Success at a Cost: The 1957-59 DeSoto Firesweep

Introduced in 1957, the low-priced Firesweep line gave Chrysler’s DeSoto division a much-needed boost in sales volume, but at a cost to the rest of the company.

Chrysler’s DeSoto division faced challenges in establishing itself in the post-World War II car market, often struggling to surpass an annual sales mark of around 100,000 units. This volume paled in comparison to sister brands like Plymouth and Dodge. In an attempt to boost the brand’s modest sales figures, Chrysler introduced the new Firesweep line in 1957, positioning it as a low-priced DeSoto model.

Unlike the existing Firedome, Fireflite, and Adventurer models, which were constructed on the senior Chrysler platform, the Firesweep was based on the smaller and more economical Dodge line, featuring a Dodge 325 CID V8 engine.

Production of the Firesweep took place at Dodge Main in Hamtramck, not at the DeSoto plant, and the exterior sheet metal, while Dodge-based, incorporated DeSoto tail fins, trim, and badging for brand identity. Despite being priced significantly lower than the previous DeSoto price leader, the Firedome, the Firesweep retained the distinctive Virgil Exner Forward Look styling.

The strategic move seemed to pay off initially, with DeSoto’s total volume for 1957 surpassing 117,000 cars, with the Firesweep accounting for more than a third of that volume at 41,000 units. However, a closer examination by Chrysler’s corporate product planners revealed a crucial flaw.

Instead of genuinely increasing overall sales, the Firesweep was essentially shifting sales from Dodge to DeSoto, without any substantial growth in the market. Moreover, it was diluting sales of the larger, more profitable senior DeSoto models.

Also Read:  1957 Jaguar XK-SS

Facing the reality that the Firesweep was cannibalizing Dodge sales and not effectively expanding DeSoto’s market share, Chrysler decided to discontinue the Firesweep line after three seasons in 1959. The 1960 DeSoto lineup was subsequently streamlined to only two models, Fireflite and Adventurer, and by the 1961 model year, there was only one model, simply badged as DeSoto. The final blow came on November 30, 1960, when the DeSoto division was officially discontinued, marking the end of an era for the brand.

Leave a Comment