The Dodge brand is the result of pioneering work of brothers John and Horace Dodge. They were excellent machinists who learned their trade from their father, Daniel, who ran a shop repairing engines for marine use. Like the Wright Brothers, they first built bicycles in Niles Michigan. After leaving Niles they worked as machinists in Detroit and Windsor Ontario. After establishing a machine shop in Detroit in 1900, business grew. The Dodge brothers began supplying Ransom Olds’ new automobile factory with engines starting in 1901, and transmissions in 1902. By this time the Dodge machine shop was one of the largest parts suppliers for the rapidly growing Michigan automotive industry.
In February of 1903 the Dodge brothers agreed to supply 650 chassis including engines, transmissions, and axles to Henry Ford. This contract led Dodges’ machine shop to begin working exclusively for Ford. After Ford incorporated in June 1903, the brothers accepted 100 shares of the new Ford Company in exchange for $10,000. Despite complaints by Ford of shoddy craftsmanship, they continued to order larger quantities of transmission-axle sets. By 1912 Dodge supplied 180,000 sets, with the expectation of more orders. The Dodge brothers became concerned about being solely dependent on Ford for their livelihood, so in 1912 they gave notice to Ford that they would terminate their supply contract by August 1914. John Dodge also resigned as a Ford director and vice president, but the brothers retained their Ford stock owned since 1903. The stock had reaped them millions of dollars in dividends, and the Ford contracts had earned nearly $2 million. They even sued Ford Motors in 1916 when Ford attempted to reduce stock dividends, and they won the suit. Ford bought all remaining stock in his motor company in 1919, and the brothers accepted $25 million for their 10-percent stake in Ford Motor Company. The original $10,000 investment in 1903 had resulted in about $32 million in returns by 1919.
Dodge Motors Forms
Around the same time that the brothers gave notice to Ford to terminate their contract, they also incorporated the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company with $5 million in capital stock in 1914. Dodge’s reputation for parts quality was so well known that 13,000 auto dealers asked to sell Dodge vehicles before they saw a single car offering. The brothers decided to sell a high-quality vehicle that would not compete directly with Ford’s cheaper mass-produced Model T. The first new Dodge named “Old Betsy” came off the assembly line in November 1914. It carried five passengers and was powered by a 25 horsepower 4-cylinder “L” head engine. It incorporated a cone clutch and pressurized fuel system. Dodge believed extensive testing would ensure a quality product which included dropping vehicles off 4-story buildings to test tires, and crash testing by John Dodge driving a vehicle into a wall at 20 mph.
In 1914 only 249 vehicles were produced by Dodge Brothers Motors. The following year they expanded their product line with a 2-seat roadster, and by the end of 1915 over 45,000 vehicles had been produced by a workforce of over 7,000 employees. Dodge vehicles were used in Mexican campaign against the bandit Pancho Villa with excellent results, and by the start of the first World War Dodge was supplying vehicles to the US Army by order of Brigadier General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing.
The two brothers died in 1920, and their children were not well equipped to successfully maintain the company John and Horace had started. Some growth continued, but reached its limit at about 200,000 vehicles yearly by 1925. In May 1925 the Dodge heirs sold the firm to New York investment bankers Dillon, Read, and Company. Dillon Read had no experience in automotive sales, and made a costly mistake by raising prices against Ford to reflect what they perceived as an underpriced luxury brand. They held the company investment until selling it to Walter P. Chrysler in 1928 for $170 million. Chrysler took over a company that could barely make payroll and was very close to going under. Chrysler introduced the Plymouth and DeSoto in 1928, and suddenly became the third largest automaker with the Dodge acquisition.
After suffering the loss of sales during the Depression, with a lowest sales number of 28,111 in 1932, Dodge slowly regained sales with vehicles manufactured at the Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck Michigan. By 1928 Dodge had 4.6 million square feet of manufacturing space, and little has changed since then except for the addition of another half-million square feet with renovations and additions. Many buildings built in the 1920s were still there in 1980. Hamtramck was a monument of “integrated manufacturing” designed by Ford, Dodge and others. The huge plant contained all aspects of the manufacturing process, reducing delays from outside suppliers or sub-assembly contractors. The downside of this was an aging structure that was also a multi-story building, making it less efficient and more expensive due to the need to transfer materials from floor to floor. In addition, new auto manufacturers built single-story factories on large rural parcels of land at lower cost, eliminating the need to build cars in a multi-story factory.
By 2014, Dodge trucks were built under their own Ram brand, a result of the Chrysler bankruptcy in 2009. Chargers and Challengers were built in Brampton Ontario. The Grand Caravan was manufactured in Windsor Ontario. The Dodge Journey is built in Mexico. The Viper is built in Detroit. Other plants include Belvidere Illinois and Toledo Ohio.
When you are ready for your Dodge vehicle, come to Car Stop Texas’ Arlington used car facility and pick out your favorite. We are easy to reach from anywhere in the greater Dallas/Ft.Worth area.