Chrysler K platform

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This article is about the American Chrysler K-cars. For the Japanese-market minicars, see Kei car.
K-platform
85-89 Dodge Aries sedan.jpg
1987 Dodge Aries K
Overview
Manufacturer Chrysler Corporation
Production 1981–1995
Body and chassis
Class Compact car
Mid-size car
Minivan
Layout FF layout
Body style(s) 2-door convertible
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Powertrain
Engine(s) 2.2 L K I4
2.2 L Turbo I I4
2.2 L Turbo II I4
2.2 L Turbo III I4
2.2 L Turbo IV I4
2.2 L TC I4
2.5 L K I4
2.5 L Turbo I4
2.6 L Mitsubishi G54B I4
3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6
3.3 L EGA V6
3.8 L EGH V6
Chronology
Predecessor F-body
J-body
M-body
Successor PL
JA
LH
NS
Plymouth Reliant station wagon
1987 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country convertible

The Chrysler Corporation's K-cars were an automobile platform of compact-to-midsize cars designed to carry six adults on two bench seats and were aimed not only to replace Chrysler's nominally compact F-body Aspen and Volaré, but also to compete with intermediates like the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fairmont. Based on their passenger space, the K-cars were placed in the same "midsize" category by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as Chrysler's significantly larger and heavier M-body cars[1]

The K cars have been categorized as compact for their external size and small front-wheel drive layout. Technically, the K cars include only the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, second generation Chrysler LeBaron, and the Dodge 400, which used the K platform. The rest of the K-derivatives, including the company's minivans and the upscale Chrysler division models were based on the K platform with adaptations and modifications to suit vehicles of different sizes and intended usage. These vehicles had modified suspensions and were longer and heavier than the original K-cars, but all had the same basic architecture: a solid beam rear axle, independent front suspensions with MacPherson struts, and front-wheel drive (except for the AWD minivans). Sometimes, they also shared numerous internal components and trim pieces (e.g., the Reliant and first-generation Voyager).

Sales figures[edit]

Following the 1973 oil crisis, compounded by the 1979 energy crisis, American consumers began to buy fuel-efficient, low-cost automobiles built in Japan. With the market for large V-8 engined automobiles declining, American domestic auto manufacturers found themselves trying to develop compact vehicles that could compete with the Japanese imports of Toyota, Honda and Nissan in price and finish. Chrysler Corporation's answer to the import pressure was the K platform, which featured an economical 4-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive, and utilized many modern weight-reducing measures such as replacing metal styling parts with plastic interior and exterior components.

The K-cars (Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Chrysler LeBaron, Dodge 400, and, in Mexico, Dodge Dart) sold very well, selling between 280,000 and 360,000 every year from 1981 to 1988, and edging over 100,000 in their final year, 1989.

The manual transmission provided acceleration of 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 10 seconds, while the automatic was between 13 and 14 seconds, similar to or better than most competitors, while fuel economy was rated by the EPA at 26 mpg-US (9.0 L/100 km; 31 mpg-imp) city and 41 mpg-US (5.7 L/100 km; 49 mpg-imp) highway with the manual transmission. All had a 100.1-inch (2,540 mm) wheelbase. The overall length of the two and four-door models was 176 inches (4,500 mm). The wagon was 0.2 inches (5.1 mm) longer. The vehicles had an approximate 14-US-gallon (53 l; 12 imp gal) fuel tank. The coupe and sedan had approximately 15 cubic feet (0.42 m3) of luggage space; the wagons, 35 cubic feet (0.99 m3) with rear seat up and about 70 cubic feet (2.0 m3) when folded.

