Fast online response is factor in Chrysler's surge
Reid Bigland said Chrysler's trip through bankruptcy left the company “politicized, criticized and ostracized.”
DETROIT -- Chrysler Group's ongoing sales resurgence is the result of the methodical way the automaker is managing its business, as well as refocused efforts by its dealers to follow up on digital leads, its head of U.S. and Canadian sales said.
Reid Bigland, 45, who also heads the automaker's Dodge brand, told the Automotive News World Congress that dealers must have an online presence and must be responsive to potential customers who come through the digital doorway.
"If you don't have an online presence, you're going to be at a significant disadvantage," Bigland said.
He said that in 2011, Chrysler Group dealers didn't even respond to 31 percent of leads that came into their dealership. Those dealers that did respond took an average of 20 hours to do so. That resulted in lost sales, he said.
Today, after a number of interventions -- including tying a portion of factory field rep wages to dealer response times -- Bigland said the average response time for 95 percent of dealer Internet leads has been cut to less than one hour.
Bigland said that Chrysler Group's 33-month string of year-over-year U.S. sales gains through December is "indicative of the methodical system in which we run the business." He contrasted it to the "old Chrysler," which used a less disciplined, scattershot approach and saw monthly sales reports bounce up and down.
In retelling the story of the automaker's resurgence, Bigland said pre-bankruptcy Chrysler in 2008 had "bad ownership, bad values and bad sales." He said the company's captive finance arm in 2008, Chrysler Financial, was "missing in action" when the credit crisis hit, further exacerbating Chrysler's tenuous market position at the time.
Bigland also said Chrysler's trip through bankruptcy left the company "politicized, criticized and ostracized" before it "got back up" and got back to work. "There's no question that we could have scored a little higher on style points with respect to how that whole process was handled," he said. "But one thing that I think is undeniable is its effectiveness."
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