Minivan launch tests Chrysler's marketing
'08 products arrive at a crucial time
June 4, 2007 - 1:00 am
"The message they have to get out is that if you are in the market for a minivan, Chrysler is where you have to go first," Liebler told Automotive News. "This is not a design story. This is a story about interior functionality."
George Peterson, president of AutoPacific Inc., a consulting firm in suburban Los Angeles, says the minivan market "is going to be deteriorating." Chrysler faces strong competition from the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, he says.
To meet that competition, Peterson says, Chrysler must define its redesigned minivans as benchmark vehicles with "a high value proposition."
The minivan launch comes at a time of turmoil for Chrysler's marketing operations. Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda and dealers have complained that the company's recent advertising often did not include enough product information. BBDO Detroit is the Chrysler group's longtime ad agency.
Introducing the minivans enables Chrysler to strengthen its brand images, analysts say.
"Dodge is the strongest," Liebler says. "'Bold, powerful, capable' were the words used 15 years ago. They are still going that way. Jeep has gone astray, trying to be too many things to too many people.
"Chrysler is still trying to find its soul," he says. "What is its center? What is the core? I was there when the PT Cruiser was named a Chrysler, so I am not pointing fingers. But is it really a Chrysler, or does that confuse the brand?"
Peterson says: "Many folks don't know what the Chrysler brand is. Is it a luxury brand like Cadillac or a premium brand like Buick? It's like walking a tightrope.
"Chrysler had a great opportunity when they launched the 300 and 300C to establish the brand at a higher than premium level," Peterson says. "But they have precluded that with the Sebring and PT Cruiser in the lineup. The product line is too broad to pull off being a luxury brand."
John Schenden, a Denver dealer who sits on the Chrysler-Jeep National Dealer Council, says Chrysler group advertising should emphasize product features and price. "Show the vehicle as much as possible, interior and exterior," he says. "Have a short message on pricing or incentives."
Jim Arrigo, chairman of the Chrysler-Jeep National Dealer Council, says he expects advertising for Chrysler and Jeep to focus more on brand identity and vehicle nameplates and less on sales events and incentives.
"Bring the Chrysler brand back to what it was in the past," says Arrigo, who owns a Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep dealership in Palm Beach, Fla. "Try to get more passion back in the brand. People don't know about us, about the quality of the products we have."