History of Dodge

Dodge imageHistory of Dodge (1914) 

After having worked as manufacturers of bicycles and automotive parts for Ford, two brothers, Horace and John Dodge, began the Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicle company in 1914.

In 1887, Horace created a dirt-proof ball bearing at his home workbench. John procured financial backing for a company to manufacture the first Dodge vehicle, a bicycle featuring the ball bearing. The bicycle was manufactured under the Evans & Dodge name in Windsor, Ontario, where they moved in 1899. Windsor is just across the river and U.S.-Canada border from Detroit. The bicycle was manufactured in a building leased from their former employer, the Canadian Typothetac Company. Modest profits from this venture allowed them to open a machine shop in 1901 (Latham 86).

Their first vehicle was a touring car that proved a fast favorite with car buyers; it was soon joined by a roadster and a four-door sedan. By 1917, the company's model line had grown to include trucks. Dodge cars and trucks were used as staff vehicles and ambulances in World War I

Dodge was briefly owned by a banking firm and subsequently sold by its new owner to the Chrysler Corporation in 1928. From there, the brand slowly evolved into the division responsible for trucks and performance-oriented cars. Post WWII, Dodge introduced vehicles like the military-inspired Power Wagon truck, Hemi-powered Coronet and the Royal Lancer; in addition, the manufacturer began offering dealer-installed air conditioning.

Vehicles like the Dodge Dart and the Custom 880 kept the manufacturer in American driveways throughout the 1960s. That decade also saw the launch of one of Dodge's most iconic vehicles, the Charger. Dodge's muscle car was based on the Coronet platform, and featured a fastback roofline, hidden headlamps and a full-width taillamp panel. Best of all, the Charger could pack one heck of a wallop under the hood. A 318-cubic-inch V8 was standard, but buyers seeking maximum brawn could upgrade to a 426-cubic-inch, 425-hp Hemi V8. The company also introduced a Mustang-fighting pony car, called the Challenger, in 1970.

Like other American auto manufacturers, Dodge's fortunes started to slip in the '70s due to changing tastes and increased competition. The company was saved from extinction in the early '80s thanks to government loans and the sales success of its Omni and Aries economy cars (the former a blatant copy of the VW Rabbit). But 1984 was when Dodge made its mark in the history books with the introduction of the wildly popular Caravan. Ideal for families and able to seat up to seven, the space-efficient Caravan started a whole new vehicle segment -- the minivan. The early '90s saw the company wow the public with the V10-powered Viper roadster and an all-new Ram pickup.

Success continued through the 1990s. In 1998, Dodge came under the wing of German-based Daimler-Benz as part of the DaimlerChrysler merger. This merger brought an influx of German technology into the Dodge fold, with Mercedes platforms underpinning new rear-drive products to go along with Dodge's Hemi engine revival. Things went well for a while, but they quickly soured as Dodge and the rest of Chrysler Group were caught unprepared for rising gas prices and increased environmental awareness. With record losses piling up, Daimler sold the Chrysler Group to a private equity group in 2007. If Chrysler is to survive, Dodge will no doubt be a big part of any resurgence.

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