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Monday, April 23, 2012

Last Stand For Kaiser-Frazer

Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was a partnership between automobile executive Joseph W. Frazer and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. In 1947, the company acquired the automotive assets of Graham-Paige, Kaiser-Frazer was the only new US automaker to achieve success after World War II, if only for a few years.

Henry Kaiser had no automotive marketing experience while Joseph Frazer did, He was president of the Graham-Paige Corporation prior to the Second World War. Henry Kaiser was a damn the torpedoes full Speed ahead kind of guy. Joseph Frazer was a realist. As sales for K-F products dropped off in 1949 as Ford Chrysler and GM introduced a new generations of designs, Kaiser pushed for more production creating an oversupply of cars that took until mid-1950 to sell. With nothing but friction between the two, Frazer left the company in 1951, and the Frazer nameplate was dropped after a short 10,000 unit production run. In 1952 the Corporation was renamed Kaiser Motors Corporation and continued building passenger cars through 1955.

In 1953 Kaiser bought the strapped Willys-Overland company and merged the Kaiser and Willys became the Willys Motors. The decision was then made to exit the passenger car market, which was accomplished at the end of the 1955 model year. By 1956, Willys Motors was building only utility vehicles, many for export, and was turning a healthy profit.

In 1970, the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, as the company had been renamed in 1963, was sold to American Motors Corporation which continued to manufacture Jeep vehicles until AMC itself was purchased by Chrysler in 1987 for $360 million. Chrysler wanted the Jeep vehicle line and had estimated that for them to create a similar competing product and build a reputation to match would have cost in excess of $1 billion.

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