Tuesday 28th April 1953
Kaiser bought the ailing Willys-Overland company for US$63,381,175 and merged the Kaiser and Willys operations under the name Kaiser-Willys Corporation. The decision was then made to exit the passenger car market, which was accomplished at the end of the 1955 model year. By 1956, Willys Motors built only utility vehicles, many for export, and was turning a healthy profit. In 1970, the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, as the company had been renamed in 1963, was sold to American Motors Corporation. Production of Kaiser-Frazer models was centered at Willow Run, Michigan. Willow Run, the largest building in the world at that time, was built by the U.S. government just prior to WWII for Henry Ford to build B-24 Liberator bombers. Once the war ended, Ford had no interest in the facility, and the War Assets Administration began a search for someone to lease or buy the building. When K-F expressed interest in the facility, the WAA offered them an attractive five-year lease rate. K-F also had manufacturing facilities in Jefferson MI; Long Beach CA; Portland OR; Leaside, Ontario, Canada; Haifa, Israel; Kawasaki, Japan; Mexico City and Rotterdam (known as “Nekaf”, for Nederlandse Kaiser-Frazer fabrieken). U.S. production was concentrated at Toledo, Ohio, upon the purchase of Willys-Overland starting in 1953; the Willow Run facility was sold to General Motors after GM suffered a disastrous fire at their Livonia, Michigan, Hydramatic automatic transmission plant and needed a facility quickly to resume production.