When you look at the way the automobile industry was trending during the 1970s you can see that Chrysler was heading for trouble. We talk about the “Big Three” of American automaking, but the fact is that Chrysler sales were really nowhere near that of General Motors and Ford during this era. In the middle of the decade, Ford and GM were setting all-time sales records while Chrysler was sputtering along.
Chrysler refused to adjust to the times that demanded smaller and more economical cars, and they did nothing to respond to the changing landscape while their competitors continually made adjustments. Their Dodge and Plymouth divisions did seem to notice that the 50s and sixties were over, but the parent brand kept the blinders on. Year after year it was the Newport, the New Yorker, the Town and Country wagons, and the Imperial, and though they were well built cars, few buyers were interested.
Sales were dismal, but Chrysler made no significant changes. Things reached rock bottom in 1974 when Chrysler sold just over 117,000 cars. If you combined sales of Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler you were looking at just over 1.3 million vehicles; Chevrolet alone sold over 2.3 million units, and Ford topped 2.1, and this is without factoring in their other divisions.
But in 1975, Chrysler finally did something different. They recognized the growing demand for personal luxury cars, and to that end they introduced the Cordoba. The Chrysler Cordoba was more fuel efficient than the rest of the line, and it was also somewhat smaller than the typical personal luxury car of that era. It was heavily marketed, with the actor Ricardo Montalban as the pitchman touting the vehicle’s “soft Corinthian leather” interior, and the ad campaign was effective. It became a part of popular culture at that time. It was somewhat amusing, but it also seemed stick in your mind.
The Cordoba was very successful when it was initially introduced, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Chrysler. There were more orders for the car than the company could produce for the 1975 model year. They were able to churn out and sell more than 150,000 of them, and remember, they sold just 117,000 cars in all in 1974.
Cordoba production peaked at 183,000 in 1977, but it was not enough to stave off Chrysler’s financial trouble that led to the government bailout of 1979. The Cordoba underwent a stylistic change for the 1980 model year, with sharper lines and less of a smooth and sweeping, elegant appearance. The public was not resonant with these changes, and the Cordoba was discontinued after the 1983 model year after selling less than 100,000 units between 1980 and 1984.
Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer