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If (When) DaimlerChrysler Kills Plymouth

Rumors of the death of Plymouth have been circulating for over a year. The brand, now confined to the United States, long ago was joined at the hip with the Chrysler brand, so that nearly every Plymouth dealer is also a Chrysler dealer. The brand also lost every unique car they had long ago (except the Prowler); now, Plymouths are not even smaller-wheelbase Dodges (as with the Valiant, which in itself was only made a Plymouth to keep the brand alive). This led to the loss of Chrysler as a high-end brand. Without snob appeal or any sort of exclusive image, Chrysler finds it much harder to sell high-tag vehicles than, say, Lincoln or Lexus - whose rebadged Tauruses (Continentals) and Camrys sold quite well.

Indications are that the Plymouth Breeze will not be renewed for 2001, when the line is redesigned. Plymouth minivans are being produced without Plymouth nameplates, ostensibly for cost reasons, though Dodge and Chrysler nameplates are still being used. InsideAutomotive reported that, on October 18, a major announcement will be made to dealers; and that they suspected this announcement would be the death of Plymouth. Detroit News concurs.

Is this really necessary? Probably not. General Motors is wedded to their multiple-brand approach; so is Ford, with its Jaguar, Volvo, Aston Martin, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and sometimes Merkur brands. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan all have upper-level brands in the US as well as standard brands (Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti). Chrysler has three identical brands, and Jeep. Maybe the problem is not that Plymouth is useless; maybe the problem is that Plymouth has been ineptly marketed. Almost as ineptly as Chrysler.

Since Chrysler had at one point decided to make Plymouth value and Dodge performance, why not really try that strategy? It never really had a chance outside of advertising spin. So make Plymouth the value leader. Make Dodge the performance brand. Keep Chrysler for vehicles priced over $20,000 and tune them for a luxury ride (except for the 300M). Make the one most luxurious vehicle an Imperial. Make Imperial a separate brand, sold only through the very best dealerships - measured by Five Star compliance, customer surveys, and lack of customer complaints. And make Dodge available to Chrysler and Plymouth dealers so that each brand can have a unique car, or at least a car available with unique options. Only make Dodge Neon R/Ts. Only have one model overlap between Chrysler and the lower end models. Never let people buy the exact same car from any two of the three marques - make sure the premium options are only on the Chrysler, the strip-down models only on the Plymouth. And do a good job of differentiating the models - the LH series is an excellent example. (Or the Lexus/Camry/Avalon).

It's a thought. It's worth a try. There's still time before October 18. I know I'm trying to push a loaded dumpster. But it's all I can do.

I'll miss Plymouth. On the lighter side, in 25 years, maybe sooner, every Plymouth owner will be eligible to join the Plymouth Owner's Club.

On the darker side, one wonders how long Daimler will keep Chrysler itself around, if their only new interest is commercial vehicles and financial institutions. Chrysler Credit and Dodge Ram may be the only bits of Chrysler to survive twenty years from now. The AMC curse is still at work... but at least Daimler didn't destroy Chrysler's parts warehouses. Yet.


George Danizer wrote: I agree wholeheartedly that DC (and Mopar before it) has never really marketed the Plymouth brand correctly in the last 25 years in the USA. While I understand the idea of the different brands, you correctly identified the problem that DC has with too many parallels between Plymouth and Dodge. I disagree that DC should resurrect Imperial. The name has been diluted way too much. They need a new name like Toyota did with Lexus.

Douglas Miske wrote: In short - I agree 100% that Chrysler has messed up the marketing of their marques and positioning of their various car models. They have been doing it in Canada for years (I had a Chrysler Daytona Turbo C/S - some "Chrysler"! ...and now I own an Eagle Vision). Let's hope they get it right going forward.

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