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Brand Dilution at DaimlerChrysler (2000)

Something I don't think the Daimler HQ understand is that brands still hold a place in Americans' hearts. Yeah, yeah, practically everything is owned by huge corporations...but we like choices. We've always been about "individuality" as much as possible and lumping all products under one umbrella takes away that apparent decision. Do I want a Chrysler Neon, a Chrysler Sebring, or a Chrysler Prowler? I think it sounds better when I ask if I want a Dodge Neon, a Chrysler Sebring, or a Plymouth Prowler.

I think, as with other things at DCX as of late, it comes down to one thing. Money. It's cheaper to have three (!) brands versus four or five. It makes economical sense - but marketing-wise, it makes extremely little sense.

Plymouth has been meandering for years - I don't think any of us will deny this. But they were close to hitting something with the "we're cheap! but value-laden!" mantra. Give them the Neon, the Breeze, the Voyager, and a low-end LH car. But make the fascias mimic the Prowler in some way - give it edge. The PT (and the original Pronto concept, which I almost like more than the PT) has proven that the design of the Prowler can work on other vehicles. Try it. At worst, you learn how to do something cheaper and better - which will please the bosses.

Let Dodge keep the performance image. Make the trucks a mini-brand. Slap turbos and superchargers into the cars. I think that Dodge is the most consistent division when it comes to the exterior designs... very consistent, very stylish (for the most part). Keep that.

And Chrysler? Near-luxury. The 300M is a smash, so build on that. Make all of your vehicles luxurious - that means, uh, no Voyager, guys. Chryslers should be a bit higher on the price scale for better luxury - almost Lincoln, but not with the nutty cuckoo prices.

Jeep? Well, don't mess with it. Don't make it soft, don't make them tall cars, just keep 'em. I'm surprised DCX hasn't truly tampered with things here yet... I suppose the new Cherokee will be the deciding factor. I'm not opposed to a Varsity-like vehicle, so long as it's not another Aztek (ick!)

Since DCX won't do any of the above, here's what I think they're gonna do. I think they're going to kill Dodge off very slowly. Sales will fall on lackluster products and quality, and they'll blame it on the market. Chrysler will become the brand in America, selling everything from the small car that will replace the Neon, to the 300. The LHS will become a trim on the 300 (per some posts here)... and that'll be the luxury boat for the company.

And instead of innovating and really pushing the design envelope, Chrysler will rest on its laurels, become weak and complacent, and then complain about fickle consumers. Then, Chrysler will start knocking out slow sellers... till there's nothing left except the large cars, and of course, Jeep. I think we'll be able to seal the grave at that point.

Now, I guess I'm a naysayer. When the merger happened I was on the side with folks who said that it wasn't necessarily bad, and it wasn't a buyout, no way, no how. But I was wrong. It's been a bust. It's been a joke.

I bought myself a 2000 Stratus SE the other day. Lots of great features for the money... but most importantly, it isn't just a midsize Intrepid. It's got its own style and personality, just like my 95 Neon had. I know DCX made this car, but Chrysler - the old Chrysler - designed it. That's why I got it. (That, and it was a blast to drive).

Responses (by Curtis Redgap)

I don't know if you are soliciting comments about Mr. McAleer's editorial, but, you know me, so you get one anyway! I say...... RIGHT ON sir! Hit the nail on the head. I say we still should be braiding the rope that Mr. Eaton escaped from. So now, Daimler owns 40% of Mitsubishi....... is that like DejaVu all over again? Didn't Chrysler own about the same around 1975 or so?

Then can we expect more Mitsu content in the Chrysler Neon, Voyager, Prowler, Jeep stuff in the future, until it is all just built somewhere else and assembled in Ontario? Pluuuuseeeezze, Chrysler Stockholders REVOLT! Stop this madness....... ! Well, if Tom Gale "retires", then it will be just about over anyway........ unless you could talk Mr. Lutz into coming back.

You have to ask, if Eaton's scheme was so good, then why was Mr. Lutz kept completely in the dark, and like a mushroom fed BS until the final prep was almost done? He sure didn't hang long after this takeover was accomplished.

Thanks to ALLPAR.COM and Mr. McAleer for some very purposeful insight.

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