An earlier version used some figures from 1992. This has been fixed.
Stellpower has just posted comparisons of today’s FCA US and various competitors, for the 2021 model year. But what if we look back a few years—or three decades—to 1991? This story is about the U.S. sales for that year, which came just before a full organizational transformation.
Chrysler was not yet a profit machine; they sold many cars at a loss, including the Shadow and Sundance. To be fair, GM and Ford also lost money on their entry-level cars. The Neon was still three years away—it was launched in January 1994—and 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.)
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?
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: 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.
* 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
* 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.
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!
GM: Trans Sport, Bravada, Silhouette, Lumina, Safari combined
Finally, the summary, using Ward’s categories:
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.