform Team.

chrysler convertible exterior

Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Stratus, Plymouth Breeze

plymouth breeze

The big news for Plymouth in 1996 was the Plymouth Breeze, an odd afterthought given that Plymouth was still a major force in sales, and had not so long ago been the #1 Chrysler Corporation nameplate. The Breeze was essentially a value version of Cirrus and Stratus, available with a five-speed manual transmission or the automatic, four cylinder only. Other differences were minor — a different front and rear fascia, different fabrics, and different inserts in the gauges. Breeze sold around 2/3 as many cars as Stratus, while easily outselling Cirrus.

1996 chrysler cirrus

New to the Cirrus and Stratus 1996 were a standard HomeLink® universal garage door/gate opener, power sunroof, “pillow” front headrests, rear headrests, and four new colors (light gold pearl, green pearl, white, and red metallic). Inside, Camel replaced Rosewood (both were colors). The cars had a standard four speed automatic transmission, with either a 2.4 liter engine (the same one used in the minivans) or a Mitsubishi 2.5 liter V6 with 168 hp and 170 lb-ft. Chrome plated aluminum wheels were available on top trim levels midyear, along with a power sunroof.

Technical changes included a more responsive torque converter on the V6 and better emissions controls.

1997 cirrus

The Cirrus and Stratus had a modified double wishbone suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars and speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering. Quality seemed good despite an early supplier gaffe which earned Cirrus the lowest rating Consumer Reports could give (exterior plastic panels would warp shortly after purchase).

The interior was six cubic feet larger than that of the Neon, the trunk was four cubic feet larger (totalling 16 cubic feet), and the driver sat higher in the car; still, the suspension was tuned to feel like that of the Neon, and the cars felt more sporty than their numbers would suggest, even with the automatic. They swept comparison tests and awards in 1995, embarassing Ford somewhat — the latter had announced to great fanfare their new “world car,” the Contour, which had cost billions more than Stratus and Cirrus to create.

LH Cars: Intrepid, Concorde, LHS, Vision, New Yorker

The LH cars continued: Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, LHS, and Eagle Vision (New Yorker re-appeared but then appears to have been dropped). The most modern American full sized cars by a large margin, they combined the space of larger cars with the handling of smaller cars. The Concorde had 104.4 cubic feet of interior space, with 16.6 cubic feet of trunk space — not much larger in cargo area than Stratus. The standard 3.3 liter engine pushed out 161 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque while the optional 3.5 liter engine was good for 214 hp and 221 lb-ft. Only a four speed automatic was available. With the base 3.3, the Concorde was rated at 20 city, 28 highway, and drivers reported easily beating 30 mpg on the highway. The cars had speed-sensitive variable-assist steering.

1996 Chrysler LHS

LHS had the 3.5 engine standard, along with various other features. There were no higher trim levels for LHS, which boasted a bigger 108 cubic foot interior and 18 cubic foot trunk. New for 1996 on LHS were the universal opener, optional split bench front seat, rear-window antenna (replacing power antenna), higher and softer armrest, express-open moonroof, optional spatial imaging stereo, and new colors.

New for 1996 Concorde were minor model changes (including the Concorde base model being named LX with a higher-end LXi model), body-color bodyside molding instead of the older bodyside cladding, a monochromatic look with body-color front and rear fascias, new seat fabric, steel fenders replacing composites, new bolt-on wheel covers for LX, a new eight-speaker Infinity stereo with spatial imaging, and new colors. On a technical level, a TLEV 3.3 engine was optional; 16 inch wheels became standard; headlights were improved; and noise and vibration were reduced (these technical changes applied to Concorde, Intrepid, Vision, New Yorker, and LHS).

1996 Eagle Vision

Neon

Plymouth and Dodge Neon (outside the United States, Chrysler Neon) boasted a 132 horsepower base engine with 129 lb-ft of torque; by comparison, the pricier Honda Civic topped out with the Civic EX, at 125 hp and 100 lb-ft (the more common Civic LX had just 100 hp and 100 lb-ft). With 90 cubic feet of interior space plus 12 cubic feet of cargo space, Neon was large for a compact, but it outhandled most or all competitors. Yet, the car made money even after warranty repairs were taken out, according to sources.

