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Variance

Is the Chrysler Group in an Identity Krise?

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Is the Chrysler Group in an Identity Krise?

-Variance

August 5, 2006

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In 1998, Daimler-Benz merged with the Chrysler Corporation to form the company we know today as Daimler-Chrysler. Some would say this wasn’t so much a merger as it was a takeover. Either way, after a shaky start, the Chrysler half of DCX has made some solid strides in terms of product, most notably when it comes to RWD machines: 300C, Magnum, Charger and all of the great SRT versions (not to mention the upcoming return of the Challenger).

However, what I’m concerned with here is the Chrysler Group itself. In other words, what the company sees itself (or at least, what it wants to portray itself) as: German, American or an equal mix of the two. I kind of get the feeling they are trying to show themselves as all three in a way.

American as Apple Pie

On the one hand, you have cars from Chrysler that just say “American”; whether it is simply bold, in-your-face design as with the 300C and Magnum or things everyone just knows as being associated with American design as with the vehicles from Jeep and the new Challenger. With these designs, I’m not sure the average Joe or Jane would realize the companies have German influence in them unless they were told (or saw the “Dr. Z” ads – more on that later).

Each brand of the Chrysler Group likes to show they’re American in different ways:

-Jeep likes to play up the “we’re very American” thing as evidenced by the vehicle names (Patriot, Liberty, and Commander) as well as “Freedom Drive”, the name Jeep gave the new Compass’ four-wheel drive system.

-Who can forget the Dodge “That thing got a HEMI?” guys? (I would kind of like to.) What about the HEMI engine itself? The name was revived and played on memories of the days when HEMIs powered the classic Mopar muscle cars. The Dodge ads themselves evoke a sense of being the “American bad-ass” as well.

-Chrysler is probably the most in touch with its Euro side. However, in my opinion, Chrysler mainly attempts to appeal to the more sophisticated American consumer and they do this mainly through design. The 300C for example, looks the part of a modern-day American boulevard cruiser. The Crossfire is similar in that it looks American but in a different way. It doesn’t really look like anything a designer from Europe or Asia would produce (even though it was designed in Germany). The best I can put it is: It’s American through process of elimination.

German as Oktoberfest

On the other iron-fist, you have the company showing pride in their (somewhat) newfound German influence. And we have Dr. Z on the front lines to thank for bringing to the mainstream light.

Most of us have seen the recent “Ask Dr. Z” ad campaign featuring Dieter Zetsche, chairman of DCX extolling the virtues of the German influence in Chrysler Group vehicles. Here are few examples the good doctor cites:

-The German-designed Charger suspension

-Advanced four-cylinder engines

-The “world’s cleanest” diesel engines

-Better overall vehicle quality, performance, capability and safety

Catch-22?

The problem is these can be opposing interests.

You display how American you are to American consumers to evoke a sense of loyalty and pride in them (and also to attempt to pass muster with die-hard “Buy American” crowd). American vehicles are also seen as reasonably affordable and easily obtainable, a plus when trying to win over the lower and middle classes. However, being an American brand means being stereotyped by some as being low-quality, cheap (in a bad way) and basically not worth even looking at.

So fine, you proclaim “I’m so Euro!” European cars are widely looked at as high-quality machines that are something to be seen in. If you associate with them, more people (particularly somewhat more affluent consumers) will consider your product. Not so fast. While people may typically see German cars as high-quality, they often do in a “...when they work” kind of way. The stigma can be even worse than the reliability concerns placed on American cars because at least they are typically cheaper to fix if they do break. You can risk rebuffing consumer looking for reliable transportation. Plus, you just lost the “Buy American” crowd.

Of course, there’s no assurance that those scenarios would illicit those exact responses necessarily but the point is there are negatives to either one.

However, having said that, I think the Chrysler Group should make a choice.

So what is the Chrysler Group?

DCX may like to play both sides of the fence but in my opinion I think should make a solid stand on just what Chrysler is. This is just speculation mind you, but I have a feeling average car-buyers don’t bother labeling anything German-American, Japanese-American or British-American. I think average consumer just stick with single nationalities (i.e., Mazda is Japanese, not Japanese-American; Mini is British, not British-German).

They way DCX is doing things makes me think they aren’t quite sure what they want the Chrysler Group to be. If DaimlerChrysler is serious about being seen as a true fusion of Germany and America, would not logic dictate that they be two distinct German (Daimler) and American (Chrysler) factions? In other words, should not the Chrysler Group be portrayed to be a 100% American as possible? Doesn’t showcasing the German influence in a supposedly American group confuse things? Would it be better to just call DCX fully-German if you’re going to go to the trouble of showing how German your “American” arm is?

Maybe there’s a different way at looking at this but as far as I’m concerned this is a matter DaimlerChrysler should look into.

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I feel a larger problem with Chrysler is Chrysler's relationship with itself.

Why is the so-called 'premium' division marketing the most decontented model of the LX sedan?

Why does Dodge have a version of that LX sedan that both costs less yet offers more real content than the Chrysler?

Why does Chrysler need a version of a poor-quality, poorly-selling Dodge SUV?

Why will the once tightly-focused Jeep divison soon host a bloated lineup of six sport utilities, all with four doors, with three of them being repetitious of existing Jeep models, all six requiring the need to justify their own 'identity'?

