DETROIT -- An executive shakeup at the Chrysler group aims to boost retail sales and strengthen the identities of the company's three brands by separating brand marketing from product planning.
"We need to get a sense of urgency into the marketing organization," says George Murphy, the Chrysler group's senior vice president of global marketing. "We are beginning to cross-populate sales and marketing to be more effective from a retail point of view."
The company eliminated the positions of two vice presidents who previously headed marketing for Dodge and for Chrysler and Jeep. In their place, the Chrysler group last week named three directors who report to Murphy.
Also last week, the company named directors of product planning and marketing for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and body-on-frame vehicles. Those three directors report to Stephen Bartoli, Chrysler's new vice president of global product planning and marketing. Until recently, he was vice president of product strategy.
Murphy told Automotive News that the changes will better equip the new brand directors to focus on retail sales. The Chrysler group plans to launch 10 new or redesigned vehicles this year.
"Our job is to build brand and sell cars," Murphy says. "Before, building brand is what our marketers would spend their time on. We can do both with the right urgency."
The intersection of brand marketing with product planning was slowing that process, Murphy adds.
"Marketing people get accused of having their feet up, dreaming up brand ideas and not being in tune with the day-to-day pressures of the business," he says. "I think that has some validity."
Dealers reacted positively to the changes.
"We have had some failures in regard to new launches," says Terry Spitzer, owner of Benchmark Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Birmingham, Ala. "We've had some great products that we just did not get out early enough."
Mike Riehl, a Chrysler and Jeep dealer in Warren, Mich., says the Chrysler group's marketing needs to be more nimble. Too often, he says, the company would inform dealers of monthly sales strategies after the deadline to place Sunday newspaper ads had passed.
"We have to know how to start each month in the first couple of days, instead of losing a week's worth of sales," Riehl says.
Before the Chrysler group eliminated the job, the position of vice president of Dodge marketing had been vacant.
Jeff Bell, who had been vice president of Chrysler and Jeep marketing, is now the group's vice president of product strategy. He reports to COO Eric Ridenour.
Company insiders say the shuffling at the Chrysler group means an expansion of responsibilities for Bartoli.
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