The five-speed was by far the more sporting transmission, allowing 0-60 times of around 7.8 to 8.2 seconds in magazine reviews, with gas mileage rated at 29/38. The three-speed automatic provided far more pedestrian acceleration, and slashed gas mileage as well. (A 150 hp/133 lb-ft DOHC engine was optional but provided little if any performance boost in regular driving.)

1997 dodge neon

For 1996, Plymouth pushed the Neon Coupe 22A, with air conditioning, power steering, and automatic, for $11,500 (including destination); Highline Sedan 22D, adding remote trunk release, rear defroster, and dual remote mirrors, for $13,350; the new Neon “Expresso” Sedan 22G, adding tachometer, rear spoiler, power-bulge hood, and more, for $13,550; and the Sport Sedan 22K, adding fog lights, tilt steering, power locks and mirrors, eight-speaker stereo, and more, for $14,300.

1995 Neon Sport

New for 1996 were the base-model Neon Coupe; optional (on all models) four wheel antilock disc brakes; a four-spoke steering wheel with center horn button; trunk side trim, Expresso package (for Highline), and the SOHC engine becoming standard on coupe instead of the DOHC. Numerous options were moved around the various packages. New options included power front windows, power sunroof, a new eight-speaker cassette stereo, and remote entry (with panic button and illuminated entry). The dome and map lights would not shut off automatically after being on for too long, and noise and vibration were cut across all models.

inside 1995 neonOther changes included color keyed fascias and grille bars on base models, two new paints (magenta and bright jade satin), a different gray interior, and fuel capacity going up to 12.5 gallons thanks to a molded plastic tank. Plymouth and Dodge also made standard the 14 inch wheels, intermittent wipers, power steering, touring suspension, tinted glass, and premium sound package.

Neon continued to sell well, but 1996 would be the peak; pre-launch cost-cutting on head gaskets and exhaust gaskets would give the Neon a poor reputation for quality, which those who hated the idea of an American car besting Honda pounced on. Many buyers loved their Neons; other buyers hated them; but nearly all 1995-97 Neon buyers would end up getting their head and exhaust gaskets replaced, and some would have their frameless windows adjusted incessantly (as many dealers did not know how to do it, or did not care enough to do it correctly).

In 1996, Dodge and Plymouth sold 245,303 Neons in the United States, according to Ward’s. No other year would come close.

The imports

Chrysler Sebring was essentially a restyled Mitsubishi Eclipse, powered, as the Eclipse was, by a Chrysler four-cylinder (with 140 horsepower and dual cams) or a 2.5 liter Mitsubishi V6. Transmissions were a five speed manual and four speed automatic, the latter required with the V6. The car had a dual wishbone front suspension with a front stabilizer bar. It was built in the United States at the Diamond Star plant. New features were a remote entry system with panic alarm, HomeLink system, Infinity stereo (optional), and paint colors.

Dodge Stealth, a restyled Mitsubishi 3000GT, continued for 1996, using a base 164 horsepower 3.0 V6 or a twin-turbo 320 horsepower 3.0 V6. Changes included a panic button on the remote, better base radio, new seat fabrics, universal garage door opener, black head covers on the base engine, a new tire/chrome wheel package, new rear spoiler, body-color roof on top model, and option and interior color changes.

Jeep Cherokee, Wrangler, and Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee (“XJ”) continued, with its next-and-final refresh scheduled for the 1997 model year. Up front, it had a multilink front suspension with a track bar and coil springs; leaf springs held up the rear. The coil link suspension allowed superior wheel travel, while maintaining ground clearance under all conditions. The suspension, assailed by critics as “outdated” for years, resulted in a ride those same critics loved — firm but not punishing, with good cornering, fine off-roadability, and a feel that left drivers feeling refreshed after a long trip.

1996 cherokee

The Cherokee was instantly recognizable in 1984 and 2012 alike. The interior was simple and functional. The Cherokee could be ordered with either Command-Trac (a conventional part-time “shift on the fly” system) or Selec-Trac was a full-time four wheel drive system that didn't destroy the tires too quickly on dry roads.

In 1996, the engines were made quieter and given more usable torque with several air path changes; the Selec-Trac system was upgraded; OBD II on-board diagnostics were added; the powertrain control module moved to the JTEC system; and a revolutionary returnless fuel supply system, first seen on the 2.2 Turbo III, was installed. Two engines, the AMC 2.5 and AMC 4.0, were available; and for 1996, the 117-amp alternator and 500 amp battery became standard.

