Less than a week after Chrysler acquired Dodge Brothers, it debuted its new mid-priced DeSoto line for 1929. The two brands gave Chrysler two makes aimed at the same consumer, resulting in a back and forth flip flop in terms of price seniority. The original plan had Chrysler at the top, followed by DeSoto, then Plymouth as their entry level ride, but buying Dodge threw a bit of a wrench in things. Ultimately, DeSoto faced identity problems as executives tried to figure out where it sat on the Mopar totem pole. At its introduction, DeSoto rode below Dodge and above Plymouth. In an attempt to boost Dodge sales, Chrysler reversed the Dodge and DeSoto pricing models in 1933. This resulted in DeSoto receiving a futuristic new design that mimicked top-of-the-line Chrysler cars. Unfortunately when the DeSoto Airflow debuted for 1934, it’s extreme styling nearly killed the marque altogether. Unlike Chrysler, it had no other models to fall back on.
While the mishmash of design ideas, pricing changes and experimentation with the DeSoto line left the brand on uneven ground for much of its early life, things began to stabilize by the late 1930s. If it weren’t for World War II, DeSoto, may have led Mopar into uncharted territory. For 1942 DeSoto received the first mass produced power pop-up headlights. Unfortunately, the war ended that model’s production and the reintroduction of the fancy feature failed to occur.
The End of DeSoto
While the brand achieved relative success in the early 1950s, a recession at the end of the decade led in part to Chrysler’s decision to cut DeSoto. The fateful announcement came on November 18, 1960. The final Desotos would roll off the assembly line at Chrysler’s Jefferson Avenue Plant on this day of that same year. The very last model was a 1961 two-door hardtop with a 361cu, 265-hp V8. It could have been yours for $3,100.