Dodge seeks survival with mass economy approach

Chrysler has, like most US auto manufacturers, with the exception perhaps of Ford, seen its market share drop further in 2009. But this time it is down below the psychological 10% barrier at 8.9%, down from 11% in 2008. Sales are down a worrying 40% over the same period. This is not good, especially as the company stated in early 2001 that it intended to have 20% of the US market by 2005.

A restructuring plan in November 2009 introduced a number of initiatives including using models from Europe to mask the fact that Chrysler has made little investment in new products.

In what has become a depressingly familiar process, executives at the restructuring also introduced a number of new positioning strategies for the Jeep, Ram and Dodge brands. According to the executives, new models are to be redesigned or improved in times quicker than ever known to the industry. Ambitious sales figures include global sales targets of 2.8 million vehicles by the year 2014, of which about 60% are projected to be in the US. The firm forecast break even in 2010 and anticipated posting a profit in 2011. Revenues are forecast to be in the region of US$70 billion.

Specific brand initiatives include the biggest marketing budget for the Jeep brand in four years. Showrooms are to be redesigned to reflect off road heritage and Jeep managers will engage more with consumers at events. Meanwhile at Dodge, another new logo has been created to reflect a ‘sporty, youthful, inexpensive’ car. New entry level cars are to be available in different ‘flavors’ or equipped ‘differently’ not ‘expensively’. Are there such words as ‘differently’ or ‘expensively’?

Ralph V. Gilles was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Dodge Car Brand in October 2009, with full profit and loss responsibility for the Dodge car product portfolio. Before this he was VP of design. He is responsible for halting the Dodge slide but to do so he is going to need more than a new positioning strategy, new logos and a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing. Unfortunately the signs are not good as he has appointed Wieden & Kennedy, an advertising agency to build the Dodge brand.

Gilles is on record as saying that Dodge cars are, “Cars that make you feel good, that are niche-like in their demeanor, but have mass appeal.” Well I’m sorry, but that sounds to me like a one-size-fits-all typical mass marketing ad agency driven concept that will, in the end, appeal to nobody.

What do you think?