by Mr. C-Body
I suspect the Plymouth demise idea began back in the late 70s. Probably about the same time the Olds similar situation might have begun.
In the great decades of the 60s and 70s, Dodge and Plymouth became much closer together product platform wise that they had before and this tended to culminate with GranFurys that were different from St. Regis in basically interior trim and header panel/grille/tail light treatments. Some accounting or production whiz probably thought about how much that extra "complication" was costing the corporation. Production costs were probably basically the same so lets kill the cheaper one and keep the more expensive variation and make more profits. These are basic issues of fact.
In prior times, there was more differences in the Chrysler platforms between Plymouth and Dodge (baiscally wheelbase and trim). These differences basically evaporated by the start of the 1980s. Even when the K-cars came out, the Plymouth and Dodge variations carried on the brand differences with Dodge being the more upscale of the two although the two were basically the same vehicles otherwise.
I also feel that there is a place for an entry-level brand (that was Chevrolet's role in the orig Billy Durant model for GM) in the Chry model line-up. I still remember in the early 60s when Chrysler steadfastly said "No junior editions" (of the Chrysler nameplate) to supposedly degrade the status of the Chrysler "make" (I still do not like the nomenclature of "brand" as it is used today). This was when GM was making each of their divisions into full-range divisions in most cases with compacts and intermediates.
The usual case was that Americans did not know how to make a profitable small car until Chrysler did it with the Neon. That was typically the territory of the Japanese (but from the amount of government money that has kept the Japanese auto industry afloat in recent years--worse than the Chrysler bailout ever was--they may not have been doing such a good job of that afterall).
In one respect, if it weren't for the minivan sales, Plymouth probably would have been gone many years ago. I suspect that once the suspected cost study of what it was costing to keep Plymouth sailing made some circuits among managers who kept their noses brown, the financial viability of the demise gained some credibility among some numbers people and grew from there until someone upstairs said "NO". That someone is probably now or getting ready to be gone.
In the prior decades, there used to be just one model of Mercedes that we saw over here. It was one of two wheelbases with the model designation related to engine size, fuel induction system, and number of doors. When they started building their lineup, then came the "class" cars. While still Mercedeses, they were different. Having the 3 point star was necessary for their status and credibility but could have just as easily have been called by a name instead of "_-Class". So having various vehicle divisions was not an option like it has traditionally been in the North American and other markets.
Personally, I believe that Plymouth could be a good free-standing vehicle line with the minivans, PT Cruiser, Prowler, Breeze, Neon, and sub-Neon. That's most of the current platforms except for the LH cars anyway (and that variation would not be too hard or expensive to do either--maybe that was another omen that Plymouth was going back then that they didn't get a version of it). And if you look at what Chevrolet has on the ground now and sells, the only thing missing would be the LH variation anyway.
Everything that Chrysler has on the ground is technically superior to most anything GM has (and the Chrysler products have been selling well also) so all it would take to keep Plymouth around is for someone to decide that it needs to be done and make it happen. The marketing people could take some cues from the Impala campaign and have some great things. But that should have happened several years ago.
The Eagle LH car should have done better than it did and probably could have if it had been a Plymouth instead.
As always, marketing can make or break a product and/or support hidden agendas of internal execs who want particular things to happen to give credibility to their hidden agendas (for career reasons) to have a product fail in the marketplace.
To me, adding successively less expensive versions to the Chrysler line tends to take away from the status of the marque. I support the reasoning behind there being a Chrysler version of the larger platforms so they can mirror GM in most cases, but trying to add "economy" versions to the mix might be ill-advised (although there are some who want a bargain basement version of some things).
That strategy seems to work for Mercedes in Europe, but our market over here is not necessarily geared that way. A diversity of products and nameplates has been the general rule.
Some of the marketing whizes can find validity in either argument and probably add some of their own. But they are not the ones buying the products.
Kind of like the seminars put on by people with the new ideas to make money in car sales. They make the rounds promoting their new ways to sell cars for more profit which also allegedly make the customers roll over and play dead. They charge something like $500.00+ for a one day seminar (per person). If a general manager is interested in staying on top of what's new, he'll send at least one of his people over there. Or send just one over there to see what it's all about. Either way, the presenters make money irregardless of if what they present is any good.
One of our guys who worked for us many years and went to a larger dealership was sent to one of these deals by the second dealer to see what it was all about. They spent a whole day in the meeting that basically said not to give a customer a price quote over the phone, make them come to the dealership. So our guy came back and used that strategy in reverse--if everyone else is not going to quote prices on the phone, we will.
They figured up a good price on the vehicles and used that pricing structure. They basically had no competition so it was probably a few hundred more than what they normally would do but they sold more cars than the competition for about six months until the other dealers discovered what was happening. The customers also related that they were the only ones who would talk price on the phone so the strategy worked.
Therefore, I you can successfully tout your views to people who can make decisions on products, then they (the marketing people) can make Plymouth die just as well as make it live. Too bad the decision to let (make) it die was made. And those people make much more money than either of us multiplied several time!
I noticed in today's Dallas paper that a free-standing Chrysler store in North Dallas was now advertising the full line of Dodge vehicles. I did not notice anything about Jeep, but that was probably a few weeks ago. Looks like we might have one-stop Chrysler Corp dealers that sell anything the corporation builds--provided it is a Five Star store.
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