Jeep Wrangler skipped the 1996 model year entirely, going straight on to 1997.

1996 grand cherokee

Grand Cherokee 4x41993-95 1996-98
Approach Angle36°37°
Departure Angle29°30°
Breakover Angle17.5°17°
Ground Clearance8.0 - 8.37.7
Weight3,569-3,9583,790-3,931
Length179.0177.1
Cargo, normal40.1 cf40.8 c.f.
Cargo, seat folded81 cf79.3 c.f.

Jeep Grand Cherokee was refreshed for 1996; originally meant to be simply the next generation Jeep Cherokee, it was pushed upscale and co-existed with Cherokee from its birth (1993) to the Cherokee’s death (2001). Like Cherokee, its structure was stiffer and lighter than the body-on-frame construction used by most competitors, resulting in lower noise and better ride and handling, on- and off-road.

The Grand Cherokee had the most powerful six cylinder engine in its class; semi-unibody construction (along with Cherokee); high torsional rigidity that allowed Jeep to use a softer suspension; and the lowest weight of any vehicle in the class, despite having the most front and rear shoulder and hip room. The QuadraCoil solid axle, coil spring, and multilink front and rear suspension system slashed costs while providing greater durability, ride, handling, and off-road capability than competitors with more buzzword-compliant systems.

Starting in 1995, the Grand Cherokee had also been produced for at the Magna Steyr manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria. A 2.5-liter turbo diesel engine in 1995 and right-hand drive in 1996 helped European sales.

For 1996, the six cylinder engine was retuned for better low-end torque (horsepower dropped to 185) and lower noise, with a new intake. The six got a high-stall torque converter, and the 318 V8 got a wider-ratio automatic. Jeep upgraded the SelecTrac® full time four wheel drive system, added an on-demand four wheel drive system called Quadra-Trac®, switched to the JTEC powertrain control module, and upgraded the front suspension.

Jeep Grand Cherokee LaredoThe high-end Limited got stereo controls on the steering wheel, speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering, automatic rearview mirror, and the big new feature of the day, standard two-driver memory settings for the seats, mirrors, and radio. There was only Laredo and Limited, except in some export markets, where a new Aspen edition was also available.

For 1996, both trim levels had a choice of Selec-Trac full time four wheel drive, rear drive, and the QuadraTrac all-time 4WD system; both had a standard AMC six, with an optional V8. Gas mileage was 15/21 RWD, 15/20 AWD, and 14/18 V8. (The V8 was now rated at 220 hp and 300 lb-ft — the latter coming at a mere 3,200 rpm). The two engines shared a single automatic transmission with a 3.55 ratio axle (3.73 with optional limited-slip differential), 2.74 first gear, and 0.69 overdrive.

Other changes included wheel-based cruise, standard airbags, optional integrated child seat, revised trim, optional heated, power front seats, revised climate control systems, universal door opener, panic button on the remote, and new fabrics. The stereo selections were updated; service points were clearly marked under the hood (late launch); and the wiring was upgraded.

Nearly 260,000 Grand Cherokees left the factory, with a base price of over $25,000. It out-sold the much more public Neon without trouble and would continue to do so.

Engines

Chrysler’s new 2.0 liter engine was not used in the BMW 320, despite early talks (the idea was firmly rejected by American BMW owners, according to contemporary sources, not by German engineers); but a 1.4 liter version of that engine would make its way into BMW’s Mini. The 2.0 produced 132 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque in single-cam versions, with the dual cam going up to 150 hp (133 lb-ft) but requiring higher revs. A 2.4 liter version of the 2.0 was created by the time-honored method of lengthening the stroke and adding balance shafts, providing a new engine for the minivans.

neon engine

The V6 car engine family continued with the base 3.3, the minivan 3.8, and the hot 3.5 V6 used only in LH cars, producing 214 horsepower. The 3.9 liter V6 continued for truck use only; trucks also got both the V8s, the venerable 318 and 360 (5.2 and 5.9 liter) engines. Jeep continued to use its 4.0 liter I-6 in Wrangler, Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee. Owners could now plug in a standard OBD II connector, as per federal law. A Mitsubishi 3.0 engine was still available in minivans, while the Mitsubishi 2.5 V6 (closely related to the 3.0) was optional in midsize cars.

