The Dodge Omni which was release in 1978 was actually a life boat/life preserver for the Chrysler Corporation. Chrysler was experiencing severe to heavy financial problems and had gone to the United States congress seeking monetary help to stay a float. It was the popularity and sales of the Dodge Omni that persuaded the government that Chrysler was worth saving.
As for the car itslef it was one to the very first front wheel drive vehicles offered on a wide scale in the United States market. The Dodge Omni body style had been borrowed from the European Simca vehicle of the same name. Simca was the French division of Chrysler Europe.
The Dodge Omni and its near identical twin the Plymouth Horizon were built on the new L platform by Chrysler. They were the first subcompact cars with front wheel drive to be assembled in North America by Chrysler. Up until this time Chrysler had been content to use captive imports such as the Dodge Colt to feel the subcompact slot.
Because front wheel technology was already in use in Japanese and European imports, Chrysler was desperate to develop a vehicle that could compete. The Dodge Omni and the Plymouth Horizon were the answer to that need. In 1978 Chrysler was finally able to mount a challenge to the popular Volkswagen Rabbit and had beaten both Ford and General Motors in the race to get a front wheel vehicle onto the market. It has been theorized that because the Dodge Omni had done so well in its debut, actually capturing the title for Motor Trends Car of the Year for 1978, that congress was persuaded to step in and assist Chrysler.
Even though the Omni and the Horizon were similar in looks they shared very little in parts. However they did share an engine. Chrysler had gotten away from the Simca engine and began using the Volkswagen 1.7 L OHC engine.