Chrysler dealers have been clamoring for new products since the company emerged from restructuring bankruptcy last year and it appears their cries have been heard. Chrysler has announced that it will field up to 25 new products by 2013. The automaker currently has 17 nameplates in its stable.
If it is successful, Chrysler will have more models in its lineup than either Ford or Toyota. However, considering the manufacturing and marketing cost associated with new model launches, some have begun to question whether or not Chrysler can actually deliver on its promise.
Salespeople will also be faced with having to keep track of all the details on the new models and incentive programs that may apply. Additionally, Chrysler product planners will have to be sure each of the four brands maintain their unique identities.
Ralph Martinez owns two Chrysler dealerships in the Portland, Oregon area. He says, “It sounds to me like it’s going to be a bit much to manage. Unless the volumes grow so each of these franchises is kicking up a big number, keeping that many nameplates in stock will be a challenge.”
Some, like Wittrock Motors general manager Kevin Wittrock, are happy to see all the new products after the long dry spell following Chrysler’s bankruptcy last summer.
Wittrock’s Carroll, Iowa dealership sells Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram. He said, “We’re in desperate need of new product. The Grand Cherokee is the first new vehicle in a long time. I don’t think that there’s any number that would scare me away. We need some fresh faces on the lot.”
Offering so many new models is a bit of a departure from the original Project Genesis dealer consolidation plan, which was created in order to combine all brands within each dealership and trim the number of dealerships as a result. When the Genesis plan was first put in place two years ago under Cerberus Capital Management’s ownership, Chrysler discussed trimming the number of nameplates down to 17 to rid the company of clones like the Sebring and Avenger sedans. Chrysler is still aiming to finish the consolidation by the end of next year.
However, Fiat S.p.A. gained management control of the company last summer, and CEO Sergio Marchionne decided to organize the company into brand-based business units. His plan involves more nameplates adapted from Fiat platforms, and another brand, Ram, for pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. As of now, plans are set for 22 new nameplates for 2013, including some small cars and compacts for the Chrysler and Dodge brands and two new van models for Ram.
If the Dodge Nitro SUV and Dakota pickup are replaced and the Dodge Viper gets a remodel, the total number of new products will be 25.
In order to maintain clear identities of the four brands, separate ad agencies have been hired to foster individual marketing strategies and methods for each. Prior to coming under the control of Fiat S.p.A. mega-agency BBDO handled all the advertising for all the brands.
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