Chrysler of Canada
The Chrysler Corporation of Canada, Ltd. was created in June, 1925, building 7,857 vehicles with 181 employees, with a single assembly plant in Windsor that encompassed 61,000 square feet of floor space inherited from the Maxwell-Chalmers Motor Company of Canada. The corporation became Chrysler Canada, Ltd. in 1963; by 1972 it had over 3.7 million square feet of factory floor space and produced 292,211 cars and trucks, and over a half million engines.
During the Great Depression, Chrysler Corporation realized it needed entry-level cars for Dodge and DeSoto dealers in export markets. The first model created for this purpose was the 1932 Dodge DM, a low-volume model made by swapping out the Dodge Six for a Plymouth Four. It would be the last four-cylinder Dodge built in North America until the Omni appeared in 1977. This lowered the cost of a basic Dodge, but not by enough, and in 1933, Chrysler Canada introduced the Dodge DQ and DP. These were Plymouths with Dodge, front grills, nameplates, and ornamentation; they helped Dodge dealers who needed lower-priced cars, and helped in markets where the senior MoPar names might have had more meaning or prestige. In Great Britain, where registration taxes were based on horsepower, a smaller bore engine was used in some models. The practice of putting Dodge parts and names onto Plymouths did not end until 1959.
Fargo was brought into Canada in 1936, to provide a truck line for Chrysler and Plymouth dealers as Dodge trucks started to become popular. The Fargo trucks were sometimes very similar to the Dodge trucks, and less often were unique to Plymouth or Fargo. In the 1960s, Chrysler finally started to market Dodge and Fargo trucks, which by then had no cosmetic or model-name differences; the Fargos even used Dodge hubcaps, with the Dodge emblem. By 1972, Fargo's name was only onto the tailgate with a decal, while the wheel covers proclaimed the vehicle to be a Dodge. Fargo was gone from Canada by 1973 though it survived elsewherein the world. Click here for more Fargo information.
From 1946-1950, the Plymouth DeLuxe was modified to become the Dodge Kingsway, while the Special Deluxe became the Regent. For 1951-1952, the Dodge Crusader (D40-1) was a Plymouth Cambridge with a Dodge grille, hood ornament and nameplates, with a long block 218.1-cid flathead six (3.375" bore and 4.062" stroke) rather than the American Plymouth's 217.8-cid (3.25" bore and 4.375" stroke) short block engine. The Dodge Regent (D40-2) was based on the Plymouth Cranbrook, while the Dodge Kingsway (D-39) was the equivalent of the Concord. Serial numbers for the 1951-52 Dodges were:
Model Based On Plymouth Sold as Dodge 1951 1952 D39 Concord Kingsway 97 004 001 to 97 006 504 97 006 601 to 97 007 582 D40-1 Cambridge Crusader 97 508 001 to 97 511 963 97 512 001 to 97 515 944 D40-2 Cranbrook Regent 98 029 001 to 98 042 462 98 042 501 to 98 052 988
All 1950s 6-cylinder Canadian Chrysler vehicles used the longer Windsor/DeSoto block, with Plymouths and Dodges getting a smaller displacement version (228 cubic inches, or about 3.8 litres). The HyDrive transmission was offered on Canadian Plymouths and Plymouth-based Dodges as well, which had to retool a HyDrive-specific version of the 228 block in relatively small numbers.
1953-1954 models ()
|1946-1959 Plymouth-Dodge Pairing|
|Special DeLuxe (1946-50)
|Fury (1959 only)||Viscount|
Canadian-built 1953-54 Plymouths featured the usual variations, most notably the long-block six. Manual transmission cars came with the familiar 218 cubic inch motor. When Hy-Drive, and later, Powerflite, transmissions were ordered, a new 228 cubic inch engine (formerly exclusive to the Canadian-built, American-style Coronet) was installed.
This year, for the first time, Dodge front fenders were mated to the Plymouth body, avoiding an awkward attempt of matching the Dodge grille to the unique Plymouth "pontoon" fenders. Since the full-sized Dodge had a longer wheelbase, the fenders had to be modified to fit the Plymouth body. Since this car was built on a Plymouth chassis, the new 241 hemi V8 was not available.
Bill from Toronto wrote, “The 1953-1959 Plymouth-based Dodges used the same front clip as the U.S. Dodge. The 1953-54 Meadowbrook/Coronet sedans and club coupes were built on a 119" wheelbase with the hardtop, convertible and suburban on Plymouth's 114" chassis. The extra 5" was in the rear seat area. Thus the 1953-54 Kingsway and Canadian Dodge used the front clip of the Coronet 6 hardtop.”
Because the body was shared by both Dodge and Plymouth, there were some trim differences. The small hubcaps were from the 1949-50 Plymouths or Dodges. The full wheelcovers of 1953 were unique to Canada, plain affairs bearing either a Plymouth or Dodge logo on a red background. The mini chrome fins appearing on both 1954 Canadian Plymouths and Dodges did not bear the Plymouth flag logo, as in the US, but a ribbed design used interchangeably on both marques. On the 1954 Dodge Regent and Mayfair (equivalent to Savoy and Belvedere), the Dodge Coronet side trim spear was mated to the Plymouth rear fender chrome.
For these two years, Chrysler Canada did not have a two-door sedan; the close-coupled business coupe (with a back seat) filled that capacity, reducing the inventory necessary for servicing a market only ten percent of that in the United States.
Built in Detroit for export overseas was another Plymouth variant, the DeSoto Diplomat. As was the Canadian Dodge, it too was identical, model for model, to the Plymouth. Unlike Canada's Dodge, however, it used the full Plymouth body, including the front fenders, except for the grille which was full of the usual DeSoto teeth. This was not sold in Canada.
In 1956, Dodge sold a Canadian Dodge Custom Royal based on the US Custom Royal. It used the 303 cid V8 engine, which was also used in the Canadian Chrysler Windsor and exported to Detroit for use in the Plymouth Fury.
The Fury, available in the United States starting in 1957, was absent from Canada unless imported by dealers.
In 1957, the Custom Royal was powered by a new 313 ci engine that, outside or its .1875-inch smaller bore, was identical to the familiar American 318. The unique 313 would remain in Canadian production through 1964.
Even with the massive 1957 restyling, Chrysler Canada continued its practice of bringing in Plymouths as Dodges, putting the full front clip onto Plymouth bodies; and leaving the rest of the car essentially unchanged. Because of a difference in front wheelwell openings, the Mayfair's Belvedere-style Sportone trim had to be modified to begin behind the opening. However, the difference between the 122-inch wheelbase of the "big" Dodge and the 118-inch wheelbase of the Plymouth chassis didn't seem to affect the fenders.
Just two engines were offered for the 1957 Canadian Dodges (and Plymouths)-a 251 cubic inch Powerflow Six that had belonged to the Chrysler Windsor prior to 1955 and a 303 ci V8 that was standard on the Mayfair models, optional on the Regents and unavailable on the Crusaders. (The same was true for the Plymouth lines.) The 303 V8 was the same engine Plymouth took across the border in 1956 from the Windsor factory to hop up for its new Fury.
Fortunately for Chrysler, the company greatly increased Canadian prices in 1957 to make up for different exchange rates, and sales were down for 1957 as compared with 1956. That meant that many customers missed the disastrous quality of the 1957 models, and the company’s reputation was less hurt than in the United States, which may help to explain why Chrysler still has a higher market share in Canada.
Canadian exports to South Africa diminished after 1960, when John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, led a movement to have South Africa drummed out of the Commonwealth for apartheid. South Africa was a fairly minor market regardless, but after 1960 it received largely Australian vehicles.
The big news in 1960 was the introduction of the wildly successful Valiant, which was a separate make in the US until 1961, and in Canada for years afterwards so it could be sold at both Plymouth and Dodge outlets. Valiants started out nearly identical in both countries, diverging into distinctly different cars around the 1963 model year but reverting to U. S. clone status by 1967, when Australia took on the task of providing locally engineered right-hand-drive Valiants. From launch to 1966, Canada was the major source of right-hand-drive Valiants and Lancers for Commonwealth nations, including Australia, New Zealand, and the numerous islands, partly because Canada, as a Commonwealth member, had preferential trade ties with these nations.
