By on June 7, 2011

When is a brand not a brand? Or, perhaps the real question here is “when does a brand become a brand?”. In any case, Chrysler introduced its Street and Racing Technology “brand” way back in 2002, and has sold SRT versions of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles ever since. But for 2011, a model-year which saw the launch of the group’s Fiat-fettled lineup, the SRT lineup dwindled to just the Challenger SRT8. Now, Chrysler is announcing the “re-creation” of the brand, while noting that

While we still made SRT vehicles, there wasn’t as concerted effort in development and marketing in recent years.

The new effort will be led by former Dodge CEO (and current VP of product design) Ralph Gilles, who will be replaced at Dodge by Reid Bigland, the erstwhile President of Chrysler Canada. And with SRT’s rebirth will come new products, including SRT8 versions of the Charger, 300 and Grand Cherokee, joining Challenger SRT8 in the initial wave. Though big, powerful SRT8 vehicles are traditionally a hoot to drive, they hardly rehabilitate Chrysler’s rep for poor fuel economy or prepare it for forthcoming CAFE increases. As is so often the case, good news for enthusiasts can mean less than entirely positive business news.

The SRT “brand” may be a key (and ongoing) element of Chrysler Group’s identity, but the distraction of a newly senior executive-led “brand” can’t be ignored. While GM has cut back on its brand portfolio since falling on hard times, the “recreated” SRT is yet another in a ballooning list of Chrysler brands (Chrysler has added Fiat, Ram, and MOPAR since bankruptcy, with Alfa allegedly on the way). With many consumers already daunted by the overwhelming array of brands and nameplates on the US market, adding brands can create as many challenges as opportunities.

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26 Comments on “Dodge CEO Moves To “Newly Recreated SRT Brand”...”

  • avatar

    I hadn’t understood Mopar was a new brand/sub brand. I thought that was just a name for Chrysler cars.

    I needn’t ask what Mopar means.

    • 0 avatar

      Mopar is hardly a new brand. For over 40 years, Mopar has been the Chrysler parts division, often associated with performance parts. The name is also generically used as an umbrella name for all Chrysler vehicles, as you mentioned.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t consider Fiat a brand of Chrysler, just like I wouldn’t consider Alfa a brand of Chrysler either.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure this is necessarily a bad business decision. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has clearly decided to take a “more brands the better” approach. Both GM and Ford tried this and failed, however VW seems to be doing ok with a million different brands.

    On the other hand, BMW, Toyota, and Honda also seem to have done ok without adding acquiring multiple brands. I think more importantly is whether you have the resources to create a portfolio of quality competitive products which warrant their own brand. I’m not convinced that Fiat-Chrysler (functionally its one company) is there yet, but Fiat is really playing double or quits with Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda has Acura. BMW has Mini and Rolls Royce. Toyota has Lexus and Scion.

      Sure, there are several makers that have proven there is a wrong way to do this. Even those I’ve listed have a few flaws in this area, but as long as there is a distinct brand identity for each in the eyes of the buying public success is attainable.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a M badge for Fiatlers but where BMW fooled many into thinking a M3 was fast whats Fiatsler gunna do SRT just means you got suckered into a badge a bit like SHO,it doesnt mean anything in the real world where we can buy real performance cars that go hard and handle well, sorry Sergio try again.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know much about the rest of the SRT lineup, but the SRT4 was a great little car whose single greatest flaw was the often mouthy fellow behind the wheel who thought financing a new SRT4 with a “Stage 2” package somehow equated to knowing WTF he was talking about.

      Out of the box, the Skittles put more to the wheels than the window sticker promised. How often does a major player in this industry let something truly ridiculous slip past the bean counters that exceeds customer expectations on it’s primary selling point? Seldom, imo.

      Plenty of “better” cars tasted the rainbow, when a skittle-looking, would-be rental car rumbled up to the line next to them at a light. Is this SRT “news” indicative of more pleasant surprises out of Dodge? If they’re already announcing more bloated, Hemi-powered boats, not necessarily.

      Maybe we’ll get a Chrysler 200 Abarth, though. :P

    • 0 avatar

      Where can I get these marvelous cars that Bryce writes of?

      • 0 avatar

        Bryce is just biased because he can buy cars like the HSV Grange, Ute Thunder, Fairlane Tickford and Falcon Boss 290. Lucky sunavagun.

      • 0 avatar

        YOu cant get Falcons or Holdens in NA yet but sooner or later GM& Ford will wake up and import some south pacific muscle The Pontiac version of a Holden was popular in NA but the supply got cut off yer cops are gettin Holdens but it seems the generalo public cant have them YE.T

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s just a way to shunt Gilles aside without firing him. As a designer, was he ever really qualified to run the division?

    • 0 avatar

      It does look like a bit of a demotion, but yes he was a qualified as anyone. He had an MBA even though he didn’t talk like it, he genuinely cared about all the Chrysler products, had a true sense for Dodge and wasn’t a jerk. His view of Dodge may have been to narrow for the market it needs to serve, but at least he had a point of view from his gut.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    So that’s what SRT stands for!

