New marketing chief Joe Eberhardt must move quickly to shore up sales at the Chrysler group while protecting the company's U.S. brands.
Eberhardt, 39, took over as the Chrysler group's executive vice president of global sales, marketing and service on Sunday, June 1.
His arrival puts another German in a top job at the Chrysler group. A 21-year veteran of Mercedes-Benz and DaimlerChrysler, Eberhardt spent more than a decade in the U.S. market with Mercedes sales and marketing.
Since 1999, he has been CEO of DaimlerChrysler's operations in the United Kingdom.
In his new job, Eberhardt must nurture the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands. Future U.S. products increasingly will rely on sharing platforms and components with Mitsubishi and Mercedes. The strategy saves money but can jeopardize brand distinctiveness.
For example, the Chrysler group's next generation of small and mid-sized cars will be built off the redesigned Mitsubishi Lancer platform starting in 2005.
Eberhardt replaced Jim Schroer, 51, who said in a statement that he will pursue a career "in a marketing intensive business." Schroer joined the Chrysler group from Ford Motor Co. in February 2001.
Eberhardt is expected to promote brand attributes and product features heavily in advertising and to try to reduce the use of rebates and other sales discounts.
Since January, the company has stepped up incentive spending after fighting incentives in 2002. The company's executives long have argued that convincing consumers of a product's value lessens the need for discounts.
In the first four months of this year, the Chrysler group's sales fell 7.2 percent compared with last year. The U.S. market fell 3.9 percent in the same period.
Eberhardt will spearhead the company's aggressive plan to increase sales. For example, it wants to boost Chrysler division sales to about 700,000 vehicles annually within three years.
Last year, the Chrysler division sold 480,263 units in the United States.
In addition, the company is trying to elevate the Chrysler brand to a premium position. A stated goal is creating future Chrysler and Dodge vehicles, including minivans, that are markedly different.
His stint in the United States included running the Mercedes-Benz Manhattan dealerships in New York City for two years. He is a German citizen.