The Aries was produced from 1981 to 1989, and it was not only a popular and memorable car, it was an important car in the history of the Dodge brand. In fact, the Aries helped to save the company.
Reeling from the combined effects of a recession and a global energy crisis, in 1979 Chrysler was forced to seek government loan guarantees. Meanwhile, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca took the company’s case straight to the people in a series of television commercials. Looking straight into the camera, the legendary auto executive pitched the company’s new K-cars with total conviction, asserting, “America, if you can find a better car, buy it.”
The Aries (1982 model shown above) wasn’t particularly glamorous or advanced, but in many ways it was the ideal car for those challenging times: affordable to buy, economical to operate, and trustworthy. Mechanically identical to its Plymouth Reliant sibling, the Aries featured a standard 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that seemed to thrive on abuse. In its modest way the Aries was even handsome, with clean, unadorned styling and comfortable interior appointments.
Buyers took up Iacocca’s challenge, flocking to the showrooms to buy their own K-cars. Nearly one million Aries were sold (and another million Reliants), allowing Chrysler to pay off its loans a full seven years early. Soon Iacocca was back on the airwaves with another ad campaign. This one was called “The Pride Is Back.”