November 18, 1960
Chrysler limits DeSoto production
The Chrysler DeSoto was a hit even before the first model was built in the summer of 1928. When Walter P. Chrysler announced that his Chrysler Corporation intended to build a mid-priced vehicle boasting six-cylinders, dealerships signed on immediately, and in the first 12 months of production the DeSoto set a sales record that stood for 30 years. The automobile, named after Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, was a large and powerful vehicle marketed to the average American car buyer. The innovative designs of the DeSotos of the 1930s were as daring as their namesake–1934 saw the introduction of America’s first affordable automobile with aerodynamic styling, and the 1937 DeSoto was hailed for its safety innovations. In the late 1930s, lackluster U.S. sales prompted Chrysler to introduce a more conservative line of DeSotos. The large and gracious 1940 DeSoto was advertised as “America’s Family Car,” and the American family agreed, giving DeSoto its best sales in the first few years after World War II. During the 1950s, the DeSoto became adventurous again, and the 1955 DeSoto featured power styling to match its powerful engine. By 1956, DeSoto was 11th in the industry, but the dynamics of its demise were already in motion at Chrysler. Disorganization in the management of the Chrysler Corporation, along with general quality issues in Detroit in the late 1950s, led to several years of popular but flawed DeSotos. In 1958, DeSoto’s designers introduced their most flamboyant cars ever, the Firesweeps, Firedomes, and Fireflites, but the public failed to embrace these new models, and all but the Fireflite was dropped in 1959. In 1960, William C. Newberg, the new president at Chrysler, decided to limit the DeSoto program, and the uninspired 1961 DeSoto was doomed for failure. On this day, just two weeks after the 1961 DeSoto was introduced to an uninterested market, Chrysler announced the termination of the DeSoto marque.