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Business & Finance: Chrysler Motors

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Last July, in a matter of fact sort of way, Walter P. Chrysler offered the public a new automobile called the Plymouth. On the thirtieth day of that month, Dodge Bros, stockholders approved a $160,000,000 deal which turned over their business to the Chrysler Corp. The Dodge company included Graham Bros., big truck concern.

Early in August, Mr. Chrysler brought out another new car, called the De Soto. Many a man was a little confused for the moment as to whether the De Soto and the Plymouth were new makes by Chrysler or new Chrysler models. But the Chrysler models—”65,” “75” and “Imperial 80″—continued to be advertised distinct from De Soto and Plymouth.

In autumn came the news that Walter P. Chrysler was going to build the world’s tallest skyscraper, a 68-story colossus towering more than 800 feet above Lexington Ave. and 42nd St., Manhattan.

Almost incidentally, he brought out a new line of commercial cars—the Fargo “Packets” and “Clippers.”

The doings of Walter P. Chrysler, already prodigious, now became fabulous. People said that this torpedo-headed dynamo from Detroit with the smile like Walter Hagen’s and the sensitive sophistication in oriental rugs, was building up a facsimile and four-square competitor of mighty General Motors Corp. and that he was going to house it in a skyscraper where it could peer down over New York at the General Motors building on Broadway.

Mr. Chrysler carefully explained that his building had nothing to do with his automobile business, that it was a separate enterprise which he had been planning since 1924, when his personal automobile business began to be well under way. “I like to build things,” he said. “I like to do things. I am having a lot of fun going thoroughly into everything with the architect.”

With the arrival of a new year, however, Mr. Chrysler certified that the major part of the fable was indeed a fact. He announced that the name of the Chrysler Corp. was changed, significantly, to Chrysler Motors. He said: “It welds together the advantages resulting from the common policy of engineering, purchasing, manufacturing and financing under one personal head.”

Thus, with a large gesture, Walter P. Chrysler ended twelve months of extraordinary activity.From a motor man with one product, he had become one of the chief U. S. industrialists. Undeniably, he had been the outstanding businessman of the year.

The change from Chrysler Corp. to Chrysler Motors struck much deeper into the automobile world than a mere matter of names. A new competitive set-up began to appear. In 1928, as everyone remembers, the centre-ring automobile battle was Ford v. General Motors. The issue: Could Ford’s Model “A” check the growing threat of Chevrolet and General Motors, or would Ford have to accept second place? In 1929, it seemed last week, the issue is enormously complicated by the injection of Chrysler Motors. Can Chrysler challenge General Motors?

In products, the parallelism is nearly perfect. Each organization can offer a car for every pocketbook. Balancing General Motors, Chrysler has “everything except an icebox:”


Chevrolet $525 up

Plymouth $655 up

Dodge Standard 6 $725

Pontiac $745

De Soto $845

Dodge Victory 6 $845

Oldsmobile $925

Chrysler 65 $1,040

Oakland $1,145

Buick 20 $1,195

Buick 40 $1,325

Buick 50 $1,525

Chrysler 75 $1,535

Dodge Senior 6 $1,575

La Salle $2,420

Chrysler Imperial So $2,875


Cadillac (Fisher) $3,295

Cadillac (Fleetwood) $4,195

Fargo Commercial Cars General Motors Trucks,

Yellow Cabs

Motor Boats


Delco Lights,

Electric Plants, etc.

There are, however, some major differences between the two units. Direction of General Motors is divided, impersonal; Chrysler Motors, like the Ford company, is united under one chief.* General Motors uses the financial wizards of the Raskob-du Pont type; Chrysler relies chiefly on Walter P. Chrysler. General Motors is close to J. P. Morgan & Co.; Chrysler is the good friend of the Brady family and, more recently, of Dillon, Read & Co. General Motors has issued the huge total of 43,500,000 shares of common stock,† Chrysler only 4,423,484. General Motors sold 1,576,708 cars from January to October; Chrysler’s 1928 output was about 500,000, will be 700,000 in 1929. General Motors earned $289,146,201 in the year ending Sept. 30; Chrysler, $25,049,270. General Motors stock rose last year on the New York exchange from 130 to 224; Chrysler from 54¾ to 140½.

Mr. Chrysler does not ignore the lead with which General Motors starts the contest. But he sees no limit to the markets over which the two motor-monsters can struggle. Last September, he visioned a world which is learning the uses of the automobile: “It devolves upon the United States to help to motorize the world. . . . Road building is taking root in Australia, vast Africa, Spain, South America. . . . Every new development, highway, railroad, steamship line, building operation, whether it be a drainage project in old Greece or a new water system in Peru, means an added use of the automobile.”

Obliged to prophesy again last week, he announced: “Our automobile industry will achieve another production and sales record. I believe the figure will be approximately 4,750,000 cars by the end of next December.*I believe the U. S. will export, during the year, approximately 1,000,000 automobiles.”

Someone, talking about Walter P. Chrysler two years ago, said: “The biggest game stays in the deep forest.” The reference was to Mr. Chrysler’s relative obscurity from the public eye during the years when he was the greatest doctor of sick automobile companies that the industry had ever known. Sweet are the uses of that sort of obscurity.All his life Chrysler has managed to make himself thoroughly well known in quarters where it would do him the most good.

