In August, the company will announce major initiatives for the Internet that will be carried out this year.
"That's where all advertising is going to go in the future," says Deborah Meyer, Chrysler's chief marketing officer.
In the fourth quarter of 2007, Meyer formed a dealer Internet advisory panel. Her goal: Improve interaction between company and dealer Web sites to help Chrysler respond quickly to sales leads, tailor messages to individual customers and manage those relationships.
Dodge dealer Wes Lutz, owner of Extreme Dodge-Hyundai in Jackson, Mich., and a member of Meyer's Internet panel, has served on the national dealer council, the dealer ad association and regional dealer boards.
"I've got to tell you this panel is moving at light speed, faster than I've ever been on at Chrysler," says Lutz. "Deb Meyer is really moving this thing on."
The enthusiasm is mutual from Chrysler, which often has boasted that it can move more quickly under private ownership.
"The Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep dealers are embracing this. I've never seen a faster-moving dealer body," Meyer said in an interview in her suburban Detroit office.
-- Improve interaction between Chrysler and dealer Web sites
-- Speed response time to Internet-generated sales leads
-- Tailor messages to individual customers
Meyer hopes she can incorporate the best suggestions from the dealer panel and ideas from outside the company. She also is looking at other industries, including hospitality and financial services.
"We're working on an aggressive lead management program with third parties," said Meyer, who declined to identify those parties.
To make the Internet work, a speedy response is critical, says Michael Gillespie, owner of Gillespie Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Midlothian, Ill. Gillespie says that five years ago, he was a computer novice. Now he's a key player on Meyer's Internet panel. He says the Net can help Chrysler grab customers from import brands.
Gillespie built his business by luring customers to his inner-city store by responding quickly to their online queries.
"We answered their inquiries within 10 minutes," he says. "The first step is to have a site that is functional and generates leads. Second, when they go to search for you, be sure you're found. Third, when you're found, be sure you answer it in a timely fashion."
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com