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Chrysler Corporation USA Sales in 1991 - versus GM, Ford, and Others

In 2021, Stellpower posted comparisons of FCA to competitors. But what if we look back three decades—to 1991? This was just before the company’s full transformation came to light.

1991 Dodge car and truck lineup

Chrysler, on the cusp of massive profits, still sold many cars at a loss, including the Shadow and Sundance (GM and Ford also lost money on their entry-level cars). The Neon was still three years away; the Big Three would lose money on every small car until then.

Buyers tended to buy regular cars rather than trucks, and their favorite regular cars were generally midsized sedans—at Ford, the Taurus (299,659); at Chrysler, excluding minivans, the Acclaim; at GM, the Cavalier (259,385) followed by the Corsica/Beretta (231,227).

Plymouth sold 174,876 cars; Chrysler sold 125,306; and Dodge sold 287,395, not counting trucks. Eagle added 49,416 more cars, for a total of 636,993. The best selling cars were the Dodge Dynasty—hard as that is to believe today—and the Plymouth Acclaim. They sold 105,651 Dynastys and 92,352 Acclaims. But why use words when a chart will do? (Note that the Horizon and Omni had already been discontinued.)

  Dodge Plymouth Chrysler Eagle Total
Horizon/Omni 505 561     1,066
Compact 92,352 77,191     169,543
Midsize 81,222 92,352 25,587   199,161
New Yorker
105,651   16,180   121,831
Talon/Laser   28,201   29,853 58,054
Monaco/Premier 7,822     11,283 19,105

Midsize: LeBaron/Spirit/Acclaim. Compact: Sundance/Shadow

Other: LeBaron Coupe, 35,274; Fifth Avenue, 37,640; Imperial, 10,625; Daytona, 14,949; Summit, 8,280

The Sundance and Shadow competed against the Cavalier, Corolla, Civic, and Escort, among others. How well did its 169,543 sales fare?

Cavalier Escort Sun/Shad Civic Corolla
259,385 247,864 169,543 159,009 141,612

The Japanese cars may have made profits, but they did not yet decimate the American cars’ sales. Let’s move on, though, to the next class up: midsize family cars, where the LeBaron, Spirit, and Acclaim were.

GM Ford Mopars Accord Camry
413,552 399,990 199,161 323,088 191,011

GM: We chose Lumina, Cierra, Skylark. Ford: Taurus and Sable.

We’re not going to go through all of these categories; but it’s time to look at trucks, minivans, and SUVs. Remember, the Dodge 1500 had not yet come out; Dodge’s trucks had been fading for years by the time that happened.

Dodge Plymouth Chrysler Minivans
216,510* 173,373 5,236 395,119

* Including 8,591 Cargo Vans.

Trucks were less likely to get “badge engineering,”  and were the D-series/Ram pickup (80,176); Jeep Wrangler (46,478); Jeep Cherokee (121,461); Comanche pickup (6,663); Grand Wagoneer (3,173); Dakota (82,336); B-Van (Ram Van and Wagon, 59,470); and Dodge Ramcharger (5,606).

How did those compare? Let's look: at some of them

  Dodge+Jeep Ford Toyota GM
Big Pickup* 80,176 432,644 0 546,371
Smaller Pickup 88,999 233,503 162,972 244,356
Big Vans 82,336 122,343 0 113,438
Cherokee size** 121,461 250,049 44,881 153,340

* For GM and Ford, only light conventional - not medium or heavy duty
** Ford Explorer, GMC Jimmy+Typhoon and Chevy Blazer
, Toyota 4Runner

Toyota was about to come out with its uncompetitive T100. Dodge had once been a respectable force in pickups, but had let the segment dwindle with little investment for quite some time. That was soon to change, but in 1991, Dodge pickups were a definite afterthought. GM was clearly leading the charge, though Ford claimed #1 among brands (GM includes Chevrolet and GMC). The Dakota (the number in the table includes a few thousand Comanches) would be a more serious contender, within reach of Toyota, in 1992; for 1991 it was still an also-ran, well below even Nissan (129,633). In big vans, again, Dodge had let their range go too long without major changes; the B-vans were now around two decades old and they really were not even trying to compete at the moment (that would also change). The numbers were respectable for 1991 but would fall until a revised version appeared.

1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ

For SUVs, we are comparing Explorers to Cherokees, an unfair comparison in some ways. But then we have the more stereotypical 1991 Chrysler comparison—minivans!

Mopar Ford Toyota GM
395,119 147,373 52,099 136,710

GM: Trans Sport, Bravada, Silhouette, Lumina, Safari combined

Finally, the summary, using Ward’s categories:

  GM Ford Chrysler
“Cars” 2,783,692 1,572,770 636,994
“Trucks” 1,436,149 1,263,329 805,153

How was Chrysler doing in 1991? They held dominance in minivans, to a surprising degree—and that would only increase in 1992; they were an also-ran in big trucks; Jeep had its unique Wrangler and was growing stronger in SUVs; and their best selling cars weren’t profitable. They were, though, still a definite #3, well above Toyota, in U.S. sales.

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