As he stands by the two-tone Chrysler PT Cruiser Couture Edition at the Detroit auto show, Olivier Francois practically jumps up and down with excitement, his mop-toppish hair bouncing.
"I'm not pretending it's the best car in the world, but it costs $19,000," he says, pointing out the paint job and stylish interior accents. "My dealers need it."
His boyish enthusiasm for a cosmetic makeover of the aging PT Cruiser is contagious. Francois wants to bring a sense of style back to the product-starved Chrysler brand now, before new Fiat-based vehicles arrive in two years. In his other job as marketing chief for all Chrysler brands, he's determined to banish bland advertising.
The Francois marketing magic has worked well in Europe. Now Chrysler sorely needs it to play on this side of the Atlantic.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne's strategy of eschewing incentives to focus on long-term brand-building is coming under strain. Chrysler sales were down 8 percent in January while most of its rivals gained. Francois needs to execute his creative ideas and quickly.