Details on the Valiants of Canada, including Dart-based models and the Lancer, are at valiant.org.
In 1961, DeSoto production ended in North America and most foreign markets. Canada's DeSoto-Dodge dealers were, like American DeSoto-Plymouth dealers, granted Chrysler franchises as compensation, much as DeSoto-Plymouth dealers were in the U. S. This situation remains in place (e.g. the "Chrysler Intrepid" sold by both Canadian Dodge-Chrysler and Plymouth-Chrysler dealers). Canadian Plymouth dealers also sell Dodge trucks, the Fargo name having been dropped in that market in late 1972.
The Saratoga was available as a four door sedan and a two or four door hardtop in 1962-1966. The 1962 used the Newport exterior trim with rocker mouldings. The Windsor had no rocker mouldings and used the 300 side trim without the "300" emblem. The final Saratoga (1966) used Windsor taillamps. Convertibles were imported from 1963 to 1965 as the 300; likewise, the 1966, 300 two-door hardtop and convertible were imported as the Sport 300.
The introduction of the Barracuda was big news in 1964, followed closely by the introduction of the 273 V-8. Barracudas were built in Canada only in 1964 and 1965, with minor differences; all other years were imported. The first generation Barracuda was marketed as a Valiant, and not as a Plymouth. The Formula S was available in Canada in 1965, but it was imported. Interiors on the 1964 models were identical to the American version, while the 1965 Canadian Barracuda used the Dart dashboard. Even in 1966, the name "Plymouth" did not appear on Canadian Barracudas, even though they were built in Detroit. Only in 1967 were they first marketed as the Plymouth Barracuda.
In 1965, the Savoy was the bottom-line Plymouth in both US and Canada; there was no Belvedere or Fury I until 1966, when Savoy was redubbed Fury I. For Dodge, there was no Coronet in 1965, and the 330 was renamed Polara in 1966, joining the Polara 440 and Polara 880 already sold there.
The U.S.-Canada Automotive Trade Pact was signed in January 1965. It was the beginning of the end for many distinctively Canadian vehicles. In 1965, these included the Fargo line of trucks, the Chrysler Windsor (a renamed Newport), the Chrysler Saratoga (a renamed non-letter 300 4-door pillared sedan exclusive to the export market), the Plymouth Savoy (a C-bodied 2-door hardtop downgraded to Fury I/II trim levels, not sold as a Dodge), the C-bodied Canadian Dodge (Polara, Polara 440, Polara 880, and Monaco; all had Plymouth-level engines and interior trim including Plymouth dashboards, and a Canada-only Monaco convertible was offered), and TWO different styles of Canadian Valiant.
By 1967, there was almost no difference between U. S. and Canadian offerings, exceptions being the Monaco/Monaco 500 convertible and the Fargo line of cloned Dodge trucks — and, for six cylinder engines, the use of direct-drive (instead of reduction-gear) starters. This is a serious problem when switching starters or replacing torque converters / pressure plates; a Canadian starter mated to an American-model torque converter will crack the starter pinion gears. Canada did not switch over until 1967 or 1968.
1967 was the only year since at least the end of World War II that all Canadian Dodges had different instrumentation from their Plymouth counterparts. The 1968 B-bodies on both sides of the border (other than Charger and Super Bee) shared the same gauges, with the Charger gauge cluster appearing on the GTX and Road Runner in 1970. By 1972 one could only tell a Dodge from a Plymouth from the inside by a the emblems ... assuming your car was fitted with the correct emblems, which wasn't always the case.
A state of the art waste treatment plant for Windsor was set up in 1969, part of an ongoing effort to make Chrysler Canada more environmentally responsible. Further efforts over the next years would greatly decrease the noxious emissions of the Windsor plants. In addition, full sized Plymouth and Dodge production was phased out of Windsor, with production centralized in Newark, Delaware.
The first Dodge Demon was actually a 1970 Canadian show car, featuring a Dart front clip on a lightly modified Duster body and done for a fraction of the cost of a typical show car. Chrysler Canada's history of "mix and match" showed the parent company the way on the Dodge Demon and the Plymouth Scamp.
