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History of DeSoto
The DeSoto (sometimes De Soto) was a
brand of automobile based in the United States, manufactured
and marketed by the Chrysler Corporation from 1928
to 1961. The DeSoto logo featured a stylized image
of Hernando de Soto. The De Soto marque was officially
dropped 30 November 1960, with a bit over two million
built since 1928.
The DeSoto make was founded by Walter Chrysler on
August 4, 1928, and introduced for the 1929 model
year. It was named after the Spanish explorer Hernando
de Soto. Chrysler wanted to enter the brand in competition
with its arch-rivals General Motors, Studebaker, and
Willys-Knight, in the mid-price class.
Shortly after DeSoto was introduced, however, Chrysler
completed its purchase of the Dodge Brothers, giving
the company two mid-priced makes. Had the transaction
been completed sooner, DeSoto never would have been
Initially, the two-make strategy was relatively successful,
with DeSoto priced below Dodge models. Despite the
economic times, DeSoto sales were relatively healthy,
pacing Dodge at around 25,000 units in 1932. However,
in 1933, Chrysler reversed the market positions of
the two marques in hopes of boosting Dodge sales.
By elevating DeSoto, it received Chrysler's streamlined
1934 Airflow bodies. But, on the shorter DeSoto wheelbase,
the design was a disaster and was unpopular with consumers.
Unlike Chrysler, which still had more traditional
models to fall back on, DeSoto was hobbled by the
Airflow design until the 1935 Airstream arrived.
Aside from its Airflow models, DeSoto's 1942 model
is probably its second most memorable model from the
pre-war years, when the cars were fitted with powered
pop-up headlights, a first for a North American mass-production
vehicle. DeSoto marketed the feature as "Air-Foil"
lights "Out of Sight Except at Night".
After wartime restrictions on automotive production
were ended, DeSoto returned to civilian car production
when it reissued its 1942 models as 1946 models, but
without the hidden-headlight feature, and with fender
lines extending into the doors, like other Chrysler
products of the immediate postwar period.
Until 1952, DeSoto used the Deluxe and Custom model
designations. In 1952 DeSoto added the Firedome with
its 276-cid hemi engine. However, in 1953, DeSoto
dropped the Deluxe and Custom names and designated
its six-cylinder cars the 'Powermaster' and its V8
car remained the 'Firedome'.
At its height, DeSoto's more popular models included
the Firesweep, Firedome, and Fireflite. The DeSoto
Adventurer, introduced for 1956 as a high-performance
hard-top coupe (similar to Chrysler's 300), became
a full-range model in 1960.
DeSotos sold well through the 1956 model year. That
year, for the first, and only, time in the marque's
history, it served as Pace Car at the Indianapolis
500. In 1955, along with all Chrysler models, De Sotos
were redesigned with Virgil Exner's "Forward
Look". Exner gave the DeSoto soaring tailfins
fitted with triple taillights, and consumers responded
by buying record numbers.
The 1957 had a well integrated design, with two variations:
the smaller Firesweep, the Firedome/Fireflite body
placed on the concurrent Dodge 122" wheelbase
chassis with Dodge front fenders; and the Firedome
and Fireflite (and its halo model Adventurer sub-series),
based on the larger 126" wheelbase chassis shared
with Chrysler. As was conventional in the era, subsequent
years within the typical three year model block were
distinguished by trim, bumper, and other low cost
modifications, typically by adding bulk to bumpers
and grilles, taillight changes, color choices, instrumentation
and interior design changes and often additional external
The 1958 economic downturn hurt sales of mid-priced
makes across the board, and DeSoto sales were 60 percent
lower than those of 1957 in what would be DeSoto's
worst year since 1938. The sales slide continued for
1959 and 1960 (down 40 percent from the already low
1959 figures), and rumors began to circulate DeSoto
was going to be discontinued.
By the time the 1961 DeSoto was introduced in the
fall of 1960, rumors were widespread that Chrysler
was moving towards terminating the brand, fueled by
a reduction in model offerings for the 1960 model
year. The introduction of the value priced Chrysler
Newport, a brand with more upscale market appeal,
no doubt hastened the decision to end production of
DeSoto, which was very similar in size, styling, price,
and standard features.
For 1961, DeSoto lost its series designations entirely,
in a move reminiscent of Packard's final lineup. And,
like the final Packards, the final DeSoto was of questionable
design merit. Again, based on the shorter Chrysler
Windsor wheelbase, the DeSoto featured a two-tiered
grille (each tier with a different texture) and revised
taillights. Only a two-door hardtop and a four-door
hardtop were offered. The cars were trimmed similarly
to the 1960 Fireflite.
The final decision to discontinue DeSoto was announced
on November 30, 1960, just forty-seven days after
the 1961 models were introduced. At the time, Chrysler
warehouses contained several million dollars in 1961
DeSoto parts, so the company ramped up production
in order to use up the stock. Chrysler and Plymouth
dealers, which had been forced to take possession
of DeSotos under the terms of their franchise agreements,
received no compensation from Chrysler for their unsold
DeSotos at the time of the formal announcement. Making
matters worse, Chrysler kept shipping the cars through
December, many of which were sold at a loss by dealers
eager to be rid of them. After the parts stock was
exhausted, a few outstanding customer orders were
filled with Chrysler Windsors.
Despite being a successful mid-priced line for Chrysler
for most of its life, DeSoto's failure was due to
a combination of corporate mistakes and external factors
beyond Chrysler's control.
The 1958 recession, which seriously affected demand
for mid-priced automobile makes, hurt DeSoto sales
particularly hard, and they failed to recover in 1959
and 1960. With falling sales, the 1959 and 1960 models
were very similar to the concurrent Chryslers, and
rumors began to circulate that DeSoto would be discontinued.
Chrysler's dealer network also had an effect on the
termination of DeSoto. Following World War II, Chrysler
had a large number of dealers that carried two or
more Chrysler makes, with DeSoto-Plymouth and Chrysler–Plymouth
relationships being the most common. However, as Chrysler
attempted to spin Plymouth off into stand-alone dealerships,
existing dealers typically chose to become higher-volume
Plymouth dealerships over the slower-selling DeSoto
brand, leaving the marque with a weakened dealer network
and fewer outlets selling its cars. Also, DeSoto Division's
failure to adjust to changing market trends by introducing
a new compact car model in 1960 as its GM and Ford
counterparts, as well as its own Dodge and Plymouth
siblings did, also hastened its demise.
Brand management and marketing
It was Chrysler's own brand management in 1950s,
which pitted each of the five marques (Plymouth, Dodge,
DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial) against one other,
that did the greatest damage to DeSoto and, ultimately,
to the company itself in long-range product planning.
Rather than carefully managing the market relationship
to specific price points for all consumers, as General
Motors had done so successfully, Chrysler allowed
its own divisions to develop products targeting markets
covered by their own sister divisions. Dodge was,
by far, the most successful when it introduced the
lower-priced Dodge Dart in 1960, advertising for which
compared the Dart to the "C" car, the "F"
car, and the "P" car—Chevrolet, Ford,
and Plymouth. While Dart sales soared in 1960, they
did so at the expense of Plymouth, which lost sales
to the Dart. Plymouth, traditionally one of the "low
priced three" fell out of third place, only to
regain it twice (1971 and 1974) before its own demise
Dodge moved upmarket with the Custom Royal in the
mid-1950s which cut into and eroded Desoto's market.
The introduction of the 1957 DeSoto Firesweep, a model
that used the Dodge engine, chassis front fenders
and hood, pushed DeSoto down into Dodge territory
competing directly against the Custom Royal. The Firesweep
sold well, but at the expense of the higher priced
Firedome and Fireflite models. And the DeSoto began
looking like a Chrysler with a different grille and
taillights. In an era of strong make identification,
DeSoto styling was a recipe for disaster.
When Chrysler marketing showed that consumers were
likelier to buy an entry-level Chrysler than a DeSoto,
Chrysler introduced the Chrysler Newport as a 1961
model, selling more than 45,000 units in its first
year. At less than $3,000, the Newport covered the
same price range as the 1961 DeSoto, which had sold
3,034 units total. Thus the DeSoto was dropped and
replaced by Chrysler Newport.
Going in the opposite direction, Chrysler pushed
into the luxury market by marketing the luxury 'Imperial'
as a separate make and division starting in 1955.To
make room for the new make ,Chrysler Division began
expanding downward, while Dodge Division began expanding
upward, with larger and more luxurious models. Both
Chrysler and Dodge began eating into DeSoto's already
small market...and Chrysler's upper management did
nothing to stop them.
Chrysler Corporation introduced the DeSoto brand
of trucks in 1937 to provide a greater number of sales
outlets overseas for the American-built Dodge and
Fargo commercial vehicles. The DeSoto brand was badge
engineered sporadically on Dodge trucks made in Australia,
Argentina, Spain, Turkey, and the UK.
Chrysler ended its truck operations in international
markets. However, both the DeSoto and Fargo brands
continue to be used on trucks made by Askam in Turkey.
Askam does not have technical or business connection
* DeSoto Adventurer (1956–1960)
* DeSoto Airflow (1934–1936)
* DeSoto Airstream (1935–1936)
* DeSoto Custom (1946–1952)
* DeSoto Diplomat (Export)
* DeSoto Deluxe (1946–1952)
* DeSoto Firedome (1952–1959)
* DeSoto Fireflite (1955–1960)
* DeSoto Firesweep (1957–1959)
* DeSoto Powermaster (1953–1954)
* DeSoto Series K-SA (1929–1932)
* Desoto Series SC-SD (1933–1934)
* DeSoto Series S (1937–1942) (S-1 through S-10,
except the Airstream and Airflow)
(from Wikipedia.org, Creative