As a beginning, a small number of Plymouth-only dealerships were set up in various parts of the country, growing to 297 "exclusives" by 1961. The first major move in implementing this plan began with the 1960 model year, when the Plymouth franchise was withdrawn from Dodge dealers.
But instead of commanding Dodge dealers to concentrate their sales efforts going after Mercury, the low-series Oldsmobiles and Buicks, and especially the fast-rising Pontiac, Chrysler instead did two things to the detriment of both Dodge and Plymouth.
First, they gave Dodge dealers the Dart, a 118-inch-wheelbase car that competed model for model with Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth. Second, they reduced the number of medium-priced Dodges, shrinking the series count from three to two, Matador and Polara, which were new and unfamiliar names.
The Dart was so overwhelmingly successful that the division's percentage of industry sales increased dramatically, from 3.5 percent in 1959 to 6.2 percent in 1960. The good-looking Dart even outsold the Plymouth with its awkward-looking front end that drove customers straight into a Dodge showroom. When the model year was done, more Darts than Plymouths had been produced -- no doubt not what had been intended.
Dodge dealers, of course, were ecstatic, selling all the Darts they could get. However, demand for larger, costlier Dodges languished. One consequence of this was that the array of medium-priced Dodges was further reduced to a single series -- Polara -- for 1961.
Meanwhile, the company, distracted by scandal in the executive ranks and the foundering of DeSoto, abruptly abandoned its plans to establish Plymouth-only dealerships. Upon DeSoto's demise, the dealer network was reconfigured into two groupings -- Dodge-Dodge Truck and Chrysler-Plymouth.
In the addictive rush of the Dart's initial success, Dodge's traditional role in the medium-price market was allowed to wither, and not just at company headquarters. In truth, Dodge dealers themselves, flush with profits on Dart sales, simply walked away from competing in the field.
Model-year production of "senior" Dodges plummeted from 156,385 cars in 1959 to a mere 14,032 in 1961 (not counting Dart wagons, which shared the bigger cars' 122-inch wheelbase.)
To learn about the 1962 Dodge 880, see the next page.
For more information about cars, see: