By on November 4, 2009

Heading in the wrong direction. Still.

Dodge brand boss Ralph Gilles has made his presentation on the future of the Ram-head brand. First up: it’s not the Ram-head brand anymore. Beginning next year, Dodge will be represented by the word “Dodge” in black with red accents. According to Gilles, the de-Ramification of Dodge was due to the fact that trucks were dominating brand perceptions. “Mojo” seems to be Dodge’s new buzzword du jour, along with the tagline cool × fun=Dodge. In addition, Dodge will be getting away from the “base, mid, high” trim level ladder to a “lifestyle-based” trim level system. In the future, Dodges will be available in the following trims: “sweet and simple,” “fun and practical,” “uptown luxury,” “thrill seeker,” and “cool extroverted.”

DSC_0601 800These trim levels will debut with the revamped Caliber interior, and a few slides indicate how this will be executed (comparison shots coming in a separate post). The Avenger and Journey will be the next models to be refreshed in the new marketing-mad mold, with an “even more dramatic” revamp of the Caravan to follow. The substance of these revamps amounts to new interiors, refreshed exteriors and “improved NVH, comfort, convenience and performance.” Only the Caravan will receive new engines.

Further down the road, there’s a new Charger and a seven-passenger CUV formerly known as the Durango. By 2012, new Fiat-based products (C, D segment sedans, B segment hatch), but in the meantime, Dodge will have to rely on new interiors, refreshed exteriors and a lot of marketing. That’s not much to go on for the next several years.

DSC_0605 800

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45 Comments on “Dodge: Refresh and Market Like Hell...”

  • avatar

    Anyone there mention improving build quality?

  • avatar

    Gee whiz, I would think its simpler and more profitable to make reliable vehicles that people want to buy than to implement this garbage. So what happens when this fails (as it will), does the customer get blamed or will they fire the engineers to smarten them up.

    I guess I must be old as this sounds like total nonsense to me and is indicative why Dodge is heading into the toilet.

  • avatar

    Well, as I was reading the article, I thought it was tongue in cheek. Then I got the uneasy suspicion that it was serious. Then I realized that these guys really don’t get it!

  • avatar

    The way they are going Chrysler/Dodge might not make it to 2012. Marketing hype claiming to be all things to all people won’t staunch the slide downward.

    What needed innovations that Daimler short changed, Cerberus pretty much killed. You can’t enhance build quality by reassembling the same tacky components.

  • avatar

    Oh boy, this is not good. This all sounds very 1990’s to me. “Lifestyle -based” trim level system they’ve got to be kidding. If anything people will be less likely to buy a car where you have to ask for the “cool extroverted” trim.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Once again, we cool introverts get left out.

  • avatar

    john.fritz, there’s a whole separate presentation on that.

    I’m assuming they’ll be updating this throughout the day, but currently they have the Dodge, quality, and product development presentations up.

    I kind of like the idea “lifestyle trims” idea, although I will never buy a Charger “cool extroverted”, maybe a Charger ES or a Charger R/T though.

  • avatar

    So Dodge trim levels will just about cover the entire buying public. That kind of focus should work well.

  • avatar

    maybe they do have a chance –

    “Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the automaker is on firmer financial footing as it attempts to revive the company’s sagging fortunes.

    Chrysler is announcing a new business plan at a daylong event Wednesday, including the introduction of three new Dodge cars by 2013 and new exteriors, interiors and engines on most of its current lineup.

    A key component of the plan is a midsize sedan based on a bulked up Fiat design. Chrysler hopes the car will make it more competitive in midsize sedans, the largest segment of the U.S. car market.

    Marchione says Chrysler had $5.7 billion in cash at the end of September, up more than a billion dollars since the company emerged from bankruptcy protection in June. He also says Chrysler was breaking even for the month of September.”

  • avatar

    If those new ‘target’ customers show up on my lot, I’m calling the police.

    Good luck getting THAT audience financed.


  • avatar
    Seth L

    Oh man, just saw the updated pics. I want to slap everyone in that picture.

    Oh boy, this is not good. This all sounds very 1990’s to me.

    Bingo, you know they could hae made it very arch, and well, anti-90’s marketthink, trim levels to include:

    The Dangerous Loner
    The Paranoid Delusional
    The Agressivly Stupid
    The Hipster Idiot

  • avatar

    Arrgghhhh. Its amazing how Chrysler has never managed to internalize anything about effective marketing. And by “marketing” I mean everything from segmentation to naming strategy to product appearance to dealer network.

