Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rolled out its five-year plan without much to say about its Fiat and Chrysler brands, as well as Dodge and Lancia. However, the focus on a new captive finance company and subscription plans are a concern for some dealers.
Steven Wolf, dealer principal at two stores in the Helfman Motor Sales group in Houston, Texas, which sells Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Ford, Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands:
"I think the captive is a good idea in the sense that they can do a lot more marketing of their customer, they have a lot more control of their customers," Wolf said. "But on the other hand, maybe that's a source of capital and that capital could be used for other products as well."
Don Lee, president of Lee Auto Malls in Westbrook, Maine, which sells many brands including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram:
"Dodge and Chrysler represent about 10 percent of our volume. Minivan and challenger lead the pack. Although I'd like to see them survive, (losing) 10 percent of our volume wouldn't be the end of the world," Lee said. "With that said, I'd hate to see Dodge brand go away. It's been a success story for over 100 years. The Chrysler brand has been struggling for years and a phase out would not surprise me."
Robert Sickel, vice president and executive manager of Pine Belt Enterprises in Lakewood, N.J., which sells Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram:
"The long-term plans have been rocky for them for some time but the company seems to be going in the right direction with their financial stability," Sickel said.
Randy Bierlein, dealer principal of Schaefer and Bierlein Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat in Frankenmuth, Mich., which sells Chevrolet, Subaru, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat:
"The fact that Dodge and Chrysler weren't mentioned is a bit concerning, but the thing is that I don't see them abandoning the Chrysler name, if you will," Bierlein said. "Unfortunately as dealers, we're just pawns in this whole thing. It's not like we have any say in it."
"I think they have a firm feeling on Jeep and Ram right now," Bierlein said. "SUVs and large trucks are good right now but that's because of the economy. I think those are the things they know and are sure of."
C.D. "Doug" Wilson, CEO of Wilson Auto Group in Jackson, Miss., which sells Hyundai, Kia, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands:
"I'm really excited about the five-year plan. The mid-size pickup, the possibility of getting a Ram mid-size pickup. And also a seven-seat Grand Cherokee. I think both of those would be excellent. I'm pleased."
"I think it's a natural evolution. Consumers are demanding pickups, and SUVs, and crossovers and that naturally leads to more product development in the Jeep and Ram brands. I think it only makes sense."
Paul Walser, CEO of Walser Automotive, in Minnesota, which sells more than two dozen brands including Jaguar and Land Rover:
"The subscription thing is interesting to me, because I don't know where this is headed. As long as the dealers are properly taken care of, like the Volvo arrangement I think is healthy because under their plan, the dealers get commission for the sale of these services. So if this is a market that people really want, and if the manufacturer takes care of the dealer, then I'm all in favor of it. If they try to cut us out of the equation, I'd have a very different attitude."
"Let me just make a general statement about Chrysler product offerings. I do believe that simplicity is better, and it's important to do well with whatever you do have. I'd rather be a company with five great products than ten average ones. Chrysler has too many brands, too many products currently, and it's very expensive to stay competitive with each model that you're offering, so I would love to see them narrow their product portfolio to the size that they can reasonably afford to keep competitive with high quality.
"I also think that having Chrysler Jeep Dodge on your building is too complicated and confusing, so I think that sometimes less is more. To the extent they're going to narrow their product offerings and focus on the brands that are their strengths I think would be smart and I would support it vigorously."
Jackie Charniga contributed to this report.