Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer started Kaiser-Frazer. Its history began in August 1945 as a joint venture between the Henry J. Kaiser Company and Graham-Paige Motors Corporation. Both Henry J. Kaiser, a California-based industrialist and Joseph W. Frazer, CEO of Graham-Paige, had wanted to get into the automobile business together. Less than a year after Kaiser-Frazer’s formation, the first Kaiser and Frazer branded automobiles appeared at the Willow Run, Michigan, headquarters for both Kaiser-Frazer and Graham-Paige.
Kaiser’s Earlier Successes
Henry J. Kaiser had a hand in a wide variety of businesses before forming the Kaiser-Frazer automobile company in 1945. His car business paled alongside some of his other ventures.
Some of his most notable accomplishments include:
Building the Hoover Dam: Kaiser played a major role in the 1936 completion of the Hoover Dam. The dam was a major feat of engineering. It helped to provide hydroelectric power to the western United States.
Building Liberty ships: During World War II, Kaiser’s shipyards built more Liberty ships than any other company in the world. Liberty ships were a type of cargo ship that transported supplies and troops during the war.
Developing Kaiser Permanente: Kaiser founded Kaiser Permanente is a health care system in 1942. Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest health care providers in the United States and applies an innovative approach to health care delivery.
Building housing: Kaiser was a major developer of housing in the United States. He built affordable housing for workers and their families, as well as luxury housing for the wealthy.
Benighted Partnership with Frazer
Despite Kaiser’s other successes, Kaiser-Frazer struggled from the start. The company’s cars cost more to produce and were not competitive with the offerings of the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). In addition, Kaiser-Frazer’s labor agreements resulted in the company paying the highest wages of any American automaker, while having a productivity rate of only 60–65% in return.
Despite these challenges, Kaiser-Frazer managed to survive for a few years. In 1950, the company introduced the Henry J, a low-priced car that appealed to budget-minded buyers. The Henry J was a modest success, but it didn’t save Kaiser-Frazer. In 1955, the company filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations.
The failure of Kaiser-Frazer was a major setback for Henry J. Kaiser. However, he was not one to give up easily. In 1953, he purchased Willys-Overland, the manufacturer of the Jeep. Kaiser-Willys (as the company was now known) went on to produce a number of successful Jeep models, including the CJ-5 and the Wagoneer. In 1970, Kaiser-Willys joined American Motors Corporation.
- Year Started: 1945
- Year Ended: 1955
- Origin Of Name: Names of Founders
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer
- Owner While In Use: Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Chevrolet
- Naics Code: 336110
- Location Headquarters: Willow Run, Michigan USA