2 liter engine trenton engine workers

Minivans

car of the year

minivan sales 1996-2000The 1996-2000 minivans were the first generation to be built from the ground up as minivans [interview with the project leader.]

The Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth minivans had two wheelbases, a choice of one or two sliding doors, and a wide variety of engines. From 1996 to 1999, Chrysler sold a million minivans per year, and resale values remained high. For most of that time, competitors had not yet figured out that the best way to compete with Chrysler’s minivans was simply to copy them.

Chrysler’s short-wheelbase version was 3.6 inches shorter on the outside than a Mercury Villager (Nissan Quest), but had 16% more cargo space; they were nearly 15 inches shorter than the long-wheelbase Ford Windstar, yet exceeded Windstar's cargo space.

Along with the second sliding door, which Chris Theodore said had always been planned, the new exterior handle provided better control, and a hill-hold latch, hidden door track design, and child protection were added.

The seating systems were flexible, with optional “quad command” seats or bench seating to maximize space. Roller seats helped in seat removal: when the handle was pushed down, the seat was lifted up on rollers that acted like a small landing gear. Both rear seatbacks folded forward.

minivan cutaway

The base 2.4 liter engine on short-wheelbase models, new for 1996, was surprisingly responsive, with 150 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque (we tested this with a full van); it was a major leap forward compared with the old 100 horsepower engines. The base Mitsubishi V6 had the same 150 horsepower rating with somewhat higher (176 lb-ft) torque, while the 3.3 V6 was rated at 158 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. Both 3.3 and 3.8 engines were quieter than the prior generation. The three-speed transmission was still available, and the four-speed had been improved year by year and had attained “average” reliability.

Using Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA) tools, the minivan team improved torsional rigidity of the four-door version of the new minivan 50% more than the old three-door minivan. Solid structure had also provided steering column stiffness and shake resistance with a resonant frequency 14% higher than the prior model. The design for precision body build also allowed for excellent fit and finish of body closure panels, with a one millimeter body build tolerance. That was less than .040 of an inch of variation.

1997 plymouth voyager

The team reduced the turning circle by almost three-and-a- half feet by increasing the front track. As a result, the new long- wheelbase model could turn inside the circle of the Mercury Villager -- by one-and-a-half feet. Rear air conditioning and heaters were available on long wheelbase models. Chrysler minivans offered an electric windshield de-icer which places warming grids under the wiper blades' parked position to prevent the blades from freezing up.

More details on the 1996 minivans’ development process, “firsts,” and features

Dodge Trucks

1996 dodge dakota

The Dodge Dakota pickup switched from the Chrysler-engineered 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine, which was going out of production, to the more powerful (partly due to multiple-port injection) AMC 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine, now dubbed “Magnum.” The jump from 100 to 120 horsepower and from 133 to 145 lb-ft of torque helped make the base models more competitive; optional engines were the 318-based 3.9 liter V6 (175 hp) and the 318 V8 itself (220 horsepower). A compressed natural gas (CNG) engine was available on V8 Dakotas with rear wheel drive and the long wheelbase. Dakota itself was sold in two and four wheel drive, and regular and club cabs, with six and eight foot beds. For 1996, Dakota Sport gained the long-bed option.

dakota

For 1996, the Dakota also gained the JTEC powertrain computer, four-speed automatic transmissions, a factory-installed class IV hitch platform, new colors, and CD changer controls added to the top stereo. (There were two manual transmissions, the AS82 and NV3500, and two automatics, the 42RE and 46RE, with the NV3500 and 46RE reserved for the V8). The pickup, reportedly created using contract labor and modeled (dimensionally) on the International Scout, would soon be replaced by a completely new, in-house version with “baby Ram” styling.

1996 Ram

The Dodge Ram pickups were a major success story; in 1994, the new truck had sales of 232,000 units, 140% more than in 1993. In 1995, Club Cab production was sold out midway in the model year. St. Louis North was, in 1995, diverted from minivans to Ram pickups; sales rocketed upwards in both 1995 and 1996 as capacity grew to meet demand.