    Refreshed calibers, class leading minivans, splitting trucks off into their own brands?

    That’s the sound of deck chairs being shifted around the Titanic.

  • avatar
    George B

    I obviously don’t understand marketing. I would have assumed Dodge is dead in the market based on their low sales numbers even with lots of cash on the hood. Wouldn’t the best use of Fiat’s and Chrysler’s engineers be a accelerated program to get Fiat’s certified for sale in the US at former Dodge dealerships ASAP? Why try to resuscitate a crap brand?

  • avatar

    And just the other day I caught myself thinking, “Man, Dodge is a really wise brand.”

  • avatar

    There is a separate presentation on improving build quality.

    Read it for yourself and see if it makes sense. For me, there was some good stuff among all the usual corporate-speak.

  • avatar

    If GM were smart, they’d do a presentation like this. Anyone listening there?

  • avatar

    The point is, silly as the whole enterprise sounds (ok IS). They still need to try to get Dodge’s image in-line with what FIAT will bring to the table. Right now, they have no image. People only buy Dodges because of price, loyalty (to family probably) or sheer inertia. If they are going to try to get out of the bottom of the market, they have to act like they’re up-market, and hope that reality catches up quick enough.

    The idea is right, of course the buzz words are silly, and I wouldn’t bet on it working. Hyundai managed something like this, but they could retreat for a few years. It’s the only thing that COULD save them (getting back into the profitable mass-market). That said, knowing what you have to do and doing it are 2 different things.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    As I read the comments above, what I’m mainly hearing is “I don’t know much about market segmentation and re-positioning a brand is not a key part of my job responsibilities” :-o

    Yes, I think the boys at F-Chry already understand you don’t like the brand. That’s part of the reason they want to reposition it. Yes, you may well not be part of a certain demographic that they are interested in, but one of your dollars is worth roughly, one of their dollars.

    What I find most remarkable is how transparent and detailed F-Chry are being with their long term planning. Compare this to the hype and desperate short-term gimmicks that have been coming out of the RenCen post Ch.11. It kind f makes you realise that they’ve got a plan and seem like they are going to execute on it. I sometimes wonder if GM are run around the concept of “good idea of the day”.

  • avatar

    Dodges will be available in the following trims: “sweet and simple,” “fun and practical,” “uptown luxury,” “thrill seeker,” and “cool extroverted.”

    They left out ‘dumb and dumber.’

  • avatar

    Ralph Gilles is my new hero!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Mojo” seems to be Dodge’s new buzzword du jour

    Oh boy, sounds like they have been reading, or paying, Mr. Autoextremist.

    BTW, Saab tried that nifty buzzwords to define trim levels shtick. Sure worked for them!

  • avatar

    I didn’t think it was possible to appeal to people who looked more ridiculous than Harley-Davidson riders, but I was wrong. Good going, Dodge.

  • avatar

    Marketing people are so weird.

    I swear, they just like to change things up. Look at Windows, where one branding crew tried to make us all feel constantly inferior by attaching already-old dates to the name of a new product (95, 98, 2K). The next generation went to letter designations (ME, XP) then names (Vista), and now back to the original numeric designations (7).

    None of that BS ever changed the thing that mattered, which was the ummm… what’s that thing we sell?

  • avatar

    I think Tricky Dicky is the only one here understanding the ordeal and not here for the cheap laughs and snide remarks.
    While I know that i’m no marketing guru, its also clear that most here aren’t either.
    The vauge, broad remarks about branding were appropritate (ok some…were really cheezy) While this isn’t the whole “perception gap” idea, it kinda is in some way. Each brand needs some direction, some kind of continuance, and I think that Fiat is trying its hardest. Dodge it seems has way more of a coherence… than Buick does. But the negative nancies and debbie downer’s will pull a cheap joke out and just lament the fact that this company still has the doors open.

  • avatar

    I fear it may require a lot more that youthful marketing to move their existing product, even if it does get improved interiors, there simply is nothing youthful about a Dodge Avenger.

    The other issue is the time line – given their free-fall in sales, they must be very confident of plenty more government cheese if they think they can last until 2012 without significant new product.

  • avatar

    I’m so exited. i hope I can find a dodge dealer open to purchase one of these exiting new dodge vehicles.

