When the closing bell rang at Thursday's session on the New York Stock Exchange, the No. 3 U.S. automaker became a part of history. Chrysler Corp. and its 122,000 employees have joined with the German industrial giant Daimler-Benz AG to create the fifth largest global auto manufacturer, DaimlerChrysler AG. While shares of the newly formed DaimlerChrysler AG will not begin trading until Tuesday, the familiar "C" stock symbol will no longer show signs of activity. Chrysler was one of those rare "rags-to-riches" corporate stories played out on Wall Street. Highlights of the company's history include these moments:
- Walter P. Chrysler founded Chrysler on June 6, 1925, with a vision to create an automotive company that would rival the best in the world. Chrysler was on a roll until the early 1970s, when the bottom fell out of the auto market. Gasoline shortages and political uncertainty caused severe inflation and weakened consumer confidence, driving the U.S. economy into recession.
- On Oct. 1, 1975, Chrysler Chairman John Riccardo stepped down from his post. Appointed to take the helm was a firebrand executive named Lee Iacocca, a 32-year veteran of Ford Motor Co.
- In December 1979, Iacocca turned to U.S. President Jimmy Carter and congressional leaders to help save Chrysler from insolvency. The president and Congress responded by passing the Chrysler Corp. Loan Guarantee Act, which provided the corporation with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees to get its financial house back in order.
- Iacocca and his team of entrepreneurial leaders quickly began to turn Chrysler's misfortune into a Cinderella story. Chrysler's leadership team created a new brand of vehicles that took the auto market by storm. The minivan's introduction in 1983 set the stage for Chrysler's full recovery from its bleak financial past.
- Another change of leadership took hold in 1992, when Iacocca stepped down and handed the torch to Robert Eaton, a veteran of General Motors Corp.'s European operations. Eaton worked quickly to improve Chrysler's product lineup and strengthen the company's balance sheet. Eaton also worked hard to help the company establish new financial benchmarks, including 1994's record-setting $3.7 billion in profits.
- In January 1998 Daimler-Benz AG Chairman Jurgen Schremp visited Eaton's office, and Eaton saw a chance to realize his dream: guaranteeing Chrysler shareholders that their company wouldn't ever again teeter on the brink of financial extinction.
- Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp. leaders announced their decision to merge in May, setting the stage for a new face for the global automotive industry. Detroit's "Big 3" would now give way to "the Global 5."