The First Plymouth Automobile Debuted on This Date 94 Years Ago

Reed Brothers Dodge-Plymouth

Plymouths were sold at Reed Brothers from 1930-1969. Pictured is an original 1940s Reed Brothers Dodge-Plymouth three-pocket shop coat made by Anderson Bros. of Danville, VA.

The first Plymouth automobile was introduced on July 7, 1928. Plymouth was Chrysler Corporation’s first entry in the low-priced field, which at the time was already dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouths were actually priced slightly higher than their competition, but offered all standard features such as internal expanding hydraulic brakes that the competition did not provide. While the original purpose of the Plymouth was to serve a lower-end marketing niche, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the marque helped significantly in ensuring the survival of the Chrysler Corporation in a decade when many other car companies failed. Beginning in 1930, Plymouths were sold by all three Chrysler divisions (Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge).

Plymouth sales were a bright spot during this dismal automotive period, and by 1931 Plymouth rose to the number three spot among all cars. Plymouth almost surpassed Ford in 1940 and 1941 as the second most popular make of automobiles in the U.S.

In 1957, Virgil Exner’s new Forward Look design theme, produced cars with much more advanced styling than Chevrolet or Ford. 1957 total production soared to 726,009, about 200,000 more than 1956, and the largest output yet for Plymouth. However, the 1957–1958 Forward Look models suffered from poor materials, spotty build quality and inadequate corrosion protection; they were rust-prone and greatly damaged Chrysler’s reputation.

Most Plymouth models offered from the late 1970s onward, such as the Volaré, Acclaim, Laser, Neon, and Breeze, were badge-engineered versions of Chrysler, Dodge, or Mitsubishi models. By the 1990s, Plymouth had lost much of its identity, as its models continued to overlap in features and prices with Dodges. Plymouth’s product offerings and buyer appeal, and sales continued to fall.

1999 Plymouth Prowler

This Limited Edition 1999 Plymouth Prowler convertible was a vehicle from the dealership owners’ private collection. Photo by blog author.

By the late 1990s, only four vehicles were sold under the Plymouth name: the Voyager/Grand Voyager minivans, the Breeze mid-size sedan, the Neon compact car, and the Prowler sports car, which was to be the last model unique to Plymouth. The Prowler came about as part of Chrysler’s efforts (the last as it turned out) to differentiate Plymouth from the rest of its lineup in hopes of keeping the brand alive. It was hoped that it would be received well enough to garner some attention, some of which might spill over into some of their other models.

Plymouth rarely exceeded 200,000 cars per year after 1990. Consequently, DaimlerChrysler decided to drop the make after a limited run of 2001 models. This was announced on November 3, 1999.

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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