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The Chrysler TC Disaster

Car executive Lee Iacocca was brought into Chrysler during the 1980s to revive the company's fortune. Overall he succeeded, but with the TC he failed dismally.

By the mid-1980s Chrysler was on a firmer financial footing but their products were not terribly exciting and they were having difficulty attracting new and younger customers. Iacocca reasoned that what the company needed was a GT convertible. The problem was that he didn't feel that Chrysler was ready to make one so he turned to a friend of his, Alejandro de Tomaso, who owned Maserati.

Maserati themselves were in need of a winning car since they had just lost a great deal of money and prestige on their disastrous Biturbo so it appeared to them that an agreement to create a car together was a marriage made in heaven. In fact it was made in Hades.

Officially the body and chassis of the car, to be known as the TC, was to be made by a subsidiary of De Tomaso to a Chrysler design, and the engine by Maserati. However the cylinder head was cast by Cosworth in England; it was then sent to Italy for Maserati to finish off. The Pistons came from a German company, called Mahle GmbH. The camshafts were at least made by Maserati but they were designed by a company called Crane Cams in Florida. IHI in Japan provided the turbocharger. Much of the rest of the engine was made in the United States but it was at least assembled by Maserati, who had their name on the valve cover!

Tyres and transmission came from Germany. Wiring was made in Spain. The ABS braking system came from France. The cost of all this complexity shoved up costs and cause delays so that by the time the car was actually completed and ready for market it was already out of date.

When it was finally launched in 1989 it had a detachable hardtop or an optional convertible top. The 2.2 litre straight four engine (hardly adventurous for a Maserati) produced 200 brake horsepower giving a top speed of 135mph and 0-60 acceleration of 6.9 seconds. These were quite creditable figures but not exactly what a Maserati buyer would expect. The biggest problem however that Chrysler also built their luxury LeBaron which was already selling steadily. The two cars bore a more than passing resemblance to each other. The TC however was around twice the price.

Potential buyers were not greatly impressed. The contract stipulated that 7300 cars were to be built and despite woeful sales these were in fact completed. A Chrysler executive later admitted that by the time the broject was dropped in 1990 the TC had lost Chrysler nearly US$600 million.

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