Dodge is a United States-based brand of automobiles, minivans, and sport utility vehicles, manufactured and marketed by Chrysler Group LLC in more than 60 different countries and territories worldwide.
Founded as the Dodge Brothers Company in 1900 to supply parts and assemblies for Detroit's growing auto industry, Dodge began making its own complete vehicles in 1914. The brand was sold to Chrysler Corporation in 1928, passed through the short-lived DaimlerChrysler merger of 1998–2007 as part of the Chrysler Group, was a part of Chrysler LLC owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a private equityinvestment firm, and is now a part of the Chrysler Group LLC which has an alliance with Fiat. Fiat has plans to evolve many Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep existing platforms and products into Fiat-Chrysler co-developed vehicles.
After the founding of the Dodge Brothers Company by Horace and John Dodge in 1900, the Detroit-based company quickly found work producing precision engine and chassis components for the city’s burgeoning number of automobile firms. Chief among these customers were the established Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the then-new Ford Motor Company. Dodge Brothers enjoyed much success in this field, but the brothers' growing wish to build complete vehicles was exemplified by John Dodge's 1913 exclamation that he was "tired of being carried around in Henry Ford's vest pocket."
By 1914, he and Horace had found a solution by creating the new four-cylinder Dodge Model 30. Marketed as a slightly more upscale competitor to the ubiquitous Ford Model T, it pioneered or made standard many features later taken for granted: all-steel body construction (the vast majority of cars worldwide still used wood-framing under steel panels, though Stoneleigh and BSA used steel bodies as early as 1911); 12-volt electrical system (6-volt systems would remain the norm until the 1950s); and sliding-gear transmission (the best-selling Model T would retain an antiquated planetary design until its demise in 1927). As a result of this, and the brothers' well-earned reputation for quality through the parts they made for other successful vehicles, Dodge Brothers cars were ranked at second place for U.S. sales as early as 1916. That same year, Henry Ford decided to stop paying stock dividends to finance the construction of his new River Rouge complex. This lead the Dodges to file suit to protect their annual stock earnings of approximately one million dollars; this led Ford to buy out his shareholders, and the Dodges were paid some US$25 million.
Also in 1916, Dodge Brothers vehicles won acclaim for durability while in service with the U.S. Army'sPancho Villa Expedition into Mexico. One notable instance was in May when the 6th Infantry received a reported sighting of Julio Cardenas, one of Villa's most trusted subordinates. Lt. George S. Patton led ten soldiers and two civilian guides in three Dodge Model 30 touring cars to conduct a raid at a ranch house in San Miguelito, Sonora. During the ensuing firefight the party killed three men, of whom one was identified as Cardenas. Patton's men tied the bodies to the hoods of the Dodges, returning to headquarters in Dublan and an excited reception from US
Dodge Brothers cars continued to rank second place in American sales in 1920. But that year, tragedy struck as John Dodge was felled by pneumonia in January. His brother Horace then died of cirrhosis in December of the same year (reportedly out of grief at the loss of his brother, with whom he was very close). The Dodge Brothers company fell into the hands of the brothers' widows, who promoted long-time employeeFrederick Haynes to the company presidency. During this time, the Model 30 was evolved to become the new Series 116 (though it retained the same basic construction and engineering features).
Dodge Brothers emerged as a leading builder of light trucks. They also entered into an agreement whereby they marketed trucks built by Graham Brothers of Evansville, Indiana. The three Graham brothers would later produce Graham-Paige and Graham automobiles.
Stagnation in development was becoming apparent, however, and the public responded by dropping Dodge Brothers to fifth place in the industry by 1925. That year, the Dodge Brothers company was sold by the widows to the well-known investment group Dillon, Read & Co. for no less than US$146 million (at the time, the largest cash transaction in history).
Dillon, Read & Co. offered non-voting stock on the market in the new Dodge Brothers, Inc., firm, and along with the sale of bonds was able to raise $160 million, reaping a $14 million (net) profit. All voting stock was retained by Dillon, Read. Frederick Haynes remained as company head until E.G. Wilmer was named board chairman in November, 1926. Wilmer was a banker with no auto experience and Haynes remained as president. Changes to the car, save for superficial things like trim levels and colors, remained minimal until 1927, when the new Senior six-cylinder line was introduced. The former four-cylinder line was kept on, but renamed the Fast Four line until it was dropped in favor of two lighter six-cylinder models (the Standard Six and Victory Six) for 1928.
On October 1, 1925, Dodge Brothers, Inc., acquired a 51% interest in Graham Brothers, Inc., for $13 million and the remaining 49% on May 1, 1926. The three Graham brothers, Robert, Joseph and Ray, assumed management positions in Dodge Brothers before departing early in 1927.
Despite all this, Dodge Brothers’ sales had already dropped to seventh place in the industry by 1927, and Dillon, Read began looking for someone to take over the company on a more permanent basis.
Ever since the beginning of its history in 1914, Dodge has offered light truck models. For the first few years, these were based largely on the existing passenger cars, but eventually gained their own chassis and body designs as the market matured. Light- and medium-duty models were offered first, then a heavy-duty range was added during the 1930s and 1940s.
Chrysler was prolific in its production of war material from 1942 to 1945, and Dodge in particular was well-known to both average citizens and thankful soldiers for their tough military-spec truck models and ambulances like the WC54. Starting with the hastily converted VC series and evolving into the celebratedWC series, Dodge built a strong reputation for itself that readily carried over into civilian models after the war.
Following World War II and the successful application of four-wheel drive to the truck line, Dodge introduced a civilian version that it called the Power Wagon. At first based almost exactly on the military-type design, variants of the standard truck line were eventually given 4WD and the same “Power Wagon” name.
In a move that never lived up to the expectations of its driving forces, Chrysler Corporation merged with Daimler-Benz AG in 1998 to form DaimlerChrysler. Rationalizing Chrysler's broad lineup was a priority, and Dodge's sister brand Plymouth was withdrawn from the market. With this move, Dodge became DaimlerChrysler's low-price division as well as its performance division.