Chrysler grows in Europe on a small budget

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The Chrysler group aims to expand in Europe without spending a lot on marketing, a top executive says.

Instead of an extensive print and broadcast campaign, Chrysler will rely on word-of-mouth marketing and public relations initiatives to promote new-vehicle launches, says Thomas Hausch, Chrysler's vice president of international sales. The company used the same strategy last year when it relaunched the Dodge brand in Europe.

One reason for the low-key marketing approach: New models have limited availability.

Production of vehicles such as the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass is shared with Chrysler's core North American market. So the automaker is restricting supply to international markets.

“We cannot produce enough yet,” Hausch says. “So on this one, we're very careful we do not spend so much on marketing that we disappoint the customers.”

Viral marketing

Chrysler plans to launch a record eight models internationally this year.

Without being more specific, Hausch says launch spending will be considerable.

Chrysler relaunched its Dodge brand in Europe last year “on a budget,” Hausch says. “It worked well.”

Tactics such as covering the walls of Paris subway stations last fall with images of Dodge vehicles helped create buzz for the Caliber lower-medium hatchback. The result was that demand for the Caliber outpaced expectations, Hausch says.

Dodge also used viral Internet ads to promote last year's Dodge launch. Viral ads urge consumers to pass along marketing messages contained in online short films, e-mails or special events.

Ram tattoo

The viral ads, timed to coincide with last year's Geneva auto show, featured edgy story lines and characters who show signs of strength after the Dodge ram's head logo appears on them as a rash or tattoo.

By year end, Chrysler plans to offer 20 models under its Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands in international markets, says Michael Manley, Chrysler's executive vice president for international sales, marketing and business development. That will include the eight new or updated models for 2007, he says.

“It's something our dealers have been waiting for,” Manley says.

The Dodge Avenger sedan is being introduced in Europe this spring and summer, an official says. The Dodge Nitro SUV will arrive this summer.

The Jeep Compass crossover went on sale in Europe at the end of last year.

In March, Jeep began selling the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, plus a two-door Wrangler with a diesel engine. The Jeep Patriot medium crossover will be introduced this summer.

Early this year, the Chrysler brand introduced its next-generation Sebring sedan. The Sebring convertible will follow in the summer.

In 2006, Chrysler says it sold 120,429 vehicles in Europe, including eastern Europe and Russia. c

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com
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