Plymouth (automobile)

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Plymouth brand logo 1964
Plymouth logo 1994

Plymouth was a brand of automobiles produced by Chrysler Corporation and its successor DaimlerChrysler. The brand was launched in 1928 to compete in what was then described as the "low-priced" market segment that was dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. It became a high-volume seller for the automaker until the late 1990s. Plymouth cars were marketed primarily in the United States. The brand was withdrawn from the marketplace in 2001. The Plymouth models that were produced up to then were either discontinued or rebranded as Chrysler or Dodge.

1958 Plymouth Fury
1992 Plymouth Sundance America
1973 Plymouth Barracuda at the Marconi Museum in Tustin, CA

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  • Financial woes affect most companies, but automakers are even more exposed to bankruptcies and economic troubles because of a drop in consumer spending and the high costs associated with designing and building vehicles.
    Furthermore, car companies also have to invest enormous sums in research and development, patents, marketing and branding campaigns, and innovative technologies. All these costs can quickly spiral out of control, and at one point, even restructuring and reducing operating costs won’t save the company anymore. Unfortunately, during the past decades, many successful automakers went out of business, like Ford Mercury and General Motors-owned Pontiac, Saturn, and Oldsmobile.
    Even after receiving unprecedented bailouts totaling $80 billion in taxpayer funds in 2009, General Motors and Chrysler didn't become more competitive. But the 2000s decade was hardly the only moment in history when General Motors and Chrysler were experiencing significant financial setbacks. In fact, Chrysler’s financial troubles impacted the Plymouth brand back in the late 1970s. And even though the company struggled to stay in business until 2001, Chrysler shattered the brand when its difficulties grew beyond control. In November 1999, DaimlerChrysler announced the end of the legendary brand to the media.
    “Chrysler has great momentum right now that we intend to keep going. As we move forward with our global growth strategy, Plymouth, as a U.S. brand only, did not contribute to that growth,” the former Chrysler President Jim Holden said in a statement in 1999. “This was an emotional decision because Plymouth will always be an important part of our heritage.”
  • Back in 1928 when Chrysler inaugurated Plymouth, consumers loved it. The success of the brand continued even after World War II, when the cars became known for their affordable prices and conventional design. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, when Chrysler started experiencing financial woes, the Plymouth brand started suffering because of a lack of innovation and a clear product placement strategy.
    Many consumers thought Dodge and Plymouth cars resembled each other too closely, so the latter didn’t have a distinct identity. And while Chrysler rebranded the Dodge as the cooler and sportier automaker, Plymouth remained the car associated with senior citizens. Basically, Plymouth suffered from outdated branding and no clear brand strategy. Ultimately, consumers couldn’t even identify the core values of Plymouth and this limited the growth of the business.
    In 1995, management attempted to revitalize the brand by replacing all of its models—all but the Acclaim and minivans—with the front-engine, front-wheel drive compact vehicle, the Neon. One year later, in 1996, Plymouth released the four-door sedan, the Breeze, however by this time, the brand had lost its appeal and popularity. In 1999, when Chrysler pulled the plug on Plymouth, it announced in Las Vegas that it intendeds “to concentrate resources on its other brands.”
    “We have made the decision to broaden and further strengthen the Chrysler brand with new, exciting cars. This eliminates often overlapping Plymouth brand models, and further focuses all our brands,” said a statement from James Holden.
  • In 1980, Plymouth had 3 percent of market share in the United States, and it sold 335,465 vehicles. Fast-forward to 1986 and the company’s market share jumped to 3.35 percent, and the company had a good year, selling 537,151 vehicles. Two years later, in 1988, Plymouth sold 529,020 cars and had 3.42 percent market share.
    However, after 1988, things started going downhill and Plymouth sold fewer cars and lost market share. According to Car Sales Base, Plymouth sold only 322,120 vehicles in 1990, with the market share shrinking to 2.34 percent. In 1998, the American automaker sold only 296,641 cars and had 1.91 percent market share, while in 1999, 264,624 Plymouth cars ended with customers and the market share felt to 1.57 percent. It’s fair to say that poor sales have brought the end of the brand. Furthermore, the new car models flopped and customers lost faith in the company.
    In 1999, CNN published an article that had insights from industry experts and marketers who pointed towards “the lack of support” which “doomed the once-proud name.”
    “To a great extent, the brand has become a non-brand,” Britt Beemer, the former chairman of America's Research Group told CNN. “It has not been nurtured or built upon for the last few years. They won't necessarily save money, but they'll consolidate their advertising dollars to a limited number of brands and do it better.”
    But it wasn’t just the lack of marketing and branding efforts that killed Plymouth. In fact, audiences believed that Plymouth also suffered from a lack of innovation and a focus on research and development.
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