In the early 1950s, the post-war American economy was booming with the result that car makers were building cars full-tilt. However, while sales were healthy, most the companies were chasing similar marketing segments so every firm was also looking for untapped niches to expand into. This would allow them to design vehicles that strongly appealed to those niches hopefully leading to monopolization. A good example of this was DIVCO (Detroit Industrial Vehicle Corporation,) a Detroit-based company that in the 1940s and 1950s built special delivery vans for milk delivery businesses. Their delivery vans performed so well that DIVCO was for many years the preferred delivery vehicle in the milk distribution business.
Like all the other manufacturers in the early 1950s, Chrysler was putting resources into discovering new niches. During that process, someone at the company noted that more and more women were taking an interest in automobiles. Historically the automotive marketplace was male-dominated but with increased prosperity and the advent of two vehicle households, women were now becoming a new buying segment. Chrysler Corporation “decided” that what the country’s women needed was a car of their own. The result was the Dodge La Femme.
The La Femme concept was based upon two 1954 Chrysler show cars. Named Le Comte, and La Comtesse, each was built from a Chrysler Newport, and each was given a clear plastic roof. While the Le Comte was designed using masculine colors, the La Comtesse was painted “Dusty Rose” and “Pigeon Grey” in order to convey femininity. Favorable responses encouraged Chrysler to pursue the concept.
The 1955 Dodge La Femme was a special version of Dodge’s Royal Lancer. Looking for ultimate femininity, Dodge made the La Femme-trimmed cars available exclusively in sapphire white or heather rose paint.
The interior of the car received special attention and features. La Femme interiors were upholstered in a special tapestry material featuring pink rosebuds on a pale silver-pink background. Each car came with a keystone-shaped, pink calfskin purse that coordinated with the interior of the car. The purse could be stowed in a special compartment mounted in the back of the passenger seat with it’s gold-plated medallion faced outward. This brushed-metal medallion was designed so dealers could engrave the owner’s name on it.
Each purse was outfitted with a coordinated set of accessories inside, which included a face-powder compact, cigarette lighter, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb and change purse. All accessories were made of either faux-tortoiseshell plastic, or pink calfskin and gold-tone metal, and were designed and made by “Evans,” a Chicago-based maker of women’s fine clothing and accessories.
Alas, the La Femme concept was not well accepted. We asked our friends at East Hills Jeep (Greenvale, NY) if they could get us some production numbers and they explained that since it was an option package, its total production was never broken out from Dodge’s production numbers. Others they explained that research suggests fewer than 2,500 were made over the two-year period, though. Many theories exist concerning the low sales of the La Femme. Apparently, very few magazine, television, radio, or other advertisements accompanied sales.
Although there were a large number of Dodge dealerships in the U.S. at the time, few of them received a demonstration models for their showrooms. Instead, single-sheet dealer pamphlets were the only clue that Dodge La Femme were available. The model may have been a market failure for primarily promotional reasons.
Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.