Peter Grady, Chrysler Group's vice president for network development and fleet, says he is making progress rebuilding dealerships and sales in California. The automaker dropped many dealerships in the state in the 2009 bankruptcy. He spoke with Staff Reporter Larry P. Vellequette.
How are Chrysler's efforts to repopulate California progressing?
We're getting there. Our efforts toward repopulating California started with buying the real estate and then working with the dealers to put dealers in business in that real estate. We've opened up 17 stores in the last 18 months. We've got another four opening up in the first half of this calendar year -- all facilities that we've purchased or leased and then completely renovated.
Are you happy with the number of stores you have in California?
We're never happy. We look at everything according to planning potential coverage, and there, we've only covered about 85 percent of our planning potential. So we've got opportunities, but it's mostly in secondary markets. We have a couple of metro areas that we're still working on, particularly Los Angeles and one in San Francisco, but aside from that, they're mostly secondary markets.
After several years in which Chrysler was not a significant player, how do you reintroduce Chrysler's products to consumers in California?
Diligently. What you have to do is have the product. That's where it all starts. We've been behind the eight ball with not having representation out there, but now we've got representation, and stores are opening up. Grand Cherokee is a big hit, Compass is selling really well -- we've picked up quite a bit of share in that segment. And now we're going to have the new Dodge Dart. California looks for those kinds of vehicles, with fuel efficiency and some style to them. That's how you introduce the brands back: on the backs of the product.
Are you making extra efforts in California that you're not doing elsewhere?
We're making extra efforts in California by carving out a completely different business center that is just the state. We recognize that there are 30 million people that are there. You've got to attack it. It's probably the single largest car market that there is in such a small geography. But a lot of it is personalization. What works in Dallas doesn't work in California. c