The Chrysler group, which has nine new or redesigned products coming this year, told dealers it will continue setting high sales targets in 2004.
Company executives told Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler dealers at the make meeting that the target set each month for sales bonuses will not be decreased this year, despite criticism from dealers that the figures are unrealistic and often unattainable.
Chrysler said that with plenty of new vehicles in the pipeline for 2004, dealers should be able to make their targets under a program called Market Planning Assistance.
But even some dealers who hit their targets last year said that setting the bar too high isn't wise in a tough economy.
"The MPA number we have to hit is higher than Ford and Chevy, and, in some cases, instead of going after the conquest buy, it's causing us to have to compete against ourselves," said Mitch Connell, a dealer at Dodge Country in Killeen, Texas.
Connell said he receives $350 in bonus money for each vehicle sold if he reaches his target - or $32,000 in December.
Another dealer, who asked not to be identified, said 50 percent of Chrysler brand dealers did not hit their target last year, "and now they're asking us to sell more vehicles than some of us have ever sold," he said. "It's impossible."
Ron Jelling, Chrysler-Jeep dealer council chairman, said the new product will take care of the concern.
"The feeling is that MPA is a little bit of a problem, but the truth of the matter is that the numbers revolve around new product," Jelling said. "It won't be an issue if people start hitting numbers. People who hit MPA like it. People who don't hit it don't like it."
Chrysler also said that dealers who sell non-Chrysler group vehicles at their stores will not be considered for Five Star designation. The stores must be stand-alone Chrysler group dealerships by 2006 to keep Five Star status.
Chrysler told its dealers it will not reinstate the funds it once provided for the first tank of gasoline. Eighteen months ago dealerships began paying for the first tank.
"They've weaned off a lot of things that used to be an expense to the manufacturer and now passed it on the dealer, and it has reduced margins," said Todd Wilkins, owner of Finish Line Dodge in Glenview, Ill. "It gets tougher to take."
Chrysler said when it markets its new products this year it won't go after Ford and General Motors with negative advertising.
"They said they don't want to stoop to the competition's level of referring to them in their ads," Wilkins said. "They will just focus on the product."
The company also expressed a desire to move away from rebates and incentives that plagued the industry in 2003.
"They'd like there to be less of a focus on incentives, but that's tough to do in this market," Wilkins said. "You might have a world-class product, but the customer won't know that right away. They will only know that you are not offering money on the car."