LAS VEGAS -- Chrysler Group dealers received a special early preview of the automaker's two-minute "Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial during their make meeting. They predicted that the commercial, starring actor-director Clint Eastwood, might not move the metal but would do much to increase brand awareness.
"I thought it was fantastic," said Rex Gingerich, general manager of Button Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram, in Kokomo, Ind.
David Kelleher, chairman of the Chrysler National Dealer Council, said the commercial left a packed room of dealers "visibly emotional" and "misty-eyed." He said the commercial "will bring Chrysler to the attention of potential conquest customers," who might not otherwise have considered the company.
Dealers predicted it would drive new customers to their dealerships, though not for a specific product, as the automaker's "Born of Fire" Super Bowl commercial did for the Chrysler 200 last year.
"It isn't about product. It's a statement. They're going in a different direction, and that's good," said Brian Kitagawa, president of I. Kitagawa and Co. in Hilo, Hawaii.
Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne led the meeting, thanking dealers for helping boost the automaker's sales 26 percent in 2011. He reminded them of the promises Chrysler and its dealers made to each other in 2010: Chrysler would improve its products and the dealers would improve customer satisfaction in their stores.
Marchionne urged them to follow through on the commitment, dealers said.
Dealers said most of the questions during the meeting dealt with service and warranty issues.
Dealers said they were surprised and pleased that Marchionne led off their meeting. It was the first time he has appeared before a Chrysler dealer gathering since October 2010, as Chrysler was launching its product onslaught.