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by Michael Cole
I have to admit when I first became aware of the demise of Plymouth I was really rather indifferent to the news. Even though the first car I ever owned was a Plymouth Horizon, and I currently own a Grand Voyager my brand loyalty was more for Chrysler Corp. than any of its divisions.
The Plymouth name has always been there but never really evoked the kind of emotional attachment for me that is the mark of true brand loyalty. Perhaps that is partly Chrysler's fault for not creating a strong brand image for Plymouth in recent years, especially in Canada where the Plymouth brand has already been phased out. For the record I've also owned a Jeep Cherokee Laredo and currently own a Chrysler LeBaron GTC Coupe along with the Grand Voyager. So I've definately got Mopar in my veins.
I've read some of the other edtorials on this site that talk about the early days of Dodge and Plymouth and mention other models and nameplates like Desoto and Valiant. None of which really sways me one way or the other since that's all really before my time. What did get me thinking though was the suggestion that the demise of Plymouth is a mistake from a marketing point of view, resulting in the dilution of the Chrysler brand and sales lost to other manufacturers from former Plymouth buyers. I'd have to agree that this is almost certainly going to be true since DaimlerChrysler really did nothing that would cause Plymouth loyalists to embrace the Chrysler or Dodge lines once Plymouth is gone. What strikes me as really being odd is that while DC was busy killing Plymouth, GM was enjoying great success with a repositioned Oldsmobile line selling exciting performance sedans. Wouldn't the same basic strategy work for Plymouth in exactly the same market? And how come I can figure this out but DC can't?
So I started playing a game of chairman-for-a-day in my head and came up with some ideas that would create five well positioned, highly marketable DC brands for the North American market that wouldn't gouge sales from each other because they would be distinct enough to attract unique buyers. I started with the brands and their basic market position. Firstly Chrysler, reserved for upscale models only (ie. no Chrysler Neon), then there's Dodge the performance and truck divisions; throw in Plymouth as the "concept to reality" division, and round out the line-up with the Jeeps. My next step was to slot various vehicles into their respective divisions with just enough overlap to provide a path for buyers to move from one brand to the next as they age and their vehicle requirements change. Voila!
Town & Country
This arrangement seemed to make more sense the more I looked at it. You can re-introduce the Imperial nameplate on the LHS, rename the Cirrus sedan as a Sebring model (already being done for 2001), rename the Avenger coupe as a Stratus model (also already in the works I believe), sell the Breeze in sedan and convertible form under Plymouth. Imagine a ragtop called Breeze, who wouldn't buy it! The enormously successful Voyager doesn't get pulled from Plymouth. Only the Neon finds itself in Dodge and Plymouth at the same time. There's room in the Dodge lineup for the Charger, and how about developing a two-seat roadster for Plymouth to compete with the Mazda Miata. Dealerships get Chrysler, Jeep and the Dodge Truck divisions and option for either the Dodge or Plymouth divisions.
Unfortunately my lastname isn't Schremp. Of course if it was I wouldn't have had the sense to see the obvious advantages of a five division arrangement for the North American new vehicle market. Isn't diversification supposed to allow you to reach a broader customer base? Oh well, that's my two cents.
I'm just now realizing how heavily diluted the Chrysler brand has become in Canada. I checked out www.DaimlerChrysler.ca only to find out that every DC car in Canada is sold as a Chrysler, all Dodges are trucks with the exception of Caravan, and only Jeep seems to have been able to maintain it's world-wide identity as an SUV brand.
As a result many nameplates have disappeared from the Canadian landscape. Can you imagine trying to sell the Chrysler Cirrus, Sebring, Breeze, Stratus and Avenger from one showroom floor? You can't. That's why only the Cirrus and Sebring are left, and the Cirrus sedan is gone after this model year to be renamed Sebring.
You can't buy a Stratus, Avenger or Breeze anywhere in Canada. The Chrysler model lineup has nine nameplates stuffed into it. How does that make things simpler for the consumer? If a single dealership can put you in a Chrysler Town & Country, Voyager and Dodge Caravan, how do you choose? Virtually identical vehicles could have vastly different options and pricing.
Chrysler Neon?! Makes about as much sense as a Lincoln Focus or a Lexus Echo! Remember how badly GM goofed up with the Cadillac Cimmaron! Prowler and Viper are not badged at all because Viper is not a truck and Prowler...well I don't know what they are thinking about with the Prowler except that it's not a Plymouth anymore.
Chrysler Canada has got to be getting killed in sales by competing products from Ford and GM only because their brand strategies and dealership network target consumers far more effectively. Be warned, this may be a sign of things to come in the U.S.
I almost agree, but I would go back to the olden days when each division had fewer platforms, and would make a caveat that the sheet metal has to be really different - as in 1970s Valiant-derivatives in South America.
Note that I would not put the Neon into Dodge, so that Dodge would move upscale and be in Oldsmobile territory - Chrysler would end up as Cadillac. (Or would you prefer Ford-Mercury-Lincoln?). I'm leaving out the trucks because they obviously stay untouched.
Caravan (stickshift, tuning for sporty image)
Stratus (no four-cylinder) and Stratus Convertible
Neon - (only with "R/T package")
Voyager (base only!)
Neon (new sheet metal)
Now, you can see Plymouth has a "dual personality" - it has the entry level cars, and it also has the concepts. The retro look takes over. This remakes Plymouth into an entry-level make that is still cool for the younger generation. Dodge becomes more sporty, with no slow options. Chrysler becomes resolutely upscale, and nowhere do we find the absurdity of selling Mitsubishis and Dodges with the same name.
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