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      Car History: Car History Year 1981
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 13:21:48 UTC by Cars
      Cars In December 1980, Lee lacocca announced to the press that "1981 belongs to Chrysler, because no other American car company is better equipped to meet the new market requirements of the eighties than the New Chrysler Corporation." His confidence was partly based on the fact that Chrysler was the only auto manufacturer to record an increase in sales during that month compared to the same period in 1979. The rise might have been a very small 2.6 but, put against the 6.2 loss of sales by GM and the even worse 12.6 drop for Ford, the gain was significant.

    The flagships of the new Chrysler fleet leading this revival were the front-wheel-drive K-cars - the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries. But it wasn't just the arrival of a couple of new models that turned the tide. It was also due to lacocca's innovative marketing programs that had earlier cleared thousands of old models from stock and then continued by making people aware that things were on the mend at Chrysler. In July '80, a promotional campaign had been launched with the slogan "K-cars are coming" and this was repeated nationwide in newspaper adverts and on radio and television. Closer to the October launch date, another catch-phrase was adopted: "America is not going to be pushed around any more." Together with the prominent use of the emotive red, white and blue colors, this new slogan sent out a dual message. The first part emphasized the fact that the K-cars were ultra-modern front-wheel-drive models and pulled the vehicle along, rather than pushing it as in the traditional arrangement that drove the rear wheels. The second was meant to demonstrate Chrysler's commitment to building small cars in America and that the company was not going to hand over this important market sector to foreign imports without a fight. Today, the K-cars' specification looks like pretty basic stuff. The shape was almost utilitarian, with very squarish styling, and the 2.2-liter overhead camshaft Trans4 engine (rated at 84 horsepower) was the first four cylinder built by Chrysler for nearly half a century. But the Plymouth Reliant was two feet shorter and almost half a ton lighter than the Volare model it replaced. Its EPA figure of 25mpg for city driving was probably the most important statistic of all. The Reliant also had another advantage over GM's X-body rivals in that there was a station wagon in the lineup, over 50,000 of which were sold in the first year alone. Sales of Reliant coupes and sedans added up to just over 100,000 units, and when you add in the 155,000 Dodge Aries models that were also produced, it highlights the huge impact that the K-cars made on the fortunes of Chrysler. Ford, on the other hand, were in dire straits. Output fell to around a million units - the worst annual total for the company since 1958 - and the company was nearly overtaken by Oldsmobile for second place in the sales charts. Losses amounted to $1.06 billion, and about the only bright spot in this very gloomy period was the arrival of the front-wheel-drive Escort compact mode!. Developed as an "international size" car, the Escort was built in five different countries with small variations to suit local regulations. In the USA it immediately proved to be a winner, easily outselling its ill-fated Pinto predecessor. Escort sales for '81 topped 284,000 units and the smaller-sized Granada model (actually a re-styled Fairmont) also did well. The problem for the company was that the remainder of the range suffered badly - Mustang sales dropped by a third and Thunderbird numbers halved. Specification CHRYSLER IMPERIAL Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 318 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.91 x3.31 ins. Horsepower 140 Body styles Coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 3,968 Ibs Price $18,300 Produced 7,225     Specification PLYMOUTH RELIANT K-CAR CUSTOM WAGON Engine Cast iron - 4 Cylinders in line Displacement 112 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.50 x2.90 ins. Horsepower 88 Body styles 4 door sedan No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 2,594 Ibs Price $12,131 Produced 25,968     Specification CADILLAC FLEETWOOD Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 368 cu. ins (variable displacement) Bore and stroke 3.80x4.06 ins. Horsepower 140 Body styles Brougham coupe & sedan No. of seats 5/6 Weight (lbs) 4,204 Ibs-4,250 Ibs Price $15,942-$16,365 Produced 39,800  
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