The Eagle Premier Story, Part V


The fifth entry in our Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier brings us to 1988. The Premier was newly on sale after a delayed introduction, and the company building it was not the same company that spent years designing it.

Chrysler was in charge of the Premier’s fate.

After a hasty renaming from AMC to Jeep-Eagle following an early August 1987 merger completion, the Eagle brand was introduced to North America properly. The company’s initial lineup was quite a hodgepodge: The one-year-only Vista (new home for the Colt Vista) was joined by the Medallion, Premier, and the one-year Eagle Wagon, a final vestige of AMC. The old Vista and Eagle were immediately replaced in 1989 by the Summit and Vista Wagon, which were different wheelbases of the new generation Mitsubishi Expo. French, French-American, and Japanese cars were sold under one all-new brand. And Premier led the charge.

Premier was well-received by the automotive press, who lauded its exotic European origins and power, Italian shape, and high-tech Canadian assembly. It was undoubtedly the most advanced car in Chrysler’s passenger car lineup, which in 1988 consisted entirely of K-car derivatives and Mitsubishi Starion clones. Chrysler VP Bob Lutz was impressed with how good the Premier was too, especially given the limited resources of AMC-Renault at the time. He praised Premier among the “…impressive succession of new products” Chrysler obtained via its AMC purchase. Given the Premier was already on sale, it replaced an ongoing Iacocca project at Chrysler called Liberty Car. Liberty Car was supposed to be Chrysler’s direct response to Saturn’s development, and maybe we’ll learn about that at another time.

Though he praised Premier, Bob Lutz was not in charge of things at Chrysler, Iacocca was. And he’d purchased AMC to get access to Jeep branding and the new Grand Cherokee. So while the Premier was good, it was not one of his cars – the K-cars were. Iacocca had been in charge since initial K-car development, and this French-based Premier didn’t appeal like say an extended-K New Yorker or Imperial, or a halo vanity project like the TC by Maserati.

Additionally, the Premier used components not found on other AMC-Chrysler vehicles, a one-off in many ways that was expensive to produce at Brampton. Sadly, the orphan-like Premier wasn’t given much attention after its 1988 initial ad campaign. But Chrysler’s engineers didn’t leave it alone entirely, and it did end up having a larger impact on Chrysler’s future than you might expect. We’ll conclude this saga in our next installment.

[Images: Chrysler]

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