Deborah Wahl Meyer, the new chief marketing officer of Chrysler LLC, cites a directive of Chrysler's new CEO, Bob Nardelli: "Have a bias toward action."
To that end, Meyer has made fixing Chrysler's rocky relations with its dealers her top agenda item. Since she joined Chrysler in August, Meyer has conducted what she calls a "listening tour" to gauge dealers' concerns.
Meyer, 44, says she got the idea from the six years she spent at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. Before she left for Chrysler, Meyer was Lexus Division's vice president of marketing.
"Toyota taught me that a strong relationship with the dealers is the basis for making everything move along that brings sales and profitability," Meyer told Automotive News.
In the past year, Chrysler group dealers have griped about what they call a lack of product information in advertising and the factory's efforts to force unwanted inventory on them.
To keep up with what's important to dealers, Meyer says she calls dealers every day. She has attended dealer meetings in Las Vegas, New York, Dallas and Houston.
"We need to drive the right customers in the stores," Meyer says. "We can do that by listening to what the dealers are telling us about what the customers need."
Meyer concedes that dealers aren't shy about telling her how they think Chrysler's marketing strategy needs to change. But for now, she's mostly keeping mum about her plans.
Other Chrysler executives, including Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda, have criticized some recent work by the company's ad agency, BBDO Worldwide. But Meyer says she has no plans to put the Chrysler brands' ad accounts up for review.
"I've never been, 'Let's go after the agency,' " Meyer says. "I always believe that it starts from inside, with the direction that the client is giving. That's where I'm going to start — with us."
Meyer, a Detroit native, has Chrysler in her blood. Her father was a manager of Chrysler's Mack Avenue assembly plant in the city. And she says her college-age stepson is a longtime Jeep enthusiast who refused to buy a Toyota even when she worked for the company.