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Chrysler Dealers Clamor for Peek at ’11 Lineup

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Chrysler Dealers Clamor for Peek at ’11 Lineup

By Eric Mayne

WardsAuto.com, Sep 10, 2010 12:51 PM

Chrysler Group LLC expects record attendance when it hosts a ’11 model preview for dealers Tuesday in Florida.

The event marks the auto maker’s first “dealer announcement” meeting since 2007 and more than 75% of Chrysler’s 2,314 franchises will be represented – a new milestone, says spokesman Ralph Kisiel.

Dealers registered for the preview account for 90% of Chrysler’s U.S. sales volume, he adds. CEO Sergio Marchionne will deliver the keynote address. In addition, all brand chiefs will be present: Fred Diaz (Ram), Ralph Gilles (Dodge), Mike Manley (Jeep), Olivier Francois (Chrysler), Laura Soave (Fiat) and Pietro Gorlier (MOPAR).

Marchionne has said Chrysler’s near-term product lineup will be at full strength by the fourth quarter. That marks the culmination of an initiative, announced late last year, to upgrade 75% of the auto maker’s vehicles.

“They aren’t just little changes,” says Bill Golling, president and CEO of Golling Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

Expect the Dodge brand – which has accounted for 37.2% of Chrysler sales through August, according to Ward’s data – to be front and center with the redesigned-for-’11 Durango fullsize SUV. It shares a platform with the ’11 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Historically a top-six performer among U.S.-market brands, Dodge has fallen behind 6th-place Hyundai through August, while dueling with Kia for 7th , according to Ward’s data.

Dealers to get full view of new ’11 Dodge Durango.

Dodge now has a 5-3 edge over Kia in the 2010 monthly tallies, rebounding in August from a July shortfall to eclipse the Korean brand 35,364 to 32,465. Kisiel credits the performance, ni part, to Dodge Nitro SUV sales, which soared 72.5% compared with like-2009.

The Nitro is benefiting from package realignments marked by an aggressive, Gilles-inspired color and trim strategy, he says.

Golling is particularly keen on the Dodge Charger fullsize sedan, which – like its Chrysler 300 platform-mate is all new for ’11.

The auto maker has been mum on details but promises the Avenger midsize sedan and Grand Caravan minivan – along with their respective Chrysler-brand platform-mates, the Sebring and Town & Country – will benefit from “extensive” exterior, interior and powertrain improvements.

The Journey cross/utility vehicle gets the same treatment on its interior and powertrain.

Chassis enhancements to the Journey, Avenger, Grand Caravan and their related Chrysler cousins are described as “upgrades.”

Jeep products profit from a similar augmentations.

“When would you ever see that kind of speed out of (a major auto maker)?” asks Golling, whose interest also is piqued by Chrysler’s recent investments in powertrain technology.

The auto maker is pumping $300 million into its transmission manufacturing complex in Kokomo, IN, to accommodate production of a new 8-speed automatic gearbox starting in 2013.

The Florida dealer gathering comes hard on the heels of an Aug. 30 event, hosted by Soave in Detroit.

That’s when dealers got their first close-up glimpse of the Fiat 500 destined for North America, along with the rundown of Chrysler’s requirements to sell the minicar, expected in U.S. showrooms by year’s end.

link:

http://wardsauto.com/home/chrysler_dealers_peek_100910/

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Chrysler to Show Dealers New Models, Discuss Future at Florida Meeting on Tuesday

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2010

Chrysler dealers will meet in Orlando, Florida tomorrow to discuss the Pentastar's future and their role in it. Some 1,735 (out of 2,314) dealers will be getting up close and personal with new models, as well as getting sneak peeks (call us!) at some of the upcoming model facelifts and updates including the refreshed Dodge Challenger and minivans, and the new Fiat 500.

Other than seeing the new products, they will have a variety of questions answered by Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat North America CEOs.

David Kelleher, a dealer from Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania and member of the Chrysler Dealer Council, told Wall Street Journal that "dealers will experience a very transparent show. They are going to go home with more information they have now. They will know about the future of the company."

Sergio Marchionne will finally address dealers personally, as well; since he and Fiat took over in summer 2009, the only real communication between him and dealers has been discussing future product with the media last winter. Other than that, he says he simply wasn't ready to speak with anyone until the proper plans for his super-company were ready.

While in Orlando, many dealers will also be asked to stay open on Saturdays in order to help both with sales and Mopar Express Lanes (for quick repairs / tune-ups / oil changes). The goal is to have 80% of dealers staying open on weekends by the end of next year (versus 68% now).

For comparison, 95% of Toyota dealers are open on Saturdays (including 100% of Lexus dealers), over 90% of GM dealers stay open, and 85% of Ford lots are there for you.

Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier says, "We have to respond to customers and customers shop or get their oil changed on Saturdays. Those that stay open on Saturdays have had tremendous success and their oil change business has increased by 20%."

link:

http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2010/09/chrysler-to-show-dealers-new-models.html

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Dealers get preview of Chrysler's new lineup

Dealers get peek at 15 new or updated models set for release in crucial next four months

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

More than a year out of bankruptcy -- and nearly a year since revealing its ambitious, five-year global plan -- Chrysler Group LLC is poised to bring to market a revamped vehicle lineup designed to re-engage buyers.