  • avatar

    Brand or no brand, my 300c SRT8 with a supercharger is a BEAST.

    Chrysler made me a dedicated customer and as soon as that 2012 SRT8 comes out, I’ll prove it.

  • avatar

    It’s not like Mopar is new – it’s been around for a long time and gone through various levels of marketing support. They just happen to be putting more marketing support behind Mopar at the moment.

    • 0 avatar

      MOPAR has been a part of Chrysler since the 1920’s or 30’s. It was never “added” since bankruptcy. And it’s not a brand of cars. It’s a brand of car parts but not a brand of vehicles. GM had AC Delco and Ford had (has?) Autolite. Nobody ever said GM had too many brands like “AC Delco”, they said they had too many brands like Saturn, Hummer, Buick etc. Chrysler has 4 vehicle brands: Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, and Ram. Only Ram is superfluous. FIAT is not part of Chrysler (although it may be available thru it’s dealer network) and Mopar is not a vehicle brand. Neither is SRT a vehicle brand anymore than AMG or Shelby is. It’s only existing cars of another brand that are souped up performance wise.

      Toyota is Toyota, Lexus, and Scion in North America, and Daihatsu, Hino, and part Subaru in other areas of the world.

      If FIAT, Alfa, Maserati, and Lancia are to be considered brands joined with Chrysler, Dodge, etc. than Nissan and Infinity are to paired up with Renault. The relationship is about the same.

      As for Giles, he is well thought of and a “car guy”. His being posted to head up the SRT group bodes well for enthusiasts.

  • avatar

    In the 90s, Ford kind of flirted with this with their SVT (Special Vehicle Team) cars that offered performance improvements over the regular trim lines. The Mustang Cobra, the SVT Contour, the SVT Focus, and the SVT Lightning (and probably a couple of others I forgot about) were all SVT creations. The question is, can Chrysler make SRT a brand that stands by itself, or should it just be the performance equivalent of Mercedes’ AMG, BMW’s M, Nissan’ NISMO, or Mazda’s Mazdaspeed imprint? I can’t imagine a SRT dealer only — they couldn’t be enough volume to support that. And lord knows how poorly regular dealers understand the performance enthusiast market.

    • 0 avatar

      SVT is still very much around (GT500, Raptor) and the larger Global Performance Vehicles umbrella organization (same director is responsible for both) includes Team RS in Europe which did Focus RS C170 (original Focus shape) & C307 (the Green ones you can’t buy in the US), Focus ST C307 (Orange ones you can’t buy in the US) & C346 (new out next year, globally available). the C170 Focus SVT was sold as Focus ST170 in Europe and was a joint program between NA and Europe.

      There is no intention for SRT to have standalone stores, it is a performance sub-brand just like AMG, BMW M or Audi RS. RS/AMG/M are actually set up as unique corporate entities from their parent companies (likely due to some Byzantine German rules or something) but they are fully captive brands. AMG was of course previously an outside tuner, but was bought by Daimler-Benz quite a while ago.

      I believe Giles’ main responsibility will continue to be as head of Design for all traditional Chrysler brands. He was/is heavily involved in the next Viper and will continue to be in his new role. Giles is a 100% legit “car guy”. he used to run his minivan at Waterford Hills (local racetrack in the Detroit area for those not aware) with big brakes, tuned suspension, etc. and I have no doubt that he will do fine in this role.

      The main different here with SRT is that Giles is already a high-ranking exec with SRT as one of his areas. the other performance divisions are led by specific execs who handle _only_ that area and are in general less senior, though no less important or effective.

      GM officially dissolved their Performance Vehicle group during the dark days a few years ago, but they have continued to have some level of development on performance variants, the upcoming Camaro ZL1 being the most visible example. I don’t believe there are any SS-branded vehicles still for sale, but I may be mistaken.

      Mopar is similar to Motorcraft & Ford Racing for Ford – a branding of service (and tuning) parts for Chrysler’s brands. Ford Racing does specific tuner-type parts for Ford, Motorcraft does general service parts. GM Performance Division handles similar for GM vehicles, I don’t think they have a specific brand for general service parts like Mopar or Motorcraft. AC Delco would be the closest equivalent in the past, but they ended up part of Delphi which is no longer part of GM.

  • avatar

    Always thought Subaru could make WRX it’s own brand, as the rest of the standard line-up markets to a whole different set. For Fiatsler an attempt to foster the separation of Eco and Muscle.

  • avatar

    I don’t really see the problem here. The SRT “brand” is not new. From a customer’s perspective, it’s just the name of the top-level performance option package available for some Mopars.

    Mopar “brand” is also not new, as has already been stated above. The stylized-M Mopar logo isn’t even new. Nothing has changed in this regard. Many people that don’t buy performance parts, don’t frequent auto enthusiast chat boards and don’t go to car shows probably don’t even know that the term Mopar exists.

    RAM is not new, but separating it from Dodge was new and not necessary IMO. It doesn’t really change much from a buyer’s perspective. In a way it’s good, because hopefully they’ll stop trying to make the front-end of Dodge cars look the same as Dodge, er, RAM trucks.

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