Q&A: Dodge's aim: Appeal to young Europeans who want masculine car designs

Detroit. Led by the Viper SRT-10 sports car, DaimlerChrysler is launching the Dodge brand in Europe. Thomas Hausch, Chrysler sales director responsible for international sales, gave insight into the long-term strategy for the Dodge brand when he talked with Automobilwoche's Wolfgang Eschment and Franz W. Rother.

Is there a market for the Dodge brand?

We did intensive market research for Dodge in 2001 and again in 2004. We found that there are young customers in Europe who are looking for cars with masculine design at affordable prices. Currently, only Seat and Mazda cover that niche.

Will the investment pay off?

Before making this decision we did a market analysis that excluded national providers as competitors. After we estimated the volume we decided the project will pay its own way, even when looking at it conservatively. We are on the safe side here.

When will Dodge arrive?

[Sales of] the homologated version of the Dodge Viper SRT-10 started Europewide earlier the year. That was the brand's official start in Europe. We haven't spent any money on advertising yet. We will introduce a possible concept for the lower-medium segment at the Geneva auto show. And in 2006, we will launch the first Dodge volume model in Europe. It won't be a Neon successor, but will be an lower-medium model.

How many model series will you offer in Europe?

More than two. With the Viper, even more than three.

Will there also be a pickup?

It's possible a small group of people would be keen on a Dodge RAM. However, three years ago we came up with the motto "disciplined pizzazz." It stands for powerful creativity with moderation. Of course, we would love to offer all Dodge models worldwide. But not everything that is nice also pays off for a company. And being disciplined also includes business discipline.

With whom will you develop the lower-medium car?

Our cooperation with Mitsubishi for both the C and D segments will continue. There will be more vehicles built on that basis.

How will Dodge be distributed?

We want to sell Dodge through our Chrysler and Jeep dealer network. The three brands work well together under the same roof. Chrysler is a premium brand, Dodge stands for affordable performance. And because the cars are very independent -- we no longer practice badge engineering -- there is no danger of a cannibalism effect.

How much of the total Chrysler unit sales in western Europe could be represented by the Dodge brand?

Between 20 and 30 percent in 2007. This would be a market share of more than 1 percent.

A lot of marketing might be necessary to achieve this.

We have set aside sufficient finances for the launch of Dodge. The product should and will define the brand.

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