A mid-cycle refresh for the 2013 Ram 1500 brings about some interesting changes. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 is now available, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission (dubbed the TorqueFlite8). But wait, there’s more.
Chrysler dealers who were terminated and then re-instated have been left out in the cold, after a federal judge ruled that the Federal Appropriations Act, a 2010 law that opened the door for dealers to regain their franchises via arbitration, did not overrule state dealer laws that deal with dealer markets.
While both General Motors and Chrysler are putting their money on Compressed Natural Gas options for their pickup-truck lineups, Ford is going with pretty much everything but CNG as it examines alternative fuel strategies for future vehicles – and for now, the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 will be the standard bearer for light duty versions of the Ford F-Series.
Chrysler is dropping half a billion dollars into an expansion of one of its North American plants, Automotive News [sub] reports. This is where Chrysler will produce (to what degree remains open) its Fiat Ducato van, which will be sold as a Chrysler Ram Van.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler, told reporters in Detroit that this plant will be “the center for production of light-commercial vehicles in North America for us.” Red-white-and-blue blooded flag-wavers may object to the location of the plant. It is about 180 miles southwest of Laredo, Texas. In Saltillo, Mexico. (Read More…)
Once upon a time, the Dodge brand was brimming with pride. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Dodge had it all: affordable compacts, big front-drive cruisers, the hottest trucks on the market, and of course, the Viper. And when the times were good, all of those part melded into one brash, exciting, quintessentially American brand. From Neons and Intrepids, from Rams to Vipers, Dodge could do it all, as long as “it all” included a healthy dash of in-your-face attitude. But over the years, as Dodge’s shining moment faded into memory, the brand has managed to become both less viscerally appealing and less well-rounded. And when Fiat’s leadership stripped Dodge of the Ram “brand,” shucked its designs of their truckish cues, and repositioned Dodge as a more “youthful” and “refined” sporting brand, it seemed as if Dodge as we knew it was dying. Since hearing of Fiat’s plans to bring Alfa stateside, and with Dodge appearing to have lost out in brand alignment product battles, we’ve been wondering for some time now if Dodge isn’t headed out to pasture. Now there’s even more evidence that Dodge is being hollowed out en route to replacement with Alfa, as Automotive News [sub] reports
Absent from the redesigned SRT Viper will be the name Dodge… Viper has been linked to Dodge since the Dodge Viper RT/10 concept debuted in 1989. The first Dodge Viper SRT-10 went on sale in 1992, and over the years 28,056 Vipers were produced, according to Chrysler.
Not any more. Essentially, SRT becomes a brand with its own vehicle, in this case the SRT Viper.
That’s right, Dodge won’t have a Viper or a Ram (or, more prosaically, an Avenger or Caravan). Some might argue that, absent these components, the Dodge name doesn’t mean much of anything anymore. Certainly it doesn’t seem that Dodge can have a particularly bright future without any links to its last moment of glory.
While Chrysler Group sends its Fiat 500 upmarket with Gucci special editions, its sending its Dodge, Chrysler and Ram brands downmarket with a lower prices, 90-days-same-as-cash deals and a variety of tie-ins. First up, the news [via Automotive News [sub]]that Chrysler is cutting the price on 200 and Dodge’s Avenger by $200, and the Dodge Journey by over $1,000 [UPDATE: plus,$3k off Grand Cherokee] is strange indeed. Chrysler’s sales, market share and transaction prices are up, while its incentives and fleet sales are down… and meanwhile, its key competitors are raising prices on increased material costs. Oh, and average transaction prices across the industry have been breaking records all year. With volume slow and prices (as well as costs) rising, Chrysler has no real reason to be lowering prices beyond hunting for volume that may or may not be there. At the expense, it must be added, of profitability. But if you look at Chrysler Group’s most recent maneuvers, it seems that lower prices might not an isolated move on market share. It seems that Chrysler Group is actually strategically positioning itself as the Wal-Mart automaker… literally.
Having kept a relatively low profile since the disastrous “My Tank Is Full” series of ads, Ram is fighting to help keep Chrysler profitable with a new series of ads highlighting the Ram’s connection to “Wild West” values. And like nearly every bit of advertising approved by Chrysler Group ad boss Olivier Francois, it’s heavy on the hyper-sincere schlock, which makes the spots end up feeling like they’re selling a political candidate rather than a truck. And this just as it seemed like truck ads were slowly moving away from some of their previous cliches. Does doubling down on sincerity and the mythical Western ethos make sense as a way for Ram to catch back up on volume it’s lost over the last few years? Or should Ford’s stunning 50%-ish take rate on EcoBoost V6 engines in F-Series be pointing towards a more pragmatic, consumer-needs-oriented marketing campaign? Watch as many of the ads as you like and be sure to let us know where you see the Ram brand and its marketing effort heading.
Trucks are a hot commodity in America. According to a few pickup truck forums, if you’re not some leftist tree hugger, then you either have a pickup truck or want a pickup truck. Truth be told, every time I bought a new car, I secretly wanted a pickup truck: a huge red one-ton diesel pickup truck. So when the US Government Dodge said one would be available for a week, I jumped at the opportunity. Not one week later and occupying four parking spots was that boyhood Tonka-truck dream: an extended bed, dually-equipped 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 SLT Crew Cab 4X4 (seriously, could that name be any longer?), but is the boyhood dream shattered by adult realities?
