By on November 4, 2009

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The problem with branding exercises like Chrysler’s decision to split Ram from Dodge, is that they tend towards abstraction. Luckily, the back-from-the-dead Nitro is a good case study for how this split will play out. You might think that based on its aggressive styling and upright stance that it would make sense as a Ram-branded vehicle. But you’d be wrong. It will actually be positioned as a youth-market vehicle, within the Dodge brand. Hit the jump for an official concept of the Nitro’s possible repackaging.

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And here it is. What this image illustrates is how lost the Dodge brand appears to have become. Because the Ram line overshadowed and helped define so many Dodge products, the re-branding of Dodge is a huge challenge. So apparently it’s turning into an mass-market Scion. As Dodge’s CEO Ralph Gilles put it, New Dodge products should “feel like niche products while offering mass-market appeal,” because “there are no more niches.” But if Gilles admits that Dodge’s problems flowed from trying to be all things to all people, removing the single element that tied it all together (Ram-ness) doesn’t seem to solve anything.

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32 Comments on “Dodge Versus Ram Case Study: Nitro...”


  • avatar
    impreza_13

    Wait, that’s what the “new” Nitro might look like? Aside from wheels that I could likely get at a steep discount from TireRack.com, and the pinstripe – how is this different?

  • avatar
    MBella

    This is a joke right? They didn’t actually have this at one of their presentations did they?

    There is no way Chrysler can survive this. The new cars won’t come until 2012, and even then they will need at least three years to get some sort of reputation.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    Just make cars that don’t have the worst reputation for reliability and the branding problems will take care of themselves.

  • avatar
    ajla

    They can’t re-define the Dodge brand if they keep the crosshair grill. That’s a major Ram styling cue.

    Why not adopt the Challenger’s grill? Black or body color honeycomb/grid-style pattern with a chrome surround and the model designation in the bottom corner.

    Might look kind of Audi-ish on the Nitro, but at least it’d be different from the Ram brand.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    All these presentations have proven is how badly Chrysler needs to hire a PowerPoint expert and better Photochop artist. I’ve seen better and more professional slides by high schoolers.

  • avatar
    Mr. Sparky

    Not only is the Dodge/Ram separation a bad idea of Edsel proportions, they can’t figure out a coherent way to do it.

    How can Dodge be “cars” if it selling SUV styled CUVs? If it looks like a truck, in the mind of consumers it is a truck.

    Let’s create a new brand and use it to confuse both the original and new brands even more.

    Fiat makes GM look brillant. That’s an achievement

  • avatar
    sean362880

    I’m just gonna say what I think we’re all thinking – Ralph has been given the job of lying through his teeth. He’s killing time until the right moment for Fiat to take Dodge out behind the shed and shoot it. Leaving Ram, which was, is, and will be the only profitable bit of Dodge left.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    Well the new white Nitro is more “white” than the old white Nitro.

  • avatar
    Frank IBC

    The “new” Nitro looks even more like the Cherokee now. What’s the point of having a separate model?

  • avatar
    Frank IBC

    The only point in having a “Ram” brand is so that one or two of the truck models can be salvaged, transferred to Jeep (renamed “Jeep-Ram”) and the remainder of the Dodge lineup scrapped.

  • avatar

    This is what magicians call distraction. The Ram is only thing salvageable from Dodge. Fiatsler is hiving it off so it can kill everything else Dodge-branded prior to liquidation. I repeat: Dodge is dead. These plans are a head fake.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    @ajla

    The Crossbar grill has been on almost everything Dodge since the mid-eighties.. Cars included. I’d say it’s more Dodge specific than Ram truck specific.

    Probably not a big deal if they continue to use it on both brands for a while, not next to the rest of the problems they have with Chrysler.

    edit: they already tried getting rid of the Dodge brand in Canada, it didn’t go well. Plymouth stayed dead though.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @mistrernee:

    The Crossbar grill has been on almost everything Dodge since the mid-eighties. Cars included.

    That’s true. My Diplomat has one.
    _________________
    However, with the grill in its current big and imposing form, I think of it today more in relation to the ’94 Ram than anything else. Maybe others don’t.

    I still think that if a major reason for shooting off “Ram” was to give Dodge a new identity then different grills for the two brands would only help the situation.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Why is it all of the concept pictures have this fuzzy cheapness reminiscent of the publicity art Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth used in the 70’s? And as for the new Nitro, I haven’t seen anything so contrived since the 1976 Roadrunner.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The problem with the Nitro is that it’s essentially a cute-ute in the Escape/RAV4/CRV idiom, but it’s a truckish vehicle.

