DETROIT -- Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne plans to address dealers en masse for the first time since assuming control of the company after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, say Chrysler and dealer sources.
Marchionne will appear at Chrysler's dealer show scheduled for Sept. 13-15 in Orlando. Chrysler will use the show and Marchionne's speech to pump up enthusiasm for a bevy of new products scheduled to roll out this year and early next year.
Among the vehicles likely to appear at the show will be the new full-sized Dodge crossover, tentatively named Durango; the re-engineered Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger rear-drive sedans; the 2011 Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger mid-sized sedans; and freshened versions of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.
Chrysler has not held the dealer meeting since October 2007, not long after the New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management took majority ownership in Chrysler from Daimler AG. Then-CEO Bob Nardelli and co-President Jim Press addressed that meeting.
Cerberus' efforts to save Chrysler ran head-on into a global recession, and Chrysler plunged into Chapter 11 and was rescued in a government-backed trip through U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The company terminated 789 dealers during bankruptcy.
For some dealers, Marchionne's decision to speak to them is long overdue.
Dealer morale took a pummeling during Chrysler's bankruptcy and its aftermath. Marchionne steadfastly has refused to talk, saying he was waiting until he had something real to talk about. Since Marchionne took over Chrysler's management, he has made the revival of a moribund product lineup his top priority.
Under Marchionne's hard-driving leadership, the company is introducing new or revamped versions of 16 vehicles this year.
Most of this year's debuts, including the recently introduced Jeep Grand Cherokee, were in development before Fiat took over Chrysler. The next generation of vehicles, many of them scheduled to arrive in 2013, will be derived from Fiat platforms and technology.