ORLANDO, Fla. - Jim Julow, 46, took over as head of Dodge Division in May 1998, and while the Dodge brand has been setting sales records, he still has challenges.
For example, Julow is shifting dollars away from traditional advertising so he can try experimental marketing methods, such as the three-day 'Dodge Adventure' here at two theme parks.
Julow spoke with Staff Reporter Ralph Kisiel on his challenges and other topics. Here are his edited comments:
Is the car side taking up most of your creative thought these days?
Certainly, we spend a lot of time on cars, because we can afford to. It is not a situation of desperation. It is a situation of how do I leverage what we have more fully. We spend a lot of time on trucks; we spend a lot of time on Durango. We spend a lot of time on minivan. We face a lot of new competition there.
Car is not my single focus. It is, perhaps, the more creative part of it just because we need to find different ways to really get at that. But it's just one part of the equation. I would not - and I've said this a hundred times - I would not sell 10 percent less Durangos, or 10 percent less Rams, to sell 10 percent more cars.
The Intrepid has come roaring back. How did you do it?
There were a lot of reasons, none of them more important than the others.
We've said in the past that the launch was not perfect. We corrected that. The training we gave to the field was not perfect. We improved that. The mix in the field at launch was not perfect. We improved that. I think we really turned the corner on Intrepid.
The coupes - the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring -are still struggling. How do you bolster interest?
Well, it's tough. It's in a market segment that new is better regardless of the style, the shape, or the powertrain. Obviously, we're not brand new and there is a lot of new product there. We think it's important for Dodge to stay in the coupe business. And we think quite frankly the Avenger size is the right size to have a coupe. We've got other product coming and are anxious to get there. For Dodge, it's important for our position. We can't walk away from it. But it is a battle right now, I will admit that.
How are fleet sales?
Fleet has been great for us. I think it's a testimony to the competitiveness of the cars. We're not just selling Intrepid or Stratus (models) or Neons. We're selling Ram trucks, we're selling Dakotas, we're selling Durangos. And as long as we don't let it get away from ourselves, it will always be a very vital part of our business.
When can we expect to see the Neon R/T and Intrepid R/T?
We're still hoping for the Intrepid in the spring. We're going into production probably right before Christmas or just after on the Intrepid. Neon I was hoping for in the spring, but I don't think we're going to get that pulled up. It looks more like a summer launch. We still intend to have an R/T on pretty much every volume car line we have eventually in our business.