Even today, Chrysler has no strong product line. It has a few successes scattershot across the chart. What makes the Aspen a Chrysler, an obnoxious grille? What makes the Compass a Jeep, the poorly-grafted slats?

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The problem as I see it with the above: those burdened by outmoded thinking such as 'european cars are higher quality' are more likely to perceptionally crucify a Chrysler with a strong 'we're American' stance, and those still thinking that way may still outnumber those who are more grounded in actuality.

IMO a global corporation should probably slowly gravitate beyond worn nationality-based perceptions and pull the best from all areas to describe their product. In fact, a de-emphasis on nationality-centric advertising/marketing and a focus on engineering & features/details should provide a more reality-based basis for comparison.... and providing real benefits are there, increased sales would follow.

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Guest YellowJacket894

A three-pronged attack is the right idea here...but not as DaimlerChrysler works with it.

The company should do it this way, and this idea works with most of what Variance said in his article: the Daimler side should portray itself as German and nothing but, Chrysler waves a huge American flag over its name, and DamilerChrysler unites the two sides as one. Am I saying there should be separate Mercedes and Chrysler commericals, print ads, and so forth here, along with commercials, etc., for the company itself? Well, if you didn't get that notion, you're pretty slow. Of course that's the way it should be. It's common logic.

Instead what we get here is Mr. Zetsche and Germany's-Finest-Moustache (we could go all day with out a stupid Hitler reference, but his, of course, counts as the Worst) dressed up in a three-piece suit talking about the Charger's suspension, which is pretty the same as the 300, Magnum, and, hell, the last E-Class, and crashing Pacifias into brick walls. Most consumers find it confusing. Take into consideration that most people think that Mr. Z is a fictional character, and they look damn stupid.

Let us all hope that DCX pulls these ads by the end of the year and follows through on a few decent concepts for advertisments.

Edited by YellowJacket894

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Good article, good points made. I think if you wanted to substitute every mention of Daimler-Chrysler with Ford, you could write the same article and it would make just as much sense.

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to answer your question...YES

but look at it this way, at least they aren't ASIAN!

i think they want the cache of a german car and the homerism of an American car.

its a fine line to walk, but like I said, at least they aren't ASIAN.

What Chrysler really ought to do to repair this is a new round of SERIOUS commercials showing Dr. Deiter Z in serious light because I think he is a likable front man for DCX, he just is missing cred. They can fix that part of it and capitalize on the recognition factor. This is a very fixable situation for Chrysler and could be turned around to be a very big postive factor.

Edited by regfootball

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If Chrysler wants to be more American...JUST BRING GOOD OLD PLYMOUTH BACK AND DIFFERENTIATE IT FROM DODGE AND CHRYSLER!

180560[/snapback]

That's just a stupid idea.

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No it isn't.

Chrysler doesn't have enough models and variations to penetrate the market as well as others.

Plymouth would be great for this.

Shame on you.

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No it isn't.

Chrysler doesn't have enough models and variations to penetrate the market as well as others.

Plymouth would be great for this.

Shame on you.

201382[/snapback]

:huh:

You $h!tin me?

Chrysler can't even sell the cars they've got. And you want another brand?

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:huh:

You $h!tin me?

Chrysler can't even sell the cars they've got. And you want another brand?

201429[/snapback]

I would argue Chrysler shouldn't be selling some of the product they're selling - Voyager (defunct), 2.7l 300, 4cyl Sebring, stripper 'verts, PT Cruiser, i.e. non-premium vehicles. But that's just how it is.

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I always thought the original rivalry was:

Chrysler -> Buick / Oldsmobile

Dodge -> Pontiac / Higher end Chevrolet

Plymouth -> Chevrolet

?

But what happened is Dodge moved down and killed Plymouth.

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Good article with good points.

I agree with Fly about the most premium LX getting the wost deal of the LX cars...which makes no sense.

I also think Daimler should be german, Chrysler portraying itself as American. Besides, most people still consider it American.

I don't think the Compass should exist, Ithink the Sebring could have been a lot better (Exterior wise), and I guess I'm inclined to agree the Aspen isn't a great idea in a a time of shrinking SUV market.

Edited by Dodgefan

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i think the Chrysler Group is in an Identity Crisis for two reasons...

one: The confusion between nationality of the brand which was pointed out very well in the article

two: almost all of their cars think that they are part of the LX line

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what about the new sebering/ Avenger? Is there any german influence?

203514[/snapback]

not really... there just ya know... awfulness in general as far as design is concerned in those two atrocities

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what about the new sebering/ Avenger? Is there any german influence?

203514[/snapback]

More Japanese influence tnan anything else.

not really... there just ya know... awfulness in general as far as design is concerned in those two atrocities

203537[/snapback]

The Sebring convertible may be the saving grace of the Sebring line...I love the Avenger...IMO it's a great design.

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If Chrysler wants to be more American...JUST BRING GOOD OLD PLYMOUTH BACK AND DIFFERENTIATE IT FROM DODGE AND CHRYSLER!

180560[/snapback]

I couldn't agree more. when they killed off plymouth, dodge had to take over their market share. This is when the identity crisis started, long before the days of DCX

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I couldn't agree more. when they killed off plymouth, dodge had to take over their market share. This is when the identity crisis started, long before the days of DCX

Plymouth was elimnated in 2001...Daimler-Benz and Chrysler merged in 1998.

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you're right, my mistake. i still think that is when the identity crisis started

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