On this day September 7, 1979

The Chrysler Corporation asks the United States government for USD 1.5 billion in loan guarantees to avoid bankruptcy.

Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca

At the same time former Ford executive Lee Iacocca was brought in as CEO. He proved to be a capable public spokesman, appearing in advertisements to advise customers that “If you find a better car, buy it.”

He would also provide a rallying point for Japan-bashing and instilling pride in American products. His book Talking Straight was a response to Akio Morita’s Made in Japan.

The United States Congress reluctantly passed the “Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979” (Public Law 96-185) on December 20, 1979 (signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on January 7, 1980), prodded by Chrysler workers and dealers in every congressional district who feared the loss of their livelihoods.

The military then bought thousands of Dodge pickup trucks which entered military service as the Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle M-880 Series. With such help and a few innovative cars (such as the K-car platform), especially the invention of the minivan concept, Chrysler avoided bankruptcy and slowly recovered.

In February 1982 Chrysler announced the sale of Chrysler Defense, its profitable defense subsidiary to General Dynamics for US$348.5 million. The sale was completed in March 1982 for the revised figure of US$336.1 million.

By 1983, the loans were fully repaid, several years ahead of time, resulting in a profit of $350 million to the U.S. government.

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