Just as Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda regularly visits auto plants to see them for himself, he went to New Orleans to see first-hand the damage Hurricane Katrina did in general and to dealerships in particular.
“I wanted to see the area for myself, not just photos of it,” he says.
He was awed by what he saw and heartened by the response of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers and staffs.
“Several dealers lost their homes, their employees lost their homes, yet the next day many were at the dealerships scooping out mud,” says LaSorda.
The auto maker provided support, including financial and on-site staff assistance, to the affected stores. LaSorda saw to that. His standard greeting to hurricane-hit dealers: “How are you doing? Do you have the support you need?”
Meanwhile, touting impending new products, his standard line to all Chrysler Group dealers: “We've got a lot of stuff coming so get your showrooms ready.”
Chrysler is looking at metro markets for opportunities to expand its “Alpha” project in which dealers get bundled 3-in-1 Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep franchises in return for building exclusive central facilities to house them.
“We're doing it one at a time,” says LaSorda. “We've got Dodge stores that move 2,500 to 3,000 units. They don't need to combine…Where it makes sense, we'll do it. Where it doesn't, we won't.”
He's impressed by two such superstores, Golling Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Township, MI, and Field Chrysler Dodge and Jeep in the Chicago suburb of Northfield, IL.
“They each spent $12 million-$13 million on new facilities,” says LaSorda. “It's really about dealers wanting to build them.”