Lee Iacocca will once again be a pitchman for Chrysler.
The former Chrysler Corp. chairman will appear in a series of TV commercials touting the Employee Pricing Plus incentive campaign launched by the Chrysler group, the U.S. arm of DaimlerChrysler AG.
The deal was finalized Thursday evening, more than 24 hours after the news broke that Iacocca would be in ads for Chrysler.
"We started seriously negotiating last Friday so it's been very fast," said George Murphy, Chrysler's senior vice president for global brand marketing.
The main holdup to sealing the deal was legal wording over Iacocca's compensation.
Iacocca wants his pay to go to the Iacocca Foundation, which supports diabetes research. The Chrysler group also will donate $1 for each vehicle sold the rest of this year to the Foundation. Iacocca's first wife, Mary, died from complications of diabetes in 1983.
Chrysler hoped to run the first commercial, which also features actor Jason Alexander, on either Thursday or Friday, July 8.
In the commercial, Iacocca revives the most memorable line from his popular commercials of the early 1980s: "If you can find a better car, buy it."
The campaign would mark the end of a years-long estrangement between Iacocca and the automaker he helped pull back from the brink of collapse in the early 1980s. Iacocca's reputation was tarnished in 1995 when he backed an unsuccessful takeover bid by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian.
Chrysler group and its dealers will spend about $75 million in July to advertise the Employee Pricing Plus program, which runs through Aug. 1, said Murphy.
The advertising budget will be about 30 percent higher than normal for a summer clear-out month, Murphy said.
|In one example, the Chrysler group's employee pricing incentive will save a buyer an extra $1,700 on a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country Touring minivan:|
|June 2005||July 2005|
|Minus $2,500 rebate:||$27,590||Employee price:||$26,875|
|Minus $1,000 trade-in allowance:||$26,590||Minus $2,000 rebate:||$24,875|
The decision to approach Iacocca was an attempt to "break through the clutter" after General Motors initiated its Employee Discount for Everyone program in June, reaping a 46.9 percent U.S. sales increase.
Jason Vines, Chrysler group vice president for communications, said he approached Iaccoca on Friday, July 1, with the idea and "he liked it." Ads were filmed in New York on Tuesday, July 5.
Chrysler had hoped to announce the deal at a news conference in Detroit on Wednesday. But Vines said then that attorneys were still reviewing contracts.
Murphy said Iacocca will appear in three or four television spots. They will have a humorous tone, he said, and will emphasize product quality before mentioning the deal.
Gary Dilts, Chrysler group senior vice president for sales, disputed the notion that the three domestic automakers will battle each other with employee discounts. GM has extended its promotion to Aug. 1. Rival Ford Motor Co. has launched a similar incentive program. Dilts said according to research, the folks who will be most interested in the deals are import vehicle intenders.
Chrysler's deal offers employee discount prices, plus cash back ranging from $500 to $3,500, on most of the Chrysler group's 2005 model vehicles. Excluded are the hot-selling 2005 Chrysler 300, the Dodge Magnum, Viper and Sprinter van, the Jeep Liberty diesel, all SRT models and all 2006 models.
Chrysler's advertising takes a dig at GM. One print ad reads: "First we beat them at the show, now we are taking it to the showroom. Now everyone gets our employee discount, plus up to $3,500 cash allowance." The ad pictures the Chrysler 300C, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Grand Caravan and touts their awards and innovations.
Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche approved the use of Iacocca in the commercials, and DaimlerChrysler CEO Juergen Schrempp was told of the plan.
"It was a Chrysler group decision," Vines said. Relations between Iacocca and Chrysler -- once so bad that the automaker abandoned plans to name its Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters building after him -- have mellowed in recent years.
"Lee drives our products," Vines said. "He has reached out to Dieter. He has written letters to him."
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]