LOS ANGELES -- It's early, but Chrysler Group's comeback effort in California is showing results.
To tackle long-standing shortcomings in the country's biggest market, Chrysler has:
-- Opened 17 dealerships in the past 20 months, bringing its store roster to 127 including Fiat.
-- Launched an ad campaign with California-themed TV commercials.
-- Separated California from Chrysler's Western sales region, making the state its own region with a budget comparable to the automaker's eight other regional sales offices.
And in the first two months of this year, Chrysler Group vehicles accounted for 6 percent of all retail registrations in the state, its largest share of the California market since 2008, according to Polk data.
Chrysler's goal is to pull even with its national market share, which Polk said was 10.3 percent of U.S. retail registrations through February -- so it still has a long way to go.
Dealers attribute Chrysler's recent momentum to a revived product lineup -- 16 new or reworked nameplates in the 2011 and 2012 model years. They also credit last year's opening of the California Business Center, which brought staff, funding and a renewed focus to the market. The California-themed commercials seem to be moving the needle.
"The plan ultimately has really started to take hold this year," said Jason Stoicevich, director of the business center. "This is really where we've started to officially turn the corner and get back to the numbers we're capable of out here."
In early 2011, Chrysler split the California market from its Western regional sales office. Under the old system, the needs of dealers in California competed with those in eight other states for attention and marketing funds.