Here's the next question on the automotive IQ test: The Imperial is to Chrysler as the BLANK is to Mercedes-Benz.
If you said "Maybach," you're right. And you're smart enough to work for DaimlerChrysler.
No pun intended.
If reaction to the Imperial concept car at the Detroit auto show is strong enough, Chrysler executives in Auburn Hills could decide to build it as a way of driving the Chrysler brand into luxury territory just as their colleagues in Stuttgart used the Maybach to boost Mercedes to the ultraluxury level.
It's a clever strategy: You dust off a venerable, old brand name to use on a more-expensive model, making it the cherry on top of your sundae.
If you like, you can treat it as a separate brand. But you don't need to create a channel because your dealers can sell it in the same showroom alongside your everyday brand.
The only problem is that the strategy hasn't worked very well for Mercedes-Benz.
Maybach sales haven't exactly lit up the scoreboard. Expectations were higher. Maybach even has been outsold about 2-to-1 by archrival BMW's Rolls-Royce brand, which uses a separate channel. Now Maybach may cut dealers in the United States.
Of course, it always helps if car buyers remember the old name and its brand values.
The former Chrysler Corp. marketed the Imperial as a separate brand from 1955 until 1970. For a few years after that, Imperial was sold as a nameplate under the Chrysler brand before disappearing.
This is another stab at luxury status for Chrysler. Remember that after the merger, Chrysler dabbled with pricey luxury features on some of its models, most notably the Pacifica, which sputtered until the company removed content and lowered the price. Pushback from consumers told brand managers that Chrysler should forget about luxury and stick to being a premium brand.
It would be nice to see an Imperial on the road again. But first, marketing execs in Auburn Hills need to fine-tune the business model.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]