CENTER LINE, MI – In an aggressive bid to strengthen Chrysler’s dealer network, the president and CEO of MOPAR service, parts and customer care plans to propose Sunday openings at this week’s National Automobile Dealers’ Assn. convention in Las Vegas.
“We will start the discussion,” Pietro Gorlier tells WardsAuto on the sidelines of an event to mark MOPAR’s 75th anniversary.
A 2010 initiative to encourage Saturday service-department openings has exceeded expectations. The goal was to get 80% of Chrysler’s 2,300-plus dealers to operate six days a week by 2014, but penetration already is at 77%.
“We will easily go beyond the target,” Gorlier says. But he admits Sunday openings are more problematic.
“Obviously, it’s a more complicated business proposition. You need to probably add people and change the way you manage.”
However, Gorlier maintains the business case is solid. “It makes sense because everything is open on Sunday. “Apart from watching football, you are going to shop. So why shouldn’t you have the possibility to get service for your car?”
Simply put, Chrysler dealers are losing business by closing their service bays on Sunday, Gorlier says. “The vast majority of independent garages are open.”
The event, held at MOPAR’s engineering lab just 15 minutes from Chrysler headquarters, also marks the unveiling of new customer-outreach initiatives and a limited-edition, factory-built MOPAR-branded ’12-model Chrysler 300.
Central to the planned outreach are stylish kiosks. Destined for the showroom, the kiosks feature touch-screens that deliver information about MOPAR products and service options, such as “Express Lane” 20-minute oil changes.
Gorlier wants to make Express Lane service available in 80% of Chrysler dealerships before 2014.
The Mopar ’12 300’s exterior features a “black chrome” 7-bar grille and grille-surround, black-accented headlamp bezels, trademark MOPAR-blue striping and 75th-anniversary fender badges.
The blue motif continues inside, with contrast stitching on the seating and the unique MOPAR shifter.
Special safety equipment includes forward collision-warning, adaptive cruise-control systems, and blind-spot monitoring with Chrysler’s Rear Cross Path technology that detects objects moving toward the rear of the vehicle from hard-to-see right angles.
Available this summer, the Mopar ’12 300 will cost $49,700, including destination charges. Just 500 will be built at the Chrysler’s plant in Brampton, ON, Canada, home to the auto maker’s LX-platform fullsize cars.
Gorlier is coy when asked to outline MOPAR’s contribution to Chrysler’s bottom line. If there are no changes in the MOPAR chain of command, he says, referring to himself, “it means that we are doing fine.”
The most-popular MOPAR products vary from vehicle to vehicle, Gorlier says. Jeep customers gravitate toward off-road packages, such as lift kits, while Ram owners are more interested in improving functionality with offerings such as spray-on bed-liners.
“When you move to Dodge, for instance, you go more on the performance side,” he says, referring to powertrain products such as the “Stage 2” package that ups the all-new ’13 Dodge Dart compact sedan’s output to 210 hp from 184 hp.
The package delivers optimized fuel/air mix with a high-flow intake. It also features a low-pressure exhaust.
But MOPAR has not forgotten Fiat. Showcased at the event here is a Fiat 500 dressed up with “Abarth Hyper Black” wheels, wider tires, dynamic graphics and Alcantara-trimmed seats.
Under its hood is a cold-air intake and free-flowing cat-back exhaust to squeeze more torque from the car’s 1.4L MultiAir engine. Cross-drilled rotors also improve heat dissipation on the track.