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.