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Executives: Changes at Chrysler

2 minute read

Despite a continuing industry-wide fourth-quarter slump, the man in the Chrysler Corp. driver’s seat, Lynn Townsend, expects the company’s 1966 sales to climb “very close” to $6 billion—an improvement over 1965 by an estimated $700 million. In that optimistic frame of mind, Townsend last week announced that he is moving up from president to chairman and chief policy officer, taking the place of retiring George H. Love, who in his own words has served primarily as Townsend’s “father confessor” in recent months.

Chrysler’s new president will be Virgil E. Boyd, a Townsend protégé who, at 54, is seven years older than his boss. Boyd has held Chrysler’s No. 3 slot—vice president in charge of domestic sales and production—ever since Townsend lured him from a similar position at American Motors in 1962. He will bring to his new job a strong suit in marketing experience and a close rapport with auto salesmen.

Boyd grew up to the tune of poverty. The son of a dirt farmer who lost his Blencoe, Iowa, spread during the Depression and died penniless, he first earned spending money by borrowing the family horse and hiring himself out to other farmers. At 17 he headed for Omaha, studied accounting while scouring floors and cleaning tables for board and tuition, got his first job as an accounting clerk with General Motors Acceptance Corp. Later, after Boyd served as a Nash sales executive, he ran his own Nash, then Buick dealerships in Sioux City, Iowa, and Alliance, Neb. In 1954, George Romney recruited Boyd as his special assistant, whose chief responsibility was beefing up American Motors’ dealership system.

At Chrysler, under Boyd’s sales guidance, dealerships have swelled from 5,600 to 6,600 and nearly doubled their business and profits. In ’61 Chrysler sold 719,933 cars and trucks in the U.S., last year sold 1,612,321—or 15.7% of the market compared to 10.8% five years ago. Boyd has high hopes for ’67. “The basic ingredients for a 9,000,000-car year are still there,” he says.

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