They can't afford a car payment, and they may drool on the seats, but marketers for the Chrysler group and Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group are building brand identity among babies. This year, thousands of children will be riding in Jeep and Land Rover strollers.
At BMW, dealers are having trouble keeping the company's new skateboard in stock. The $495 street carver uses the same kind of suspension as the BMW 5 series and, according to BMW, allows riders to experience the feeling of snowboarding and surfing on the road.
Licensing, or agreements that allow one company to use another company's brand name or image on products, is a hot growth area for automotive marketers. Automakers are talking to everyone from video game companies to toy makers to eyeglass designers hoping to capitalize on the high demand for branded merchandise.
License! magazine reported that sales of licensed goods in the automotive industry amounted to $6.6 billion or 3.7 percent of the licensing industry's $177.4 billion in revenues in 2001. The auto industry collected $5.9 billion and $4.4 billion from the sales of licensed goods in 2000 and 1999, respectively. The revenue totals include almost all licensed branded goods except for the sale of co-branded vehicles such as Ford Division's Eddie Bauer Expedition.
"The whole purpose of licensing is to take what is currently understood as an automotive brand and try to make it a bigger marque for the customer," said Jan Valentic, vice president of global marketing at Ford. "We've always done die-cast (toy) vehicles, but now we're getting into perfumes, strollers and things that take you in new directions but still reflect what the brand is about."
General Motors and the Chrysler group are going a step further. Both companies are opening retail stores to sell their branded merchandise. GM helped Paradies Shops Inc. of Atlanta, an owner/operator of retail stores in 60 U.S. and Canadian airports, open a store called the GM Collection in the new McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Jeep shops already are in department stores of some overseas markets and more are planned for 2004. (See related stories below and on Page 4M.)
Valentic said Ford Motor has no interest in opening retail stores.