“Walt” Chrysler was a Kansas boy. Mr.Chrysler Sr. sat at the throttle of a Union Pacific locomotive and made his home at Ellis, Kan., where the railroad had some shops. Young Walt worked as a chore-boy at the grocery store. He hated the little wagon he had to deliver bundles in. When he was 17 he got into the Union Pacific shops as an apprentice, glad of 5¢ per hour pay and a chance to learn something.

In those days, 35 years ago, a machinist had to know not only how to use his tools but how to make them, if necessary. Mechanical engineering became young Walt Chrysler’s life, not his profession. After a year he was able to make the model steam engine which he still shows to his friends. When he was earning 7½¢ per hour he wanted a shotgun; so he made that, too.

After he got his journeyman’s certificate, the Ellis shopboy set out to see what other railroad shops, and the western world to which the railroads ran, were like. He got as far as Salt Lake City, where he took a job in the Rio Grande & Western roundhouse. He got married and began studying in the International Correspondence School. Soon came his first big “break,” the blown-out cylinder head, now famed among Chrysler admirers, which he and a helper mended in time to send the mail-train out on schedule.

The superintendent, one Hickey, expressed gratitude by not forgetting. Three months later the new Colorado & Southern shop foreman at Trinidad, Colo., was a tireless, driving, hardheaded youngster named Walter Chrysler. Other railroads heard, needed, beckoned. After a bit the superintendent of motive power of the whole Chicago & Great Western system was a new man named Chrysler. “W. P.” they called him, aged 33.

The American Locomotive Co. at Pittsburgh needed a works manager. The Great Western’s superintendent of motive power, well-paid though he was, concluded that, without executive experience, a mechanical man can get just so far and no further in railroading. Moreover, building engines for sale interested him more than buying engines and keeping them running until they died of old age. He took the Pittsburgh job, at a big drop in salary. The salary did not stay down long.

During his Great Western period Mr. Chrysler lived in Oelwein, Iowa. His mechanical curiosity was aroused by the two or three horseless thing-a-ma-jigs that sometimes moved through the streets, especially on Sundays, chugging and snorting and kicking up dust with a maximum of noise and a minimum of grace. They were called “automobiles” and Oelwein’s farmers agreed contemptuously with turn-of-the-century cartoonists that the only difference between an automobilist and a dum-fool was that the dumfool was prob’ly born that way and couldn’t help it. Engineer Chrysler gave little thought to Oelwein’s farmers and automobilists but he went to the Chicago automobile show of 1905* and stood entranced in front of a beauteous white thingamajig with four doors, a bulbous horn and red leather upholstery. It was the 1905 Locomobile. The salesman said it cost $5,000 cash. Mr. Chrysler had $700 in the bank at Oelwein. He borrowed $4,300 and shipped it home.

Mrs. Chrysler was not very much pleased, especially when she discovered that her husband did not mean to get some good out of so much extravagance by driving it around Oelwein. Instead, what did he do but take it all apart, put it all together and take it all apart again, getting all greasy and wasting his holidays and scratching his head like a perfect crank.

It is said that the Chrysler automobile was dreamed and determined by that, tall, husky, pensive resident of Oelwein among the dissembled parts of his 1905 Locomobile, which broadens the thread of romance in the Chrysler career from 1905 to 1924, when the first Chrysler car appeared.

The recent career of Motor-Maker Chrysler has been such a succession of crescendoes that the long overture is in danger of getting drowned out. Particularly in view of the present, climactic movement of Chrysler Motors v. General Motors, it is important to recall that the

Buick company, cornerstone of General Motors, was the first automobile company Mr. Chrysler ever took in hand. He took it in hand in 1911 and had it until 1919. He jacked up its production from 40 cars per day to 550; established its name as a synonym for soundness; increased the Buick profits to 50 millions per annum. During William Crapo Durant’s second regime in General Motors (1915-20), Walter P. Chrysler’s touch was felt in all General Motors shops, for he was in charge of all General Motors production. But for his difference—not a quarrel—with Mr. Durant, who later was ousted, Walter P. Chrysler would doubtless still be the engineering brain of this gargantuan concern.

Into the three years, 1920-1923, Chrysler packed a decade’s experience of the one thing he thus far lacked—automotive finance. He overhauled the Willys-Overland company from hubcaps to stockholders and, in the midst of that task, undertook the same job for Maxwell. After cutting the Willys-Overland debt from 46 millions to 18, he gave Maxwell his whole attention. The Maxwell-Chalmers merger was one step and then the Chrysler Corporation took shape.

It was perhaps an accident, perhaps an earned result, that that cynosure of U. S. attention, the Prince of Wales, visiting on Long Island in the summer of 1924, was reported in the newspapers to be using a smart, little-known roadster on his prankish nocturnal visits; a roadster so little-known and so unusual, with its four-wheel brakes and indirectly-lighted dashboard, that the newspapers felt justified in mentioning its name—Chrysler.

*Chief Chrysler has many an able assistant. Among them: Financial Vice President B. E. Hutchinson; Sales Vice President (and President of De Soto) J. E. Fields: Manufacturing Vice President K. T. Keller. These and others Mr. Chrysler has publicly thanked for their share in developing Chrysler Motors.

†After the 2 ½for 1 split-up, authorized Dec. 10. *Other prophets have placed the figure as high as 5,550,000. Output in 1927 was 3,401,326; for eleven months of 1928, 4,124,225. Estimated 1928 production: 4,500,000. *Chicago’s fifth show.

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