    The highest performing DCJ dealer in the area just lost their floorplan and one of the partners commited suicide.

  • avatar

    I will rapidly and vehemently deny any expertise on marketing right now.

    However, if someone tries to convince me of something that my 5 or so senses and empirical data disagree with, I skip disinterest right on over to dislike. Questionable honesty isn’t equated with marketing, is it? If you have trouble selling on your merits, it may be time to work on your merits, not your marketing.

  • avatar

    I’m getting impatient. I have to wait to 2010, 2011, 2012, 2112 for a Jeep Linguine, Chrysler Pizza, or Dodge Alfredo?

  • avatar

    As we all know their biggest challenge is remaining viable until the new models arrive. Good luck with that no matter what marketing spin is put on it.

    Unless there’s more federal money available I don’t think they can survive long enough to get the new models to market. Hope I’m wrong.

  • avatar

    How do you spell mediocrity? M A R K E T I N G

  • avatar

    To sum up: CrisisCorp was at death’s door and got handed over to Fiat. Now the Auburn Hills boys have prepared a new plan for success: Future vehicles will be screwed together better, have nicer interiors, ride quieter and smoother, be more economical on fuel, and break down less often.

    That’s a wonderful new plan. What’s not to like! The guys who worked that up must be geniuses.

    Oh, say, what was the old plan? I assume it called for shoddy, noisy, uneconomical and unreliable cars with crappy interiors.

  • avatar

    saponeta: “i hope I can find a dodge dealer open to purchase one of these exiting new dodge vehicles.”

    At first I thought you forgot to put the “c” in “exciting” but on second thought decided “exiting” is just the right word for Dodge.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Talk, and Powerpoint presentations, are cheap! These guys are trying to become the Apple of car companies.

    Show us the hardware.

    This stuff has a higher vapor content than GM’s Volt program.

    Actually, though, it would be impossible for me to care less. For the rest of my life,I won’t buy a Fiat-Chrysler product, even if you put a gun to my head.

    (I hereby nominate Far-Chry as the new Chrysler nom de blog….because any product produced by this shotgun wedding of a company will be a “Far Cry” from the old MOPAR’s we remember from back in the day…..)

  • avatar
    George B

    When I think of Dodge, I think of some of the less than positive product placement in comedy.

    Married With Children: Once when someone stole the car, Al’s neighbor Marcy chastised him for leaving the car out on garbage day. Al once proclaimed “Dodge says something special about you.” Peg (Katey Sagal) his wife countered “Damn right. ‘I failed.\'”

    SNL Daughter: You mean your lame Dodge Stratus? … Dad: I drive a Dodge Stratus!! You don’t talk about my Dodge Stratus that way!! Daughter: Shut up!

  • avatar

    Talk, and Powerpoint presentations, are cheap! These guys are trying to become the Apple of car companies.

    If they were the Apple of automobilia, they’d a) be making money, b) selling products people want to buy and c) pulling the “Oh, and one more thing…” at the end of the presentation.

    This isn’t really a bad idea. The young, urban market is an important one to get a toehold in**, and you’re not going to get it the “That thing got a Hemi?” brand. Chrysler had a taste of it with the 300/Magnum, but since missed the boat.

    Selling Alfas and FIATs as Dodges is not a bad way to do this. They have some product with real youth appeal and could make life uncomfortable for traditional North American youth- or alternative brands, especially Mazda and VW. The trick will be getting people to trust them; they’ll pretty much have to take a page from Hyundai’s playbook on this.

    ** because you want to keep those customers, and prevent them from buying their first Civic and never considering you again

  • avatar

    I was hoping that Dodge would revert to the Fratzog logo.

    I followed CommanderFish’s link and opened-up Gilles’ presentation. Question: Which “lifestyle” is represented by the white Dodge Nitro whose owner can’t figure out that yellow hashed lines mean “don’t park here”?

    Also, look at the pic on the page “Future Product Philosophy”. Have they released official pics of the next Charger yet, or is that a sneak peek of it?

  • avatar

    Goodness me, I think I just had a flashback to all the Gartner Group four-squares I’ve had to look at for the past eight years.

  • avatar

    Those trim-level names are cringe-inducing. I wonder how much they paid the marketers who thought those up?

    Fast forwarded 20 years. In the unlikely event Chrysler is still around, someone will have a grand idea

    “Hey guys- lets combine Dodge & Ram into one full-offering brand, like Chevy, Toyota, Ford, and Nissan!”

