Dodge has high hopes for its redesigned minivans, which are scheduled to arrive in showrooms in the fall. But executives and dealers are worried about a key minivan selling point: safety.
'The new minivans have not been tested (by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) yet, and there is some concern' they will not earn the five-star crash test rating, Lou Kairys, owner of Lustine Dodge in Woodbridge, Va., said after the make meeting.
In interviews earlier this year, DaimlerChrysler executives said that the minivans did not score as high as their competitors in European crash tests, and that the same results may carry over to the United States. Five stars is the highest U.S. rating.
But those same executives, Kairys said, are getting in front of any potential problems simply by acknowledging there might be a problem.
At the make meeting, dealers asked again when Dodge will field a full-sized sport-utility. Kairys said DaimlerChrysler is likely to produce one in the next three years.
Dealers also raised questions about the development of a factory-dealer Internet strategy.
Over the past few months, Daimler Chrysler has distributed to its dealers documents seeking confidentiality as DaimlerChrysler develops an Internet strategy.
Dealers thought the document was too legalistic and was an unwarranted addendum to franchise agreements, Kairys said. But most dealers have signed the document, he said.
Gary Dilts, now vice president of retail strategy for the Chrysler group, will soon become responsible for a corporate-wide Internet strategy. For dealers, the benefits of an Internet presence are tangible, Dilts said.
Dealers close 25 percent of the transactions in which the consumer used one of the Get-a-Quote services on Chrysler group brand Web sites. For walk-in customers, the rate is closer to 17 percent, he said.