1971 was a massive sales year for Chrysler Canada, with records in sales, earnings, production, and employment. The Plymouth Satellite joined Windsor’s Valiants; and the unique, new automated piston pouring process developed by Etobicoke employees started up in that plant after six years of work, allowing massive increases in productivity with seven million pistons shipping in 1971 alone and 8.2 million in 1972.
In 1972, Chrysler Canada broke its 1971 records in sales, earnings, production, and employment, with $1.5 billion in sales, 19% above 1971's record; market share shot up to 25% of cars and 16% of trucks. The company earned $41.5 million, net, after taxes. At retail, 163,596 cars and trucks were sold; and Chrysler Canada made cars, trucks, engines, springs, trim, and castings for Chrysler Corporation itself.
Truck sales hit a record of 29,091 sales, a 54% increase of 1971's record sales. Passener car sales were up 16% over the prior record in 1971. Production of cars hit 265,773, and truck production reached 26,438. A whopping 508,345 engines were made, along with 2 million springs; and the Ajax trim plant made 747,568 cushion and seat back covers. Chrysler Canada had 14,300 employees, and two outside board members (from the Royal Bank of Canada and Schokbeton Quebec).
Chrysler Canada had 646 dealers employing 15,000 Canadians, and 80 Autopar dealers selling products through other outlets. No less than 2,000 Canadian suppliers were used for additional parts and services, collecting a total $200 million. The Windsor car plant had 2.2 million square feet of floor space, the engine plant 717,000 square feet, and the truck plant 345,000 square feet. A state-of-the-art, partly mechanized parts depot in Mississauga, Ontario was set up in 1972.
As it did in the United States, Chrysler sponsored a troubleshooting contest each year, drawing student teams from 263 schools which sent two students each to the competition, the active part of which took place in a large stadium.
Environmentally, Chrysler installed the cleaner air system in 1973 vehicles, as it did in the United States, cutting hydrocarbon emissions by over 80% and carbon monoxide by 70%; and Windsor’s power house was converted from coal to natural gas. Major phosphate washes were eliminated; paint sludge was incinerated; and Chrysler Canada became the first Canadian automaker to use a special new dispersion solvent in its paint, reducing aromatic hydrocarbons by 85%.
The first Japanese Plymouth Cricket, identical to the Dodge Colt (in Canada sold as the Dodge Arrow), came on the market for 1973, replacing the Hillman Avenger-based Plymouth Cricket from the UK [it was not brought in after 1972 but some were still sold as 1973 models].
The first non-Japanese line made exclusively for the Canadian market was the 1978 Plymouth Caravelle, which was initially a Dodge Diplomat clone with modified grille and taillights; it lasted until its American counterpart died in 1989. When the E-body (extended K-platform) Caravelle, based on the Dodge 400/600, was brought into Canada, the M-body version was called the Caravelle Salon, but the word "Salon" only actually appeared on the car when it was ordered with the Salon package. Stu McAllister wrote, "This always causes lots of fun at the auto parts counter, since we had two completely different cars with the same nameplate from 1982 to 1989. Interesting marketing approach."
There was a two-door front wheel drive Caravelle through 1986 which never appeared in the US.
With the introduction of the G-body sports model in 1984, Chrysler Canada started on a different path. The Dodge Daytona was marketed in Canada as a Chrysler Daytona, and sold by Dodge-Chrysler and Plymouth-Chrysler dealers alike in Canada. This was later followed by the Chrysler Dynasty and Chrysler Intrepid.
While the Dodge Viper grabbed the headlines in the early 1990s, the real Chrysler turnaround was represented by the LH cars: the Intrepid, Concord, Vision, New Yorker, and LHS. These cars were all built in the same plant in Bramalea, Canada; and currently, their successors, the LX series (Charger, 300, Magnum, and Challenger) are built in the same Canadian factory.
In 2000, Chrysler began formally eliminating both the Dodge and Plymouth car lines; by 2001, the only Dodge car left was the Viper (Plymouth was completely gone), and the Dodge Neon was now the Chrysler Neon. The Dodge Caravan was the best-selling vehicle in Canada for several years starting at this time. But in 2003, the no-car policy was reversed with the Dodge SX 2.0 (Neon) appearing, followed by numerous other Dodge cars. The rationale could either be to eliminate the costs of rebranding, to prevent the absurdity of different names in a nation that mainly lived within radio-and-TV-advertising distance of the United States, or because the public did not react as desired.
