Dodge Motors Rise and Fall

The years following the Mexican Campaign (see Formation of Dodge Motors) were prosperous for the Dodge Brothers, Production climbed from 70,000 cars in 1916 to 124,000 the following year and reached 145,000 in 1920. Dodge was the fourth largest producer in the United States by 1917, behind Ford, Chevrolet, and Buick. The workforce also grew from 7,000 in early 1915 to about 20,000 by 1920.

John Dodge died from pneumonia on January 14, 1920 In New York City, where he and his brother had attended an auto show. One newspaper commented, "Headstrong he could be, a fighter with every ounce of his manhood and every resource at his command, but not a vein or a cell of his heart ever hardened." Another paper said of him,

  • He was absolutely straightforward. He told the truth without quibbling. He always meant what he said, and mostly he said what he felt. He believed in fair dealing and practiced it. He also demanded fair dealing in othesrs, and generally he obtained it. He was without fear, consequently he went to his objectives unhampered by many con- siderations that might have blocked a less force- ful man. He was a dynamo•pf energy with a driving power that was tremendous.

Horace Dodge died less than a year later in Palm Beach, Florida on December 10, 1920. An anonymous observer summed up Horace Dodge's personality:

  • His office was literally a museum of parts, past, present and prospective, for Dodge Brothers cars. He was constantly scheming improved details, new processes, new methods and always building new machinery. He never lost the touch of the craftsman, could never leave machinery alone. The atmosphere of the shop, as he entered It, would cause a noticeable change in his bearing. Outside, in the offices, in the places where men gather, even at home, he was quiet, reticent, and could be termed shy. But within the four walls of the shop he was the taciturn yet unquestionable master of the business.

The Dodge children were neither able nor willing to manage the firm after their fathers' deaths, although the two widows made a weak effort to do so. The works manager, Frederick J. Haynes, became the chief executive officer from 1920 until 1925. The firm continued to grow during these years, with output reaching a plateau of about 200,000 cars in 1924-25. However, they were still well short of Ford's production of 1,675,000 cars and Chevrolet's 470,000 units for 1925. On May 1, 1925 the Dodge heirs announced the sale of the firm to the New York investment bankers Dillon, Read & Company for $146 million. Dillon held the property for three years before selling it to Walter P. Chrysler in May 1928 for $170 million.