Dodge different? Well, take a look
The tag line of Dodge's new advertising is: 'Dodge. Different.' The spots are different; they don't show cars. I suspect there's a reason, one that underlines a fundamental problem with the campaign.
Different means 'unlike in nature, form or quality,' or 'not the same as.' But isn't the Caravan essentially the same as the Plymouth Voyager and the Chrysler Town & Country? Isn't the Stratus also the Cirrus and the Breeze? The Intrepid, the Concorde? The Avenger, the Sebring? The Dodge Neon, the Plymouth Neon?
In this business, the products are the nameplates, and vice versa. If you're going to claim 'different,' you'd better have unique products.
The only thing different here is the advertising, clearly aimed at a younger target. The goal is to position Dodge as cool. But Dodge isn't cool; it's a traditional automaker, one that can't co-opt 'cool' with a few TV spots.
How is Dodge doing? January through August, industry sales were up 10.2 percent; Dodge sales were up 6.6 percent, but 95 percent of its gain came from the Durango and Ram pickup. Sales of medium-priced cars that should appeal to younger buyers were down. Apparently the market says those products aren't that cool.
Long Beach, Calif.
Fighting Chance is an information service for new-car buyers.
Retail idea recalls another GM goof
This is an open letter to Jack Smith, General Motors CEO:
Has GM really considered the potential ramifications of establishing retail operations and going into direct competition with its own dealers?
When I started in the auto business almost 40 years ago, the Big 3 were dominant, and GM ruled the roost. Volkswagen Beetles were popular, but other imports were hardly seen. Japanese vehicles in large numbers were still to come. But come they did. The Japanese built superior products at a reasonable price and enlisted some of the best dealers in the country to represent them.
As you may recall, GM then prohibited its dealers from holding more than one GM franchise in any market.
The best dealers couldn't invest their profits in another GM store, so they took their chances with those upstart Toyota and Honda stores. Isn't it ironic that a shortsighted GM policy became a major contributor to the success of the Japanese - and a substantial drop in GM's market share?
Is it possible that the results of this new policy decision will duplicate the results of that previous error in judgment?
Most of today's larger dealers hold more than one franchise. The dealers who end up with a factory store in their market might give up a losing battle of unfair competition and concentrate on one of their franchises that promises a better return on their time, money and effort.
It isn't likely to happen overnight, but gradually the advertising budget will favor the Honda store rather than Pontiac, or the hotshot Chevy sales manager will be transferred to Toyota, and eventually the Buick and VW stores will shift locations because the dealer can't sell enough Buicks to justify the better location. GM's new policy may cause more damage than the Japanese.
Have the GM powers really considered the potential ramifications of this decision? Or is it possible that they will make the same mistake as their predecessors?
DAVID A. TREBOUR
Haley Automotive Group
Haley Automotive Group handles Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, GMC, Ford and Toyota.
Chevy is hung up on its own slogan
The General Motors marketers have placed Chevrolet in an ironic position. The slogan 'Like a rock,' which is used to depict the solid, dependable virtues of Chevy trucks, has become equally applicable to the falling fortunes of Chevrolet cars with respect to market share and image.
WALTER R. BLAIR
The writer, a systems engineering and management specialist, calls himself an amateur auto historian.
A call to action for Nash buffs
I hope the readers of Automotive News will help me.
I have accepted the invitation of the Nash Car Club of America to chair the Nash Heritage Preservation Committee, whose goal is to preserve the history and heritage of Nash Motors.
Nash was one of America's oldest and largest independent automakers. It dates back to 1902, when Thomas B. Jeffery began building Rambler automobiles in Kenosha, Wis. Charles Nash bought the company and changed its name to Nash Motors, and it continued until 1954, when it merged with Hudson to form American Motors Corp. The last Nash-branded car was produced in 1957.
We're seeking a living link to Nash Motors. I would like to talk with former dealers, factory executives and anyone else connected with Nash. We want to tape interviews that will become part of the Nash Car Club's library.
Please help spread the word. Anyone who wants to help can reach me at 108 Clark Hill Road, Milford, CT 06460. My telephone number is (203) 878-6672, and my e-mail address is [email protected]
PATRICK R. FOSTER
Patrick Foster has written books on American Motors, Nash, Jeep and Metropolitan.
33-year dealer is a `Mullane man'
I was quite disturbed to read Maurice Taylor's criticism of Ed Mullane (Letters, Aug. 30).
Taylor presented himself as a loan officer. A loan officer is in no position to comment about any automobile dealer until he has been at the helm of this business, especially in today's environment.
I have been an automobile dealer for 33 years, and I am a regional winner of the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award. I know Ed Mullane personally. He is a man of great stature and honor and is not afraid to stand up for what he believes and speak the truth.
Everything Ed has done or said has been for the protection of our franchise system. Ed is my hero.
ROBERT H. BAKER
Bob Baker Auto Group
Mullane stands tall for all dealers
How easy it is to sit back, behind the front lines, and forget those who have given so freely of their time and resources in a never-ending struggle for dealer rights.
While Ford has chosen to run roughshod over its dealers - unfair audits, unreasonable labor rates, Auto Collections, lower discounts on vehicles, Car Point, etc. - one individual has stood tall and fought for each of us.
Ed Mullane has battled tenaciously against every injustice at what, I am sure, has been a great personal expense. For this, Mr. Mullane, I salute you and give you my heartfelt thanks.
Dealers have a right to be proud of their individuality, but when are we going to wake up to the fact that we must work together to save our collective hides?
JACK B. WALTERS
President and COO
The Walters group handles Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Toyota, Mazda and Mitsubishi.