In 2005, 318,525 cars were built at the Bramalea factory; in 2006, 314,161. At the Windsor plant, minivan production was around 152,000 from 2004-2006 before shooting up to 171,032 in 2007 (minivans are also made in Fenton, Missouri). Total vehicle production across all manufacturers in Canada was 2.5 million in 2006 (vs. 2 million in Mexico and nearly 10.9 million in the US).
In 2007, Chrysler’s market share was nowhere near its 1970s levels, but was still higher than in the United States. For cars, Chrysler held 3% and Dodge held 4%, for a total 7%; for trucks, minivans, SUVs, and crossovers, Chrysler held .6%, Dodge 15%, and Jeep 6%, for a total of around 22%. Adding cars and trucks, Chrysler showed up with 2%, Dodge with 9%, and Jeep with 3%, for a total 14% market share, still enough to (barely) beat Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury (Ford itself had a 13% share but Lincoln and Mercury were negligible.) In total, Chrysler sold 232,688 vehicles in Canada in 2007, a considerably higher volume than in 1972 but in a much larger market.
- Windsor Assembly Plants
- Chrysler Canada in the 1960s and 70s (especially the Valiant)
- Canada-only, Mitsubishi-made 2000GT
Canadian operations in 2010
Reid Bigland is CEO of Chrysler Canada, which has three plants (Windsor, Brampton, Etobicoke), three regional sales offices, three parts facilities, and one headquarters. Around 13% of Chrysler sales are in Canada, and around 30% of Chrysler vehicles come from Canada. (Chrysler has a higher market share than in the US.) There are around 50 R&D employees in the Automotive Research and Design Center in Windsor, which does durability testing including coatings (paint).
Sergio Marchionne, in a January 2010 interview with the Toledo Blade and other media, suggested that Canada would play a greater role in future design, at least on the component level. He also said the Windsor and Brampton assembly plants were critical going forward. With regard to a new Alfa, he said, “If we build it, it’s likely that it will be there [in Brampton]. ... it will be decided within this year. ... the paint shop at Brampton may need some intervention.”
“Alfa has historically been a drag on the resources of Fiat Group... potentially it's a great brand...”
Chrysler Canada’s market share was around 13% for numerous years, but fell in 2009 with a forecast of 11-11.5%. (The share was 17% in 1999 and 2000). Chrysler gaining more market share than any of the competitors in 2007, and had two of the top five best sellers in the country. The 2008 crises put an end to the gains though Chrysler Canada did not file for bankruptcy.
Canadian sales is dominated by small and compact vehicles (39%), pickups (17%), and people movers (14%) - that’s 70% of the market. Midsized sedans are just 11%. 83% of vehicles sold in Canada have four cylinders. There are clearly opportunities for Fiat Group-based vehicles.
Chrysler still has a 70% market share in Canadian minivans, got a 2009 J.D. Power most dependable award (three-year reliability), has best gas mileage; best selling minivan in Canada throughout its life. Journey remains the best selling crossover (out of 39 vehicles). It’s the top pick for IIHS.
In Canada, Chrysler has 440 dealers, all selling vehicles from each brand; 88% were profitable even in the downturn of 2009, with a 25% return on investment (figures are September 2009 YTD.) Five new dealerships were announced or opened in the past 30 days and existing dealers can invest in their facilities. Canada has gone from around 490 dealers in 2004 to 440 in 2009. The goal is to return to 13.8% market share.
Phasing out Plymouth and Dodge cars in Canada (Bill Watson)
The move to retire the Dodge car in Canada started back in the 1980s, with the decision to retire the Plymouth. To begin with, all Chrysler Canada dealers sold Chrysler cars and Dodge trucks after 1972. Some sold Plymouth, some sold Dodge, and a small number sold both Plymouth and Dodge.
To balance things out with imports, Chrysler Canada sold Plymouth Colts and Dodge Arrows along with Dodge Colts and Plymouth Arrows. The Conquest was never sold in Canada, though. The RWD Plymouth Voyager van, Plymouth Trail Duster and FWD Plymouth Scamp were not sold in Canada - Plymouth dealers already had the Dodge equivalents.
