The Life of Walter Chrysler and the Growth of the Automobile Industry

On this day, April 2 in the year 1875, one of the most famous entrepreneurs in the automotive industry was born in Kansas, USA. His name was Walter Percy Chrysler, the founder of Chrysler Motor Corporation, once the world’s third largest automotive company.

Walter Chrysler
Walter Chrysler

Walter Chrysler was the son of a railroad engineer. He earned a mechanical degree through a correspondence program. His first job was delivering groceries. Later, he was employed as a janitor in a railroad company and rose through the rank to become a general master mechanic. Over the next couple of years, he became an employee of several railroad companies.

In 1911, Walter Chrysler began his career in the automotive industry when he was invited to become production manager of Buick Motors with a salary of $6,000/month. When the company was acquired by General Motors in 1916, he was promoted to president with a salary of $10,000 a month and a bonus of $500,000 after a year. He left Buick in 1919 and was given $10 million for his accumulated stock in GM. With that amount, he became one of the richest men in the US at that time.

Walter Chrysler went on to rescue another automotive company. In 1921, he acquired the ailing Maxwell Motor. In 1925, he founded Chrysler Motor Corporation which absorbed the assets of Maxwell. Subsequently, he bought Dodge Motors in 1928 which catapulted Chrysler Motor to third largest automotive company. Following the strategy of Sloan at GM, he promoted several brands for different segments of the market.

In 1940, Walter Chrysler died of stroke. He had four children with his wife Della. Although Chrysler Motors prospered in the post-war years up to 1970, it began a decade of decline and it was on the verge of bankruptcy if not for the timely $1.5 billion capital injection by the US government in 1979. It was merged with Germany’s Daimler Benz in 1998 but the merger was dissolved in 2007. Finally, it was absorbed by Fiat Motors in 2014 and the merged company was named Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).


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