The Effects of the Depression
A 1932 Chrysler Imperial CL model like this was a
relative bargain during the Great Depression.
It was a shame that economic conditions allowed so few buyers, because the LeBarons, priced from $3,150 to $3,995, had to be the bargains of their field. Hugo Pfau, who worked for LeBaron and wrote about the company, thought so: "It was not that the bodies were any less expensive than any others we were building at the same time, but rather a policy decision on Chrysler's part. I'm sure they took a substantial loss on each of those cars they sold."
Losing money on a few grand luxe cars probably didn't bother Walter Chrysler. Losing money in general, so soon after going all-out to build a full-line empire, was something else again. But lose it he did, along with every other auto manufacturer, as the Depression deepened. Production of Chrysler Corporation's flagship make bottomed out at around 25,000 in 1932.
As a man of humble origin, Walter Chrysler thought first of his employees. "He loved to be down on the floor with the men," Ray Dietrich recalled, "and he felt their pain as much as any man." When the government began closing banks, Chrysler hired out-of-work tellers to man a Detroit facility stocked with money drawn from reserve accounts, enabling his workers to cash their paychecks.
By the end of 1931, the luxury market for which the Imperial Eight had been so carefully planned was decimated. Cheap cars sold modestly, expensive ones barely at all. Cadillac's Sixteen and Twelve, and Packard's Twelve, after impressive debuts, likewise fell off precipitously.
The 1932-model Series CL Imperial Custom, which replaced the CG on a one-inch-longer wheelbase, accounted for only 220 sales, most of them LeBarons, against 3228 CGs. The "high-volume" CL was the close-coupled sedan -- at 57 units.
See the next page for more on the 1932 Chrysler.
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