About 1,700 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers will gather today at a convention center in Orlando, Fla., for a first look at the automaker's next generation of products.

They also will be updated on Chrysler's turnaround progress, and have an opportunity to meet -- many for the first time -- the driving force behind the product onslaught: Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Chrysler hasn't held the dealer event in three years, due to financial turmoil, ownership changes and a dearth of new products.

"New products really help you sell and we've been a long time without any," said Alan Helfman of River Oaks Chrysler in Houston, Texas.

Chrysler is launching 15 new or significantly updated vehicles in the next four months, in keeping with the product plan outlined last November. At that time, the automaker said it would refresh 75 percent of the product lineup by the end of this year.

Chrysler is banking on the product parade to meet its sales forecast of 1.6 million vehicles in 2011, up from 931,000 in 2009, and generate a net profit next year of $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion.

Chrysler has cut costs, but needs revenue from fresh products to repay $8 billion in government loans by 2014 and to build investment-grade value to become a publicly traded company in the next couple years.

Chrysler has launched multiple vehicles in a single year before -- but not all bunched in a quarter, said Dan Knott, purchasing chief and part of a six-member "industrial leadership team" orchestrating the launches.

Automakers like to spread launches to better concentrate on each separately, and spread out the cost and disruption. Chrysler didn't have that luxury.

When Marchionne took over as Chrysler CEO in June 2009, he discovered product development had all but ceased.

The carmaker did what it could this year by repackaging existing models and creating new trim levels, but dismal sales in the early months reflected the outdated showroom.

Going from famine to feast is not easy and Chrysler has the added albatross of its reputation for poor quality.

"The last thing you want to do is rush things today," said Joe Phillippi, analyst with AutoTrends Consulting Inc. in Short Hills, N.J. "That's how you end up with recalls."

He said if the Grand Cherokee is any indication, "We're expecting to see a significant increase in the level of the fit and finish (how well the parts fit together) and for Chrysler to get rid of hard, scratchy plastic in the interior and improve their engines, all of which is really important."

Ensuring quality while juggling so many simultaneous vehicle launches requires a lot of planning and anticipating pitfalls, said Rebecca Lindland, director of auto industry research for IHS Automotive in Lexington, Mass.

"Managing the launches means managing the disasters and the challenges, anticipating problems and being able to right them quickly," she said.

Marchionne has made it clear there is no room for error.

Said Knott: "We will not send a vehicle to a customer unless it is flawless." The team gathers daily at 8 a.m. and anyone can pop in for quick problem resolution.

Each leader has adopted a "godfather role" for the vehicles being launched.

Godfathers meet weekly, often at a plant. Last week, they went to the Brampton, Ontario, plant that will launch the all-new Dodge Charger the last week of November; it will be followed by the new Chrysler 300 in mid-December.

The week before, the team was in Toluca, Mexico, to check on the Dodge Journey and preparations to add Fiat 500 production there in December.

Knott said processes were tested and honed leading up to the May production launch of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit.

Preparations included working closely with suppliers, many of whom need to add production capacity and workers.

Dealers are excited to see the new products in Orlando -- those who are registered represent 90 percent of Chrysler's sales volume.

"I can't wait to see all the new models," Helfman said. "We will have more assets to work with and we'll come back fighting."

First out was the Grand Cherokee in June; the larger Dodge Durango follows in November. The Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler is headed to dealers now.

November will be especially busy. Major upgrades are coming for minivans, the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger and Journey midsize vehicles, and the Jeep Patriot and Compass

"Dealers are feeling better all the time about Chrysler," said Wes Lutz, owner of Extreme Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Jackson.

"It's always nice to share information with the people you depend on to sell your product. It shows you have a future."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100914/AUTO01/9140322/1148/auto01/Dealers-get-preview-of-Chrysler-s-new-lineup#ixzz0zVgCimy9

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CHRYSLER HOSTS FIRST DEALER MEETING IN THREE YEARS

By Drew Johnson

Thanks to ownership changes and a product pipeline as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, Chrysler hasn’t hosted a dealer meeting in three years. However, new products are finally on the way, with dealers gathering in Florida this week to discuss the future of the automaker.

For the first time in three years, Chrysler dealers will gather in Florida this week to learn about Chrysler’s next-generation of vehicles. About 1,700 dealers will be on hand, representing 90 percent of Chrysler’s U.S. sales volume.

Although Chrysler has yet to public reveal its future vehicle portfolio, the Michigan automaker will roll out 15 new or heavily revised vehicles over the next four months. Chrysler’s new product onslaught began with the 2011 Jeep Cherokee, and will continue with vehicles like the Dodge Charger and Durango and Chrysler 300.

A number of vehicles are also in line for heavy refreshes, such as Chrysler’s mid-size Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans. The new or updated vehicles should represent about 75 percent of Chrysler’s lineup.

Chrysler is hoping the influx of new product can boost its sales to 1.6 million units by the end of 2011, up from 931,000 sales in 2009.

link:

http://www.leftlanenews.com/chrysler-hosts-first-dealer-meeting-in-three-years.html

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