At the Automotive News World Congress, the Chrysler group's Joe Eberhardt described the importance for Chrysler of developing its brands and increasing sales overseas.
Eberhardt said the automaker will launch -- or relaunch -- the Dodge brand in Europe this year. The first wave of the campaign will be based on the Dodge Nitro SUV and Dodge Caliber hatchback, which will be available in left-hand- or right-hand-drive versions. The Caliber also will have an optional 2.0-liter diesel engine outside North America.
The automaker plans to use innovative marketing techniques, such as e-mail ads, which Chrysler thinks will become a viral campaign as young consumers forward them to friends.
It sounds like a good plan. So what could go wrong?
Well, on the advent of the campaign, Chrysler is encountering resistance in Germany. To make matters worse, that resistance is coming from its own dealers.
At least a quarter of Chrysler's 140 dealers in DaimlerChrysler's home market have refused to sign a new contract with the automaker, according to Automobilwoche, which, like Automotive News, is owned by Crain Communications Inc.
Chrysler sales in Germany declined 14 percent last year, so the automaker has resorted to reducing prices and extending warranties on its vehicles, just like automakers do in the United States.
The dealers are unhappy because Chrysler also trimmed their per-vehicle profit margins to an average of 14 percent from 17 percent. Automakers do this in the United States.
If Chrysler can turbocharge its Dodge brand in Europe, dealers should be able to make it up on volume.
But the standoff in Germany needs to be resolved before too many ships arrive from North America.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]