Remembering Walter P. Chrysler

Walter P. Chrysler was Time magazine's second Man of the Year. A railroad man and a turnaround artist, he went to work at GM, making Buick more efficient and profitable. He pioneered painting and stockpiling parts to shorten assembly time. Then, he set off on his own buying car companies.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And speaking of Chrysler, here's a measure of fame largely forgotten: In January 1929, Time Magazine picked a man of the year for only the second time. The year before, the first person so honored had been Charles Lindbergh. Who on Earth could be as famous as that?

Well, the man Time chose had already appeared on the magazine's cover back in 1925. He was a household name, thanks to the car he had named for himself. And in a few years, he would also be known for the skyscraper he would build in Manhattan. He was Walter P. Chrysler. Chrysler was a railroad man and a turnaround artist. He went to work at General Motors, worked day and night for three years, and made Buick more efficient and more profitable. He pioneered painting and stockpiling parts to shorten assembly time. Then, he set off on his own, buying car companies. And by the dawn of 1929, he was, according to Time, the outstanding businessman of the year.

Here he was in a newsreel, talking with his top engineer, Fred Zeder, about the wonders of the new, 1932 Dodge.

(Soundbite of newsreel)

Mr. WALTER P. CHRYSLER (Founder, Chrysler Motors): Fred, I think you and your engineers have done a great job, but you've gone beyond what I expected could be accomplished.

SIEGEL: Fred Zeder was downright enthusiastic.

Mr. FRED ZEDER (Former Engineer, General Motors): It's got that good old Dodge dependability, plus everything that the public wants today.

Mr. CHRYSLER: Fred, you're proud of this car, aren't you?

Mr. ZEDER: You're damn right I am.

SIEGEL: They don't make yes men the way they used to. Such were the storied origins of the newest overseas division of Fiat.

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