History of Chrysler in Australia

When it comes to age, quite a few companies have been around in Australia earlier than Chrysler. Established in the country only in 1951, Chrysler Australia cannot perhaps stake its claim to antiquity. What it can claim is a series of consistently over performing models such as the Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Jeep and of course, the vaunted Chrysler Valiant.

During the 50s and 60s, Chrysler expanded its base by starting an engine foundry in Lonsdale and an assembly plant at Clovelly Park. Its models such as the Dodge Kingsway, Plymouth Cranbrook and the De Soto Diplomat were essentially based upon American designs.

By the late 50s, Chrysler was being counted amongst the ‘Big Three’ of Australian automotive manufacturers-right behind heavyweights such as Ford and GM Holden. A few hiccups, notably that of the Chrysler Royal, tended to mar its reputation, but Chrysler soldiered on.

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However, it was the 60s when Chrysler really came into its own, courtesy its renowned Chrysler Valiant model. A stylish appearance, longer wheelbase and good performance made the Valiant a stiff competitor to the Falcons and Holdens of the time. Although it never managed to overwhelm the competition, the Valiant established Chrysler as a household name.

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In 1971, Chrysler hit back with the memorable Chrysler Valiant Charger, the sportier version of the Valiant, which instantly scored in Down Under. But the mid-70s were also when Chrysler faced poor sales and stalling production lines due to a variety of reasons-the oil crisis, Japanese competition, and the outdated models such as the Valiant.

The delayed introduction of the Chrysler Centura in 1975 made it a thoroughly outdated model, resulting in another failure for the troubled company. What followed was something most trade pundits in the Australian automotive business had never seen coming: a partnership between Chrysler and the reputed Mitsubishi Motors. This resulted in another classic model, the Chrysler Sigma which was launched in 1977 to instant popularity.

In 1994, Chrysler Australia marked a comeback with the Jeep Cherokee variant, a suitable vehicle for the offroad transport which was common in Australia. This was followed by other models, such as the Alfa Romeo series, the Fiat series, Dodge series and other variants of the Jeep. These successful lineups have enabled Chrysler to maintain its holdings over a significant chunk of the market share in the Australian automotive business.

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