How close is Mopar to being a household name — how good is your recognition outside of the faithful?
I think it’s pretty good. We started our Facebook page about 18 months ago, we have about 300,000 followers today, around 20% from outside the US, so it’s also a decent awareness outside the US.
I don’t really have metrics [on name recognition] because my ultimate metric is how many customers do I attract in our dealerships? There is no doubt that we still have a significant portion of our fan base in the performance world, but I think today, it’s [also] well known that Mopar is the brand for service for drivers of Fiat. Significantly known in North America, starting to be known in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and we are working now to expand it more consistently in South America. But I think we need to make a distinction between the awareness of the dealers and the awareness of the customers.
I have a significant interest in the awareness of the dealers, because they need to know that they have an organization that is working for them, and that I think is, today, a well-known, stable, and good foundation.
Awareness of [Mopar by] the customers is important, but it’s more important for me that they know that they can get genuine service from our dealerships. If they know Mopar, that is a detail. What is important is they get the genuine service, authentic, from our dealers. But there are good numbers related to the impressions that we get from the media, from the web site, and also, as I said the Facebook and Twitter fans are a good side of the awareness.
For years, people have been using the term Mopar as a sort of generic slang word for any Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, Jeep – well, not so much Jeep – but Jeep and AMC are often thrown in with everything else. Is that an asset or is that a problem?
I think it’s an asset. (This is very much a North American case.) I think it’s an asset because it is a way of recognizing that Mopar is original, and it’s an asset because it is a way of putting all of our cars under an umbrella. That is exactly what Mopar is. For the after-sales, Mopar is the umbrella for every brand we have, so it fits in perfectly.
Obviously it’s more connected with performance, because everyone is thinking about Mopar because you’re going back to the muscle car period, so these were Mopar because they were modified, so there is that. But I think there has been the awareness. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, actually. I like it.
This is why, in 2010, we launched the Mopar 10, and now the Mopar 13 is the last of the family to have finally a real Mopar, a Mopar that is coming out from the plant with the Mopar badge. That was not happening before. They were all Mopars, but none had the badge.
Have you seen sales going up as a result of the growing awareness and the larger product lines?
We have seen a good trend of sales. We increased significantly the penetration, the number of cars that we attract in our dealership, that is part of the plan to compensate [for the sales] that obviously were not growing due to the crisis of 2008 and 2009, the market at the time. We have seen a good, consistent trend of sales and repair orders.
The Express Lane has been an important element to drive more traffic in our dealerships. With 800 dealers now on the Express Lane, we start having a consistent base of dealers that are going beyond the normal service provided from a dealer; we do the tire rotatations, maintenance, [inaudible], that in the past were mainly covered by independents.
Can you tell me what line has been most popular since you started?
Probably, we talk more about the accessories in this case. If you look at the portfolios, we have seen an important increase in maintenance and accessories as a result of maintenance, strongly with the Express Line. Especially because we have invested in launching new products.
There is a decline of the typical repairs, due to the better quality of our cars. The collision is following the weather and we definitely saw a draw in accessories in maintenance.
When you look inside the accessories, we have significantly expanded the sales of items that are more related to the electronics. For instance, the electronic vehicle tracking system, EVTS, is one of our best-selling products. We saw an important expansion of that from that part of the industry, going beyond the traditional ground of accessories. That is an element that has grown so strongly as to become an option from production, like the side steps on the Ram. We have a lot of product that were launched as accessories, which became standard production. That, I think is a sign of choosing the right items.
What are your standards for the Value Line, versus the standard Mopar OEM type parts?
It depends from item to item. It is a line that we’re going to expand significantly in the next month, we are even thinking about rebranding the line.
It depends on the product. We never, and that is part of our DNA, we never go below a certain level of quality. So I would say that that is a plus, but it’s also a limitation. We will never agree to sell parts that don’t have a quality that is at least aligned to our production standards. So you need to find vendors to find parts that are slightly less expensive but still [have] the quality.
As I said, it is a value because it means even when you buy value lines, you’re buying something at least in the category of the better – the good, better and best, right? At least in the better category. But we cannot go and compete in that market of the good where really, the level of quality is too low.
So the life of the item may be a little shorter, but during the life of the item, the item provides exactly the same quality [meaning performance] that we provide with our parts. But it is an important part of our future strategy to become more aggressive and so to be able to capture more cars in the second life.
As with every manufacturer, retaining customers and cars that are nine years old, eight years old, ten years old, is very difficult. We need to go after that market, and it’s part of this strategy, you are going to have a longer maintenance interval, better quality, you need to expand the market. The value line, as well as the all-makes line, has been an important part to attract the competitors’ makes to our dealerships. It’s working pretty well.
So if you have a family with a couple of cars from different brands, they can take them both to the same dealer?
Yeah, there is that channel. There is also the channel of the user of cars that trades in, then we open the Express Lane and you become more a one-stop-shop for every brand. The combination of these actions is driving more. We have almost three million cars from competitors’ makes that are coming to our dealerships for service. That’s a lot of potential.
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