The big technical change for 1996 was an upgrade to the already best in class Cummins turbodiesel engine, which was boosted by 23% in peak horsepower to 215 horsepower / 440 pound-feet rpm with manual transmission, and to 175 horsepower / 420 pound-feet with the automatic. The V-10 gained sequential multiple-port fuel injection, improving driveability. EGR was dropped from the gasoline engines (in the case of the 360, the change occured midyear), CD controls were added to the top stereo, a “cruise active” light was added, and service points under the hood were labelled in yellow.

1996 ram club cab

Less major changes were new aluminum wheels for Ram 1500, dual lighted visor mirrors on SLT, a camper package on the 2500 and 3500, and new interior and exterior colors. Ram was sold in regular cab, club cab, and cab/chassis forms in each of the three capability levels, in both rear and four wheel drive. The engines were the 3.9 liter V6 (originally created for Dakota), the 318 and 360 V8s, the 8-liter V10, and the 5.9 liter Cummins turbodiesel. There were three automatic transmissions and three manual transmissions, matched to the engines.

Ram had been the first domestic pickup to be created after sending engineers across the country to study how owners actually used their trucks. Major changes were made to the interior, including the center console, large enough to support a laptop or clipboard.

1996 dodge ram club cab interior

Ram Van and Wagon had minor changes, including a new air conditioned cargo van package, an indicator for the cruise control, and standard 35 gallon gas tank. The vans used an independent front suspension with wishbone coil springs, gas-charged shocks, front stabilizer bar, and variable-ratio power steering. Engines were the 3.9 V6, 318 and 360 V8, and CNG V8 (on 2500 and 3500 models). All engines used either a three speed or four speed automatic transmission, the latter new for 1996. Ventilation was improved on vans with no air conditioners, the base gross vehicle weight was raised to 6,010 pounds, and new interior colors were added.

2001 Dodge B3500 cargo van

The Chrysler brand philosophy

Chrysler-Plymouth General Manager Steve Torok wrote, “The most important trend in the premium vehicle market today is that the notion of what luxury is all about has changed dramatically.” The new definition was:

  • a well-appointed, comfortable interior with practical, not pretentious, features that are easy to use
  • a stylish, provocative exterior design
  • a blend of performance, handling, and efficiency
  • exceeding customer expectations in every area

The strategy worked; Chrysler buyers’ average age was 62 in 1992, and 47 in 1995. Average household income frose from $55,000 in 1994 to $64,000 in 1995. The number of normally-import-car-buyers moving to Chrysler doubled.

Plymouth Prowler approved; Plymouth Plan begun?

plymouth pronto

plymouthIn 1993, the Plymouth Prowler debuted. In January 1996, Chrysler announced that the Plymouth Prowler would be put into production the following year. This seemed to indicate that a new plan to revive Plymouth had been approved, as well. (Chris Theodore said in an interview with Allpar’s Marc Rozman: “Prowler was supposed to be the spark to rekindle interest in Plymouth, and PT Cruiser was then to follow on as a Plymouth. ... Then we were going to do a whole line.”)

2000 plymouth prowler

Sales: the results

chrysler brandsChrysler’s market share in 1996 shot up from 9.1% to 9.7% in cars, and from 21.3% to 23.4% in MPVs and trucks. In Canada, Chrysler had market share of 13% for cars, 28% for trucks; in Mexico, 14% for cars and 20% for trucks. The company’s impressive profitability would remain until its unexpected end in 1998.

Chrysler-Plymouth was among the top ten most desirable franchises in 1994 and 1995, and sales per dealer jumped from 492 in 1990 to 561 in 1995.

Chrysler U.S. sales were around 2.45 million cars and trucks, including fleet sales. U.S. sales were 83% of its total sales, which came to around 3 million units. Chrysler Canada made nearly 700,000 vehicles, most of which were sold outside of Canada. Results based on Wards’ United States figures for the calendar year 1996 and conflict in some cases with The Standard Catalog series.

US CY 1996 SalesPlymouthDodgeChryslerJeep/Eagle
Neon105,472139,831  
Breeze, Stratus, Cirrus/Sebring Conv.64,50098,06536,007 / 53,852 
Intrepid, Concorde/ LHS, Vision 145,40252,106 / 34,65911,437
Minivans (Voyager, Caravan, T&C)152,862300,11784,828 
Viper 1,597  
Dakota, Cherokee 104,754 148,544
Ram Pickup, Wrangler 383,960 81,444
Ram Van/Wagon, Grand Cherokee 61,400 / 20,089 279,195
Sebring-Talon-Avenger 35,77431,78113,842
Stealth, Summit, New Yorker 1,2763,2952,051
LeBaron, Summit Wagon  1,0621,365

(“Like” cars are grouped together in the case of J-cars, LH, and minivans; in other cases they are put together just to reduce space.)