    I think the smart thing to do would be keep it how it is. If shuffeling is necessary, I say send the big trucks to Jeep (which has a better brand reputation than Dodge/Ram anyway). Then let Dodge become the economical work-a-day cars, and make Chrysler the sport/luxury division like a slightly lower end shadow of BMW or Cadillac. Make the Viper a Chrysler (it’s already a Chrysler in Europe)

    They’re going to have a tough time moving Dodge upmarket (or Chrysler for that matter, but it isn’t as much of a stretch as Dodge). Dodge cars have a reputation of being a low-end shitbox version of their Chrysler counterparts, except the Viper and Challenger, which have a reputation as fat old man gold-chain wearing midlife crisis cars.

  • avatar

    I agree with CarGuy622. Could you imagine saying “I’ll take my Dodge Caravan in with the Thrill Seeker package!” That might’ve had at least a shot in the dark of working in 1993, but no WAY today. It’s almost like they’re trying to intentionally sink the brand. Maybe that’s Fiat’s plan: do bad and get tax dollars.

    I wonder if Ram will get these trim levels. I’d like to see a full-size panel van with the “free candy” or “creepy molesty” trim level. How about the broke-ass introvert package? I am going to LOVE THIS if the name of the trim package comes on an exterior badge!

  • avatar

    Those people in the pic, they have money to buy a new Dodge?

  • avatar

    Sometimes when you try to hard you end up hoping more than making your future brighter. The “Ram” brand is a classic trying to hard moment. People might perceive the separation from the parent Dodge brand as new Coke thing and wonder why. The cars on the track at NASCAR events are Dodges not RAM’s and so the seperation is confusing.

    The changing of interiors is a FAIL because people are not attracted to cars and trucks because they have nice interiors. They are attracted to them by their exterior appeal and the interior in many cases close the deal.

    The problem I see on the horizon is, dealers front the rebate money for the mfg’s when they pay for the vehicles when they are sold and wait weeks for the money to be paid. Warrantied parts and labor can rack up a big bill over a month’s time, and when do they become worried enough about getting paid that they stop fronting money to the mfg’s. The Jenga piece gets pulled and it all collapses.

    Many dealers are in a very precarious financial position and at some point say to themselves, hell I can pick my bankruptcy date, let the mfg’s and whoever has the floor plan twist in the wind and plan so they get as much of the money their mfg owes them and go play golf.

  • avatar

    Man god damn..

    Thats [NSFW] awful!

    For crying OUT LOUD, give us some more POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS!

    Im also PO’ED at how ol’ PETE ( was talking about mass cancellation of the majority of what they had..

    Now its all going to get reskinned and sold to more stupid [NSFW] (Caliber, Nitro, Journey, Compass, Liberty, WRANGLER Ultimate AND COMMANDER) who couldn’t operate a stick or the awd unit to save their lives! NTM autoblog did a piece about the FIAT PANDA– this dirtbox could be re-skinned as a J E E P!!! Since when did 4 wheels and some glass be Jeep’s only requirement to BE a Jeep!?!

    What a sad and pathetic company Fiatsler is..

    I’d really like to see the local dealerships.. spend a coupla bux to spruce up the place.. and not make it look like a relic from the 70s in Moscow!

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    +1 50merc

    I got a chuckle from your new versus old marketing plan changes.

  • avatar

    50merc wrote:

    Oh, say, what was the old plan? I assume it called for shoddy, noisy, uneconomical and unreliable cars with crappy interiors.

    If it was, they executed perfectly!

  • avatar

    Yes, I think the boys at F-Chry already understand you don’t like the brand. That’s part of the reason they want to reposition it. Yes, you may well not be part of a certain demographic that they are interested in, but one of your dollars is worth roughly, one of their dollars.

    True dat. My Gen-Y son’s dollar is worth just as much as mine. Of course, I have rather more of them than he does. He just got his first real job and is now positioned to spend half his adult life paying off student loans. OTOH, my wife and I are empty nesters, with the mortgage on the nest paid off. But OK, make commercials that try to be hip like the “Cube” commercials. Market to people who don’t have any money. What do I care? In a couple years I can get my AARP card, and then I’m eligible to buy a Buick. When it comes to considering a Dodge, I’d really rather have a Buick.

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