Roy Dikeman Chapin (23 February, 1880 - February 10, 1936) was an American industrialist and automaker. He also served as the United States Secretary of Commerce from August 8, 1932, to March 3, 1933, in the last months of the administration of President Herbert Hoover.
Chapin was born in 1880 in Lansing, Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan. He married Inez Tiedeman in 1914. The couple had six children. One son, Roy D. Chapin Jr., would also pursue a career with Hudson Motor Company, eventually leading American Motors Corporation.
Chapin headed the consortium of businessmen and engineers that founded the Hudson Motor Car Company in 1908. The company was named for Detroit merchant J.L. Hudson, who provided the majority of capital for the operation's start-up.
Chapin was also behind the 1918 formation of the Essex Motors Company, a subsidiary of Hudson. Essex is notable for developing the first affordable mass-produced enclosed automobile in 1922. Because of the success of the inexpensive enclosed Essex Coach line, the American automobile industry shifted away from open touring cars in order to meet consumer demand for all-weather passenger vehicles.
In addition to his corporate interests, Chapin spearheaded the drive to build the Lincoln Highway, along with Henry B. Joy of Packard Motors. While Chapin viewed a system of professionally designed and built roadways as the greatest way to grow the automobile industry, he also saw the modern roadways movement as a way to secure long range strength for the United States as a nation.
After building Hudson into one of the most profitable independent American automobile manufacturers, Chapin left Hudson for the Hoover administration upon his appointment in 1932.
During his tenure as Secretary of Commerce, Chapin was unsuccessful in persuading Henry Ford to provide financial help to avoid the collapse of the Guardian Trust Company of Detroit. Ford's refusal to aid the bank in averting a financial failure led to the Michigan Bank Holiday, an event that preceded the Roosevelt administration's national bank holiday of 1933.
Chapin he returned to Hudson in March, 1933. His final three years were spent trying to save the company from the effects of the Great Depression. He died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1936 and was succeeded at Hudson by A.E. Barit. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
In 1954, Hudson was acquired by Nash Kelvinator in a friendly merger. The resulting company, American Motors Corporation, survived until it was acquired by Chrysler in the mid-1980s. Chapin's son, Roy D. Chapin Jr., served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Motors Corporation and led AMC to the acquisition of Kaiser Jeep Corporation in 1970.
Chapin was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1972.
The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan has a collection of Chapin's papers: