FORBES @ 100: JULY 15, 1931
As the Depression deepened, U.S. carmakers panicked. Walter Chrysler had an idea: a drive through Death Valley. Oddly, it worked.
WALTER P. CHRYSLER faced a crisis: Nineteen thirty-one was the worst year for business since the invention of the automobile.
Chrysler responded by doubling down on a burgeoning area of his empire: the lower-priced Plymouth line he had introduced three years earlier. Chrysler advertisements of the time heralded the new 1931 Plymouth as “floating power” with “the smoothness of an eight [cylinder] . . . the economy of a four.” A fourdoor, three-window sedan started at $635, or roughly $10,300 in today’s dollars.
Chrysler instructed his company to embark on a new training program for dealers to ensure they understood the vehicle—and could sell it well. The regimen included an educational film that showed the Plymouth traversing the “worst roads in the United States,” in Death Valley, where the temperature regularly tops 130 degrees.