In 1978, Chrysler Canada introduced the Plymouth Caravelle, basically a Dodge Diplomat with Plymouth emblems, revised grille and taillamps and "Caravelle" nameplates. The top line Diplomat Medallion was not sold in Canada, and the only Chrysler LeBaron was the Medallion series. Thus no overlapping between Caravelle/Diplomat and LeBaron.
1979 - The Dodge St.Regis was not sold in Canada as there was no Plymouth equivalent.
1980 - Dodge St. Regis was sold in Canada as Chrysler introduced the new Plymouth Gran Fury.
1982 - The "M" body Plymouth continues as the Caravelle Salon - no Gran Fury in Canada. The new K-car LeBaron introduced in Canada, but the Dodge 400 is available only as a 2-door coupe and convertible. A Plymouth version of the 400 2-door sedan is added to the Plymouth Caravelle line.
1983 - Caravelle adds an "E" body 4-door sedan - its equivalent of the 600.
1984 - The Chrysler Laser and Dodge Daytona are introduced, but instead of calling the Laser a Plymouth, both Laser and Daytona are sold as Chryslers. The move toward oblivion begins. Both Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager are sold in Canada.
1985 - Chrysler LeBaron GTS and Dodge Lancer introduced, but no Plymouth version.
1986 - Last year for the 2-door FWD Dodge 600 and Plymouth Caravelle sedans.
1988 - Last year for the 4-door FWD Dodge 600 and Plymouth Caravelle sedans. The Dynasty is introduced, but instead of coming up with a Plymouth version, the Dynasty is sold only as a Chrysler.
1989 - Last year for the RWD Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Caravelle sedans
1993 - The Intrepid is introduced - under the Chrysler nameplate - to replace the Dynasty. (The Eagle Premier-based Dodge Monaco was never sold in Canada)
1995 - The Dodge Neon is introduced with a Plymouth Neon shorlty after. The Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring appear, but no Plymouth version. Jeep is added to both Plymouth-Chrysler and Dodge-Chrysler dealers.
1996 - The Plymouth Breeze is introduced along with the rest of the 1996 Chryco line - months before the U.S. introduction.
1998 - The Eagle Vision is dropped and the Eagle Talon is in its last year. Jeep-Eagle dealers become either Plymouth-Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge Truck dealers or Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge Truck dealers.
2000 - The new Chrysler Neon replaced both the Plymouth Neon and Dodge Neon. Chrysler Canada announced the end of both Plymouth and Dodge car lines. All Chrysler Canada dealers sold Chryslers, Jeeps, and Dodge trucks. The Avenger, Stratus, and Breeeze were dropped; the Sebring coupe remained and a lower-priced Cirrus was added to replace the Stratus/Breeze. Ex-Plymouth dealers replaced the Voyager with the Dodge Caravan, so instead of having separate Voyager and Caravan sales stats, the mini-van sales were all now Dodge Caravan. The number one selling vehicle in Canada became, for several years, the Dodge Caravan. (The Chrysler Town & Country was also sold in Canada.)
Chrysler has long been considered a luxury car in Canada, but performance has always been its other forte; neither Dodge nor Plymouth had versions in Canada with engines bigger than 361 cid until 1965, and at that time, with the 413 in the Fury and Polara, it was only sold with a single four-barrel carburetor. Big-block B-bodies were not in Canadian showrooms until 1966.
Their light truck sales, which include the Caravan, are doing nicely [Note: this was written in April 2002]. They are a strong #2 in Canada, midway between General Motors and Ford. They are so strong, in fact, total Chrysler sales put Chrysler Canada in the #2 spot in Canada, behind General Motors and ahead of Ford. The Caravan is #1, ahead of the Silverado/Sierra twins (#2) and the Ford F-Series (#3).
2003 update. Chrysler has been phasing Dodge cars back in. Dodge's debut was with the 2.0 SX.
Chrysler Canada Links
- More information on Chrysler Canada in the 1960s and 70s
- Valiants of Canada
- Older Dodge and Plymouth exports to Canada (1940s-1960s)