As Chrysler’s SRT Goes Full Speed, Dodge Sputters Along

Aaron Foley 1, Associate Editor

June 17, 2013

2 Min Read
As Chrysler’s SRT Goes Full Speed, Dodge Sputters Along

For as long as I’ve been on the Chrysler beat, I’ve asked SRT brand President Ralph Gilles at every opportunity when the performance division would have its own marketing campaign.

I’ve always gotten responses like “we’re working on something,” but each time was reminded that the good news of SRT – spun off from a trim level to a full-fledged division in 2010 – spread through word of mouth among car buffs, like a game of Telephone.

Now everyone’s on the line. Chrysler releases SRT’s first television ad (click here to watch the ad) and announces a full-scale campaign for the brand, which only has one model – the Viper – wearing its nameplate.

Go back to last year’s “It’s Halftime in America” Super Bowl ad, or any recent Chrysler ad, and you’ll see SRT conspicuously absent from the Jeep, Ram, Chrysler and Dodge lineup of marques. Though SRT has its own trained sales staff and even offers buyers driving courses on tracks, its presence has been overshadowed in the overall Chrysler comeback story.

Interestingly enough, as SRT finally comes to the forefront, there are questions about the future of sister-brand Dodge.

Chrysler executives readily will tell you that SRT and Dodge appeal to different buyers, but the overlaps between the brands are too big to ignore. Both are rooted in style and performance, though the engine under the hood of an SRT clearly goes well beyond the average 4-cyl. in a Dodge.

Last week, WardsAuto analyst Haig Stoddard noted that there has been no announcement for a midsized Dodge to replace the outgoing Avenger sedan, and that two other Dodge models may migrate to other brands.

One also can’t ignore that if you ask the average person to name a Dodge vehicle, he likely would call out a Dodge Ram – though Ram is now its own brand. Like Ram, SRT also has a common link to Dodge in the former Dodge Viper.

Chrysler appears to be positioning SRT as a high-performance, American-made alternative to Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or BMW’s M division.

But because SRT also tunes Chrysler’s upper-end models like the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee, such styling and price points would also put SRT on the lists of cross-shoppers who might consider a Lexus or Acura. And since SRT tunes products significantly different than their base models, Chrysler can also avoid falling into Ford’s predicament of remaking a premium brand that doesn't simply consist of leather-wrapped versions of its mainstream models.

So what does that mean for Dodge? With Chrysler as the mainstream brand and SRT as a premium alternative (and one could predict that like the Corvette for Chevrolet and General Motors, the Viper would be the de facto halo car), Dodge could be lost in the shuffle.

It will be some time before we can fully measure response to SRT, but one thing is clear: SRT has arrived and is ready to take you to your destination.

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2013

About the Author(s)

Aaron Foley 1

Associate Editor, WardsAuto

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