MUNICH - Dodge is Daimler-Chrysler's best-selling brand in the US, but it is virtually unknown in Europe.
To work its way into the consciousness of Europeans, Dodge is using low-cost, high-visibility marketing techniques to get buyers into its forthcoming Caliber lower-medium hatchback and Nitro SUV.
One example is a co-operation with home improvement stores where Dodge intends to appeal directly to visitors and offer practical help, such as driving building materials home in a Dodge.
Specifically, the person Dodge wants to lure is a male problem-solver.
"We are emphasizing core values such as enjoyment, power, masculinity and authenticity," said Robert Scheffler, head of marketing communication for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge in Germany.
To get that message across Dodge will import some of the brash, in-your-face attitude that has helped it continue to top the combined sales of sister brands Chrysler and Jeep in the US. The ram's head and the slogan "Grab life by the horns" frequently seen in North American ads also will be used in Europe. However, the English-language slogan will not be translated in most countries.
"We want to differentiate ourselves from classical advertising which is often rather anonymous," Scheffler said.
The brand already has a halo model here - the Viper roadster supercar.
All this image-building is being done because DaimlerChrysler believes Dodge has the potential to eventually outsell Chrysler and Jeep combined in Europe as it does in the US.
In 2004, Chrysler sold 57,228 units and Jeep sold 35,688 units in western Europe, according to Auto-motive News Europe's 2005 Global Market Data Book. Dodge sold just 214 cars.
By comparison, Dodge is a strong brand in the US. During the first 10 months of this year, Dodge sold 914,570 units in the US, compared with 856,430 for Chrysler and Jeep combined.
The Dodge campaign will center around two vehicles: the Caliber, a five-door hatchback, and the Nitro medium SUV. Both vehicles are new additions to the vehicle lineup in North America. The Caliber arrives in Europe in June 2006, sharing a vehicle platform with the upcoming Jeep Patriot and Compass.
The Nitro arrives in late 2006 or early 2007. It will share a platform with the upcoming redesigned Jeep Wrangler, debuting next year.
"While Chrysler appeals to upmarket customers and automotive gourmets, Dodge customers will be found in the mid-range income bracket with more of a down-to-earth attitude, and more often employed than independent entrepreneurs," said Markus Hauf, a spokesman for Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep in Germany.
Seat, Alfa targeted
For the Caliber, the emphasis will be on affordability and styling.
"With the Caliber, we will appeal to Seat and Alfa Romeo customers, and we also expect drivers of the Mazda3 and current Opel offerings to take a closer look," Hauf said.
The Nitro is set to compete with the likes of the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. Rear- and four-wheel-drive models are planned.
Still to be determined is whether the redesigned Dodge Stratus will be imported. That car will debut in North America in 2007. However, Hauf said, the rear-wheel Dodge Charger and Magnum are not planned for the European market because the vehicles would overlap with the Chrysler 300C and 300C Touring.