AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Chrysler sold more than 118,000 Sebring sedans in 2001. Eight years later, the automaker barely sold 27,000 as its bankruptcy filing sent customers fleeing to the car's newer, better competitors.
Chrysler now has a turnaround plan that promises improved quality and a stream of new models. But it won't work unless Chrysler can get cars like the Sebring back on people's shopping lists. To do that, Chrysler is going back to the basics: Reinventing its car brands - Chrysler as a luxury line, Dodge as a quirky value brand - and reintroducing them with head-turning ads.
It's a tall order, but Chrysler insists it can be done.
"We've had troubles. Yeah. We saw death. But the whole world needs to realize we're serious about this plan," Dodge brand chief Ralph Gilles told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "We're no dummies. We know what a good car is and what a good car isn't."
Chrysler Concept Car:
Chrysler's truck brands, Jeep and Ram, have strong identities in buyers' minds. But its car brands are mushy, said Allen Adamson of the San Francisco-based branding firm Landor Associates. One of Chrysler's first actions under Fiat SpA, which took control of the automaker last year, was to split Ram truck from Dodge so Dodge could stand alone.
"What they need to do is quickly define what they want to stand for and then build on it," Adamson said.
Dodge will try to make a big splash with an ad during the Super Bowl next month. Chrysler Group LLC, which has yet to pay back $15.5 billion it borrowed from the federal government, is taking some heat for paying an estimated $5 million to air the ad. But the company says it's the best forum to explain Dodge's transformation.