By the late Seventies, Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy. Plagued with a spate of recalls, and bleeding cash in the millions, the automobile giant had to be bailed out by the US government. But as part of the deal, it was required to take aggressive measures to reduce costs and abandon some expensive projects. It helped that Lee Iacocca, who had moved from Ford to Chrysler around the same time, was an advocate of small, fuel efficient cars. Chrysler introduced a line of models known as the K-Cars, which, along with newly introduced mini vans, helped turn the company’s fortunes around dramatically. However, in an effort to make sure that these changes did not dilute the brand image and to take on rivals like Cadillac, Lee Iacocca came up with an idea to team up with Maserati.
He turned to his old friend Alejandro de Tomaso, who was head of Maserati at the time. While Iacocca was in Ford, the two had struck a deal to sell De Tomaso’s Pantera sportscar through Ford dealerships. While the idea of roping Maserati in was good, the execution was far from perfect.
The Italian marque itself had been watered down by De Tomaso, as seen in the Biturbo model. The product of this partnership, called the Chrysler TC by Maserati, turned out to be nothing more than a cheap K-Car built in Italy and uncomfortably carrying a Trident logo on its grille and deck lid. It was easy for buyers to see through the overpriced junk that Chrysler was trying to pass off as a premium car. Sales fell way short of predictions, which were already conservative. Further diluting the feeble Italian connection, Chrysler dropped the turbo four in favour of a Mitsubishi-built V6, and after selling a little over 7,000 units over three years, the TC was scrapped.
Most of the big names have been guilty of trying to sell cheap cars at a premium by slapping on fancy badges, but the Chrysler TC by Maserati remains one of the worst examples.
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