DEALER COUNCIL LEADERS

Profits too small for Fiat, SRT

The 2014 Viper: Re-evaluate the marketing plan.
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Chrysler Group should work to improve the profitability of its Fiat and SRT brands, the new chairman of the Chrysler National Dealer Council says.

Chuck Eddy, 55, owner of Bob & Chuck Eddy Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram near Youngstown, Ohio, says that most Chrysler dealers are more profitable than they have ever been.

In fact, their main worries, aside from Fiat and SRT, are getting adequate inventory and the right product mix.

"The bottom line is Chrysler dealers are making more money than they have ever made, and there are more of us making it," said Eddy, whose Chrysler dealership averages sales of 120 new and 60 used car per month.

Fiat dealers have been concerned because the Italian brand's sales stayed flat in 2013 despite the addition of a second nameplate, the 500L four-door hatchback. Since its introduction in June, the 500L has cannibalized some sales from the smaller Fiat 500.

"You don't have a sustainable business model with two cars -- a two-door and a four-door -- and others coming in a few years. You need more product," said Eddy, who also owns a Fiat store. "There should be four or five products on that showroom floor, with variations on each one."

Similarly, Eddy says Chrysler needs to market its SRT Viper sports coupe more effectively.

"I think SRT definitely needs a marketing strategy going forward," Eddy said. "The dealers that are in have a lot invested; they need it to succeed."

Eddy says he welcomed an initiative launched late last year by Chrysler to take Vipers to dealers so consumers can test drive them. Many Viper dealers keep the expensive cars locked in the showroom, hindering sales.

Eddy said, "I think with SRT, we just have to nudge it a little bit. We just need to market them better."

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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