Christine Feuell, a former global marketing strategist at Ford Motor Co., took over as CEO of Chrysler last week. She has the task of reviving a brand that has been relegated to the declining minivan and large car segments for years as consumers gravitated to crossovers instead.
Some dealers see the move as a sign that Stellantis will give Chrysler the care — and investment — it needs after years of uncertainty about its future.
"I think it shows they're focusing their attention on what's important to them," Nick Grava, marketing and sales director for Grava Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram-SRT in Medford, Mass., told Automotive News. "It's going to take the full attention of someone to really give it the dedicated space to really expand and find its footing in the market."
Dave Kelleher, the Stellantis National Dealer Council chairman, is impressed by the experience Feuell brings to Chrysler.
She most recently was chief commercial officer at Honeywell Intelligrated after holding marketing leadership roles at seating supplier Adient and Johnson Controls. Feuell is the first woman to run one of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands since Laura Soave's brief stint as North American head of Fiat ended in 2011.
Kelleher said the hiring shows that Stellantis is serious about the brand, which was the only one of 14 brought together by the January merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group not given a permanent CEO. Chrysler's interim chief, Tim Kuniskis, remains CEO of the Dodge brand.
Kelleher is eager to hear Feuell's vision for the storied marque, which saw its U.S. sales plunge 83 percent from 2005 through last year. In the first half of this year, Stellantis sold about seven Jeeps and six Rams for every Chrysler.
"I hope that she's been given the charge and the resources to go ahead and find out what could be done, because one thing that they're inheriting is a brand with positive name recognition," Kelleher said. "Chrysler has DNA in the culture of America, so people will respond well if we give them good products."