Ram had an excellent year as capacity rose: in 1995, 271,501 Ram pickups had been sold.

Ram Van and Wagon were doing fairly well, considering that Ford sold 143,791 Econolines. The Windstar, Villager, and Aerostar together (three completely different designs) did not come close to Chrysler's minivan sales; though Explorer, with comparatively few benefits, easily outsold even Cherokee (with 400,000 Explorers sold).

Chrysler negotiated three-year national agreements with the UAW and CAW, with roughly the same wages and benefits as GM and Ford. Toledo was covered by a separate agreement.

Chrysler-Plymouth customer profiles

Since 1992, the average age of the Chrysler brand buyer dropped by 15 years and household income rose by over 40%.

 Median
Age
Median
Household Income
% Female% College
Grads
% Professional
or Managers
Plymouth Neon41$47,00053%42%62%
Plymouth Voyager30-39$48,00050%50%40%
Plymouth Grand Voyager35-43$53,00045%55%45%
Chrysler Town & Country47$90,00045%60%60%
Chrysler Cirrus47$57,00056%60%50%
Chrysler Sebring (Mitsu)40$55,00063%45%45%
Chrysler Concorde40-54$55,000+40%55%45%
Chrysler LHS57$81,45028%55%55%

Chrysler Corporation Officers, 1997

Leading Chrysler was the “dream team,” including Bob Eaton and Bob Lutz, Tom Stallkamp, Gary Valade (CFO), Tom Gale (Product), James Holden (Sales and Marketing), Tom Sidlik (Procurement), F.J. Ewasyshyn (Advance Manufacturing Engineering), and John Herlitz (design).

OFFICERAGESINCEPOSITION
Robert J. Eaton57 1992Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Robert A. Lutz651986Vice Chairman of the Board
T. T. Stallkamp511990President
Gary C. Valade551990Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
T. R. Cunningham511987Executive Vice President -- International
Tom C. Gale541985Executive Vice President -- Product Strategy, Design and External Affairs and General Manager -- Jeep Operations
James P. Holden461993Executive Vice President -- Sales and Marketing and General Manager -- Minivan Operations
Dennis K. Pawley561991Executive Vice President -- Manufacturing
Tom W. Sidlik481992Executive Vice President -- Procurement and Supply and General Manager -- Small Car Operations
R. R. Boltz521987Vice President -- Product Strategy and Regulatory Affairs and General Manager -- Large Car Operations
T. P. Capo461991Vice President and Treasurer
D. L. Davis581998Vice President -- Chrysler Corporation and Chairman of the Board -- Chrysler Financial Corporation
J. D. Donlon, III511992Vice President and Controller
Frank J. Ewasyshyn451994Vice President -- Advance Manufacturing Engineering
W. F. Fountain531995Vice President -- Government Affairs
R. L. Franson43 1996Vice President -- Chrysler Corporation and President - Chrysler Financial Corporation
T. Gallagher551992Vice President -- Employee Relations
S. J. Harris521998Vice President -- Communications
G. L. Henson551994Vice President -- Large and Small Car, Jeep and Truck Assembly and Stamping Operations
John E. Herlitz551994Vice President -- Product Design
R. G. Liberatore481993Vice President -- Washington Affairs
A. C. “Bud” Liebler551990Vice President -- Marketing
C. Lobo S.491992Vice President -- Power Train Manufacturing
M. J. MacDonald531996Vice President -- Sales and Service
W. J. O'Brien541987Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
K. M. Oswald481994Vice President -- Human Resources
E. T. Pappert581981Vice President -- Dealer Relations
B. I. Robertson551992Vice President -- Engineering Technologies and General Manager --Truck Operations
S. T. Rushwin501994Vice President -- International Manufacturing and Minivan Assembly Operations
R. O. Schaum511998Vice President -- Quality and Serviceability and General Manager --Power Train Operations
Chris P. Theodore471998Vice President -- Platform Engineering

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