Chrysler dealers told to expect higher profits in 2014

Chuck Eddy: "I told them not to lose sight of where we were at."

NEW ORLEANS -- Chrysler Group dealers Saturday heard that they should expect their profits to rise in 2014 as the automaker rolls out new product to replace highly-incentivized older models.

During an hour-long make meeting, dealers heard about the automaker’s product plan for the coming year, including introduction of a new subcompact Jeep and the Ram ProMaster City, a small commercial van. Both are due at the end of the year. They were also told that updates are coming to the Dodge Challenger later this year, dealers said.

Chuck Eddy, head of the National Chrysler Dealer Council, said after the meeting that Chrysler dealers netted an average profit of $800,000 per store last year -- the best dealer profitability in decades.

Don't get complacent

But he said that both he and Reid Bigland, head of U.S. and Canadian sales for Chrysler, warned dealers not to get complacent.

“I told them not to lose sight of where we were at,” said Eddy, who owns a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram store outside Youngstown, Ohio. “Five years ago [as Chrysler was heading into bankruptcy], people in this room were crying.”

Chrysler sold 1.8 million vehicles in the United States in 2013, up 9 percent over 2012, and had fleet sales below 20 percent at the end of the year, Chrysler executives said.

Chrysler was able to boost production in 2013 of two of its most profitable models, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, and boosted sales of the Dodge Durango thanks to a model refresh and an innovative advertising campaign tied into the "Anchorman 2" movie with comedian Will Ferrell.

Jeep added a hot-selling new model, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, and has a redesigned Chrysler 200 sedan due out in the first half of the year. Dealers will also begin receiving long-promised diesel-powered Ram 1500 pickups beginning next month to further juice the Ram pickup’s 21 percent sales increase from 2013.

Questioning Ron Burgundy

Dealers in the room questioned Chrysler executives about their plans to boost sales of the SRT Viper sports coupe, and were told that the automaker had plans to beef up marketing for the car. Another dealer questioned Ferrell’s Durango ads, saying that he believed the spots demeaned the product and dealers.

Other dealers did not agree, however. After the meeting, Elliott Andrews, vice president of Dayton Andrews Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Clearwater, Fla., said his dealership had seen a direct positive response from Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy ads.

“I sold 14 Durangos out of 103 new sales in December with the ads running. The year before, I don’t think I sold 14 Durangos all year,” Andrews said.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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