Monday, August 18, 2008

Dealer Council co-chairs see the future … and they like it

Last week, the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Dealer Council spent two days meeting with company leaders in Auburn Hills. After getting a sneak peek at future products, the two council co-chairs – Jim Arrigo of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Hayden Elder of Athens, Texas — were so impressed that they bought a full-page ad in today’s Automotive News to tell their fellow dealers about their confidence in the company’s future. The text of their letter is below:

Dear Dealer Colleagues,

On behalf of the 18 members of your Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Dealer Council, we are pleased to share with you the highlights of our recent two-day meeting with Chrysler management in Auburn Hills. Throughout the meeting, Jim Press, Steven Landry and Chrysler Financial’s Darryl Jackson and Mark Manzo demonstrated that they are living by the ideals of “Customer First” and “Quality… Period” and are committed to partnering with the dealers and driving dealer profitability. We left Auburn Hills very enthusiastic about our future products, and the processes being used to enhance their quality, appeal and reliability.

The meeting included good healthy dialogue on the issues of the day. But more importantly, we got renewed confidence in the financial health of the company, the future product plans and the commitment to quality.

Our first event was a visit to the Design Dome for an up close look at 2009-2011 models. Without a doubt, the current leadership’s commitment to products and quality is having a significant impact on the lineup. The quality of materials put into the new interiors, such as in the new Dodge Ram, is unbelievable. The new approach to enhancing quality is evident in everything we saw. Jim Press then gave us an impressive look at product plans all the way out to 2014. Jim made it clear that Chrysler, with the support of Cerberus, is in this business to win and is making the investments in future products we need to succeed.

The surprise of the day came when Lou Rhodes, the President of Chrysler’s advanced propulsion technologies/electric vehicle group, ENVI, gave us an opportunity to experience a developmental advanced-electric-powered automobile. It was fast, quiet and the technology is closer to market ready than any of us would have imagined. ENVI is a significant part of our future as Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers, and we were thrilled to see Chrysler’s progress in environmentally friendly advanced technology for the next generation.

We left Auburn Hills with two clear challenges. First, leveraging all the tools we have at our disposal to drive sales in August and September. There are strong incentives available that can help us run out the model year and be ready for a stronger 2009. Secondly, we have to focus on preparing our businesses for a greatly enhanced, high-quality Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge product lineup in the coming years.

We look forward to our local council meetings to report out the details of our discussions and share some insight into Chrysler’s vision of the future. At the end of the meeting, Jim Press made it clear that the company is “all in” to grow our business, and the dealer council echoed that commitment on behalf of all 3,400 dealers. We are truly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for us.

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