Chrysler's Visions of Grandeur Put to Rest

Chrysler Group's plan to take the Chrysler brand upmarket officially is dead. The brand will continue to target future products at the volume segments, albeit with premium touches. Chrysler also plans to get more dealer feedback before launching new products. We do not intend to push the Chrysler brand upmarket, Chrysler's Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard tells Ward's. From my point of view,

Chrysler Group's plan to take the Chrysler brand upmarket officially is dead. The brand will continue to target future products at the volume segments, albeit with premium touches. Chrysler also plans to get more dealer feedback before launching new products.

“We do not intend to push the Chrysler brand upmarket,” Chrysler's Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard tells Ward's. “From my point of view, the premium positioning of the Chrysler brand was a miscommunicated concept.”

The latest plan deviates from the one Chrysler pursued when James Schroer was marketing guru. He left the company and was replaced by Joe Eberhardt in June.

Bernhard says the latest shift in mindset was the result of “a people change” in the marketing area.

The plan to move upmarket was to take root with the launch of the Chrysler Pacifica, which bombed during its launch, as customers balked at the $35,000-plus price tag.

“This is not where we are going,” he says. “We are not going to push the

Chrysler brand upmarket from a pricing point of view. Chrysler products will be aimed squarely at the volume market, with premium values.”

The auto maker has taken several lessons from the Pacifica launch debacle, Bernhard acknowledges, most importantly price positioning. “When you position a vehicle, rather than positioning it at the high end, you want to position it at the heart of the market and…if it wants to work its way up, then it will work its way up,” he says.

Future product launches will include more feedback from dealers on which option packages best fit the needs of customers in their region, as opposed to filling vehicles with options that are of no use to customers in select areas.

“We're going to ask our dealers, ‘What do you think you can sell?’ We're going to listen to what our dealers tell us,” Bernhard says.

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