The enthusiasm for the Fiat coming to the market has diminished. At first, it was something that would be mixed in… now [Fiat-Chrysler is] going to have to present a compelling story and product to back me investing at least $1 million to build a new showroom
Everyone loves the Fiat 500, but Chrysler’s dealers aren’t exactly thrilled that they have to build brand new showrooms to sell the Italian (er, Mexican) subcompact, as witnessed by the quote above in the WSJ [sub]. Another dealer adds that he knows enough troubled MINI and Smart stores to be spooked by the prospect of dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on what will clearly be a niche offering. Yet another calls it an “excellent opportunity,” but Chrysler needs to find 200 qualified dealers to make Fiat’s American adventure a reality. The credit and car markets, gas prices and Fiat’s less-than-stellar American-market legacy all conspire against the scheme. To say nothing of the poor historical precedents for Chrysler’s ballooning brand portfolio. But as usual, CEO Sergio Marchionne has it all figured out…
A year ago, Chrysler used one word to qualify nearly every sales figure it gave in its June 2009 sales report: Retail. Today, Chrysler blithely reports that overall sales were up 35 percent, but fails to use the “R” word even once in its June 2010 release, suggesting that it benefited from heavy fleet sales in the face of an otherwise soggy market. How else do you sell 3,978 Sebrings and 6,400 Avengers in a month? The fact that Dodge saw a 67 percent increase, although that was largely in comparison to the utterly wretched June the brand endured last year. In fact, compared to its relatively strong May performance of 104,819 units, Chrysler shed about 10k sales, falling to 92,482 total sales. That’s under the 95k monthly “survival” rate cited by CEO Sergio Marchionne. All this while Chrysler spends an estimated $1.4b on advertising this year. This, to paraphrase another automotive blogger, is beyond the valley of the not so good.
As the Dodge brand redefines itself with new lifestyle packages, new ads, events and sponsorships, and a slew of upcoming new products, it’s using its brand name to send a clear message that its “forever young” attitude and performance-driven history will drive the brand into the future.
The new Dodge brand logo features the DODGE name with a pair of red racing stripes relative to the “E,” suggesting speed and agility. Dodge designers sketched the new logo after Dodge and Ram Truck were clearly defined as separate brands with their own identities and consumers, each needing a logo that represents the character of the brand.
The twin red graphic stripes will be used in communications, advertising, internet and merchandising. They will not appear on Dodge products or on the dealership signage.
Hyundai made a proposal to Chrysler earlier this year under which the U.S. automaker would build a truck for Hyundai based on Chrysler’s Ram truck platform… Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne rebuffed Hyundai’s initial approach in February… saying the automaker needs to focus on its established turnaround plans under Fiat SpA. But Hyundai continues to look at truck options and could come back to Chrysler, according to two of those with knowledge of the talks, who were not authorized to discuss the matter because the closed-door discussions were preliminary.
Ram sales were down 23 percent last month, down 20 percent calendar-year-to-date, and down 24.3 percent in rolling 12-month totals. Hyundai is doing just fine without a pickup. Chrysler may have been crazy to turn down a shot at easy volume (that might have gone to Nissan), but Hyundai would be crazier still to ask a second time. After all, Volkswagen’s Chrysler rebadge, the Routan minivan, has sold only 14,580 units in the last 12 months.
To say that Chrysler’s 25 percent year-over-year sales increase last month came as a surprise would be pushing the boundaries of overstatement. Chrysler’s sales and market share have been in decline for a long time, but over the past several years, the tailspin seemed to have become terminal. So, how did the Pentastar (barely) make its 95k minimum volume level and increase sales by 25 percent over April 2009? Fleet sales, for one thing: according to The Freep, TrueCar.com estimates that a full 40 percent of Chrysler’s April sales went to fleet customers.No wonder made a big deal about publicly finding Jesus on the fleet sales issue… at the end of the month (to say nothing of the conspicuous absence of retail sales numbers in its April report and massive increase in Sebring sales). And the bad news doesn’t end there. Not only did Chrysler top all automakers in per-vehicle incentives last month according to Edmunds’ monthly True Cost Of Incentives index with $3,374 on the average Mopar’s hood, they’re actually increasing incentives even further.
Chrysler sold exactly 399 more vehicles in February than it did in February of 2009, which would be a respectable performance if the comparison weren’t with one of Chrysler’s worst months on record. GM may be tentatively nosing its way out of the bottom of a sales trough, but Chrysler is treading water at unsustainable levels (CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he “needs” Chrysler to sell 1.1m units in the US this year). Considering that a huge amount of Chrysler’s sales release [PDF format here] is spent detailing the company’s many consumer incentives, Marchionne’s goal of turning ChryCo into a 1.1m-unit, incentive-less juggernaut seems less realistic with every passing month.
Does it seem like we were just discussing Chrysler’s brand confusion? Somehow the situation has gotten worse. Just as Chrysler dealers are starting to get their new Ram brand signage up, Ram CEO Fred Diaz Jr had to go and confuse everyone all over again about just what Ram means.
They’re still going to be saying they drive a Dodge Ram. We’re just going to be marketing it as a Ram without ‘Dodge’ in front. Once you explain to the consumer what you’re doing and why, they get it
Or not. Whatever. Ram trucks will continue to have Dodge VINs and will carry references to Dodge “somewhere” Diaz tells Automotive News [sub]. But don’t worry. According to Diaz, the Chrysler Group is “devising a plan that will give compelling missions for each brand.” You know, just in case things are still a little confusing.