Numerous improvements to the sound insulation and general feel were made in 1983; in 1985, the Reliant, Aries, and LeBaron received a facelift, with a rounded front fascia, smoother hood, and bigger taillights, accompanied by fuel injection on the 2.2-liter engine and a 2.5-liter engine replacing the arguably unreliable Mitsubishi 2.6 liter engine, which was notorious for leaking oil and gave the cars nicknames like "Mr. Squishy" or "Bitsumishi".[2][3]

They were initially very profitable, and Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca credited them with allowing the company to pay off its bankruptcy loans early.[4]

Stretched-wheelbase versions[edit]

The first stretched-wheelbase K cars, introduced in 1983, were not given their own platform letter, but had stretched wheelbases with New Yorker styling in front: the Chrysler Executive Sedan and Limousine. They were made at the St. Louis assembly plant, and held five and seven passengers, respectively. The pair were powered by a carbureted Mitsubishi 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to the usual Torqueflite automatic transmission, though in the last two years of the Limousine, a turbocharged (but not intercooled) Chrysler 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine was added. The stretched platform was not used by Mitsubishi when they upgraded the Mitsubishi Debonair from a rear drive sedan to front-wheel drive despite engine sharing between Mitsubishi and Chrysler at the time. Standard features included air conditioning, cruise control, power brakes, front and rear cigarette lighters, front/rear divider and rear compartment with cabinet (Limousine), rear defroster, digital instrument panel, electronic voice alert, tinted glass on all windows, hood ornament, lights that went on with the dual horn, illuminated entry, a full lighting package inside, opera lights outside, dual power mirrors, power antenna, locks, windows, and driver's seat, FM stereo, "luxury cloth" seats, tilt steering, leather steering wheel, intermittent wipers, and padded landau roof. The sedan lasted two years, while the limousine lasted four.[5]

Derivatives[edit]

The K-derivatives offered a large variety of engines depending on year and model. Four-cylinder engines were initially equipped with carburetors; fuel injection was phased in beginning in the mid-1980s. Engine output ranged from 86 hp (64 kW) to 224 hp (167 kW). Most vehicles had the 2.2 L or 2.5 L Chrysler four-cylinder engine, though from 1981 to 1986 a 2.6 L four and from 1987 to 1995 a 3.0 L V6, both made by Mitsubishi, were offered. All had electronic ignition.[citation needed]

Chrysler economized greatly across the K-derivative models with standardized parts, so that many parts (aside from sheet metal) are easily interchanged across the lines, leading to owners upgrading by using higher-power or sportier K-derivatives' parts.[2][6][7]

However, in the 1990s, lack of investment in the K-derivative models coupled with the effects of too much cost-cutting and standardization[citation needed] led to a reliance on heavy rebates to sell the vehicles, causing Chrysler to lose money on many of these vehicles.[citation needed]

Though the K-derivatives did not generally have a strong reputation for performance, several were notable, particularly the Dodge Spirit R/T, which could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in under six seconds, and the Daytona R/T.

Common platforms[edit]

Use of a common platform is a common practice for reducing the number of parts and engineering time, and Chrysler, when creating the K platform, was building vehicles from a small number of common platforms (e.g. F/J/M and R).[8] Lee Iacocca claimed that the huge number of parts in inventory and the complexity of building many completely different versions of vehicles was one reason Chrysler was losing money, and directed the engineers to focus on making a large number of common parts where they would not be visible to customers; this was already common practice in Japan and Germany and would help to make the K-cars profitable even at low prices.[4]

Nameplates[edit]

Chrysler applied nameplates somewhat capriciously, so that there could be an E-body New Yorker at the same time a C-body New Yorker was sold; there were also numerous, very different LeBarons for sale at the same time.[9] While there were no Jeep- or Eagle-branded K-derivatives made, at least one Rubicon-ready prototype was made.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fueleconomy.gov". Fueleconomy.gov. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Allpar/K-cars". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  3. ^ Peter Cheney (2010-02-22). "10 worst cars chosen by our readers". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  4. ^ a b Iacocca, L:"Iacocca"
  5. ^ Dr. David A. Zatz. "Allpar/Limousine and Executive". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  6. ^ "Allpar/brakes". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  7. ^ "Allpar/suspension". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  8. ^ "Rear-drive platforms". Allpar.com. 1978-10-05. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  9. ^ Hutchinson, Rich. "Allpar-LeBaron". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  10. ^ Sheaves, Bob. "Jeep JJ". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24.