Eagle’s story began after the former American Motors Corporation was incorporated into Chrysler, who used the former AMC Eagle nameplate to define a brand that eventually died in 1998.
AMC was formed in 1954 as a merger between Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company. Later on, it brought Packard-Studebaker Corporation and formed the fourth corporation to stand against the “Big-Three from Detroit” (GM, Ford, and Chrysler). For a while, things were good for the fourth player but for some uninspired products, such as the AMC Pacer, which was too wide for a small class and too short for a big car. In its car lineup, it also had the Gremlin sub-compact vehicle and the mid-size sedan Matador. All three models were losing money, and the only successful brand held by AMC was the Jeep. But that was not enough and, in the late ’70s, it allied with the biggest French carmaker, Renault.
Renault was in desperate need of selling more cars in the U.S. and needed a partner, while AMC was just trying to survive. The French partner purchased a large chunk of the AMC, and the two companies developed a car together: the 1984 Jeep Cherokee. The result was a huge success. But Renault still needed to sell its cars, and it entered the market with the sporty coupe Fuego (Fire). On paper, everything looked good, but soon the gremlins in the design process started to pop. One by one, the Fuegos were stuck on the road without a clear explanation. The car proved to be one of the yellowest lemons ever made. While it didn’t solve the Fuego issues, Renault pressed again with an Americanized vehicle: the Alliance. It was a smart choice in its segment, with light bodywork, fuel-efficient engines, and a bargain price. Sales jumped to 125.000 units in 1983 and, in 1984, it managed to sell 175.000 units thanks to the addition of the hatchback version, named Encore. But the gremlins in the wires and electrical system struck again, and the sales plunged.
In 1987, Renault started to discuss an exit strategy from the U.S. market, which proved too harsh for their fragile, unreliable vehicles. AMC was agonizing and bleeding money. Chrysler saw the opportunity and purchased the AMC mainly for the Jeep brand. It was their only interest in the AMC. On the other hand, the dealers asked the new owner to keep the regular cars on the assembly lines. Maybe they didn’t make too much money, but they made them. Chrysler took a controversial decision and used the best-known nameplate in AMC’s lineup: Eagle. It was considered the first true crossover in the world, with a station-wagon bodywork and an innovative 4WD system.
With Jeep and Eagle under its belt, Chrysler moved on, Renault adapted and sold the R21 and the R25 with Eagle badges, and everyone should have been happy, except for the buyers. By the time Renault finished the products for the U.S. markets, they were already outdated models. Both were developed in the early ’80s, but their re-badged siblings Eagle Medallion (R21) and Eagle Premier (R25), made it to the showrooms in 1990. Besides their look, the cars suffered again from French technology failures, which drove owners mad and sellers angry.
In a final attempt to save their new brand, Chrysler changed the policy and asked Mitsubishi to build Eagle cars and start a new lineup. The Japanese carmaker offered three important vehicles re-badged as Eagle Summit, Eagle Summit Wagon, and Eagle Talon. Chrysler also tried a re-badged version of the Chrysler Concorde/Dodge Intrepid/Eagle Vision. The only vehicle that enjoyed high sales results was the Eagle Talon, a sporty three-door coupe that was very advanced for its time. The turbocharged four-pot and the all-wheel-drive system added the required flavor in the Eagle’s nest.