    So, conceptually, yes, I’d say the Nitro fits in a car line versus a truck line. And I’d say a fair number of buyers might want a more “youth-oriented,” aggressive CUV, since the ones out there tend to be mommy-mobiles.

    The problem is that THIS Nitro, as is, isn’t a natural fit.

    My guess is that they let this model soldier on for a couple of years before they can introduce a proper cute-ute. But in the meantime, it makes sense to reposition the current model and milk it for a few more sales. Why not?

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    This is one of those low moments in today’s presentation – where FIATSLER has nothing new to offer. So, they put some lipstick on an existing model, maybe a couple of new badges or a grill, then walk around the room flapping their arms and proclaim, “See, we can fly”.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OldandSlow :
    November 4th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    This is one of those low moments in today’s presentation – where FIATSLER has nothing new to offer. So, they put some lipstick on an existing model, maybe a couple of new badges or a grill, then walk around the room flapping their arms and proclaim, “See, we can fly”.

    OK, so you tell me.

    What’s better: having a product that ain’t quite up to snuff to sell, or having nothing to sell?

    Yeah, clearly, this “upgraded” Nitro is a Pep Boys job. But they have to have something to sell in this market segment until something better can replace it.

    Put differently: the thing can’t sell any worse than it does.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    panzerfaust :
    November 4th, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Why is it all of the concept pictures have this fuzzy cheapness reminiscent of the publicity art Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth used in the 70’s? And as for the new Nitro, I haven’t seen anything so contrived since the 1976 Roadrunner.

    I believe Mr. Niedermeyer was using a digital camera to snap pics of these presentations. That might explain it.

  • avatar
    carve

    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
    jaje

    Typical Chrysler stupidity. It is quite simple what they can do.

    Ram – Trucks and truck based SUVs only. Keep current styling.

    Jeep – Trail Rated SUVs only – no car based anything. Keep current styling.

    Dodge – Car based cars and trucks only. No truck based. Change to different grill to differentiate. Load it up with Fiat rebadges in this brand only.

    Chrysler – close up this brand.

  • avatar
    Frank IBC

    So which Alfa models are going to sell better? The ones made in Italy and sold as “Alfa Romeo”, or those made in The USA Mexico and sold as “Chrysler” or “Dodge”?

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    I think it would make more sense to make the Dodge brand trucks only, and resurrect Plymouth for entry level and stripper cars, or keep Dodge for cars but resurrect Fargo for trucks (or was Fargo only in Canada?)

  • avatar
    Monty

    I dunno…Marchionne seems to have galvanized the Auburn Hills gang into action. Chrysler/Fiat have at least come up with some long term plan, and have demostrated some transparency and openess. Sorry, but compared to the RenCen group it seems as though Chrysler/Fiat at least have a game plan and some viable ideas to get them through the next 18 months. Whether you agree with their plans is moot, at least they have something going forward, unlke GM which just seems to be reacting to recent events and not doing any long term planning.

    Give them some credit. Maybe they’re wrong, but at least Chrysler is attempting to be proactive.

  • avatar

    sad

  • avatar
    Frank IBC

    GM has culled the herd. Chrysler/Fiat has put lipstick on the herd and hope that it lasts until 2012.

  • avatar
    50merc

    The new look for the Nitro makes it a perfect ride for a Star Wars storm trooper.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I believe Mr. Niedermeyer was using a digital camera to snap pics of these presentations. That might explain it.

    Yeah that would explain it. I’ll take my meds and go to bed now.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    so…

    basically it looks like they are bringing out the ‘bling’ to the aspiring young who want to be like their favorite rapper?

    big blinging rims on low profile tyres? monotone paint? stripes? limo tint? clear indicators? i assume big booming stereos and TVs?

    this is what they come up with?

    these guys are gonna be dead soon

  • avatar
    shaker

    The Nitro is comic relief from an otherwise sad, sad story.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The Ram is only thing salvageable from Dodge.

    Robert, are you suggesting that the Challenger is going to vanish? Just wondering.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    I’m probably very much in the minority here but I like the Nitro better than its Jeep sibling, the Liberty, which to me looks silly and contrived with its faux fenders. The newer, more squared-off liberty is an improvement over the cutesy-poo original, but I still like the Nitro better.

    I think the Nitro is a cleaner design, somewhat reminiscent of a late 90’s XJ Cherokee.

    Does the Nitro have the same underpinnings as the Liberty with a 2 speed transfer case?

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    Can someone please PLEASE tell me the point of the Nitro.

    And what YOUTH appeal they are talking about.. especially when all of the “youth” are driving around in 4yr old Burbans completely empty…

    What exactly does a Nitro do.. that others cant. Besides belong to a govt owned company?


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