Back in November 2009, at a seven-hour meeting at its headquarters with the press, Chrysler Group’s new Italian management revealed that there would be a new brand, Ram, split off from the Dodge brand.
Attendees were skeptical, since it came at a time when General Motors was eliminating brands from its stable and Ford was selling off brands.
The plan, according to Ram President-CEO Fred Diaz, was to spin off the Ram brand is for trucks, with plans to expand in the commercial truck arena. He also told us back then Ram’s annual sales would jump to 415,000 by 2015 from about the 280,000 he expected to sell in 2010.
Ram didn’t quite hit that target last year, tallying sales of almost 213,000 units in the U.S.- a 7% jump from 2009.
Meanwhile, Dodge would be repositioned from rugged to refined and youthful, the brand’s President-CEO Ralph Giles told us back in 2009.
But what are we really seeing with the brand?
At the Chicago Auto Show earlier this month, Giles just unveiled a slew of go-go R/T performance models, including for the Grand Caravan “man-van” minivan, and announced the return of the Dodge Charger SRT8 for the 2012 model year.
Giles also unveiled Dodge’s new ad theme at the Chicago show: Never Neutral.
In one of the first TV commercials to use the line, Dodge pokes fun of Mitsubishi’s virtual, online test drives, with this spot for “real test drives” of the new 2011 Charger:
Dodge’s new line, from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Oregon, is fine, and we like the flags snapping in the breeze at the end that brings motorsports to mind. W+K is a damn good agency, but this new approach isn’t any big departure from Dodge’s longtime positioning of bold that’s been around for more than a decade.
That’s a good thing, since the brand’s positioning shouldn’t shift just because there’s new people in charge of Chrysler Group and a new ad agency.
There should still be some institutional knowledge inside Chrysler Group from 2005 that Dodge does well when it markets to men and still doesn’t turn off women. Make no mistake this new ad theme is full of testosterone.
But the automaker has its hands full trying to separate Ram from Dodge. The Dodge Ram pickup name has been around since 1981 and Americans are used to it.
Dodge’s website is still http://www.dodge.com and Ram now has its own dedicated web site at http://www.ramtrucks.com
That’s cool. But when you search for dealers, their store names and the signs outside them still say Dodge.
Giles told me in Chicago the Ram dealers are just starting to change their store signs.
But it will take a long time- and a lot of ad spending- to change the way Americans talk about Dodge and Ram.
MAKING TRACKS : Turns out retired Chrysler Group Executive Steven Landry isn’t retired at all. After joining the board of ATCO, a Canadian public utility company, he’s risen to managing director and COO of ATCO Energy Australia and is leading the team down under. Congrats, Steve.
SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA : Suzuki should have shown the Swift concept in Chicago. It would have gotten LOTS of coverage instead of getting lost in Geneva.
VOLVO-LUTION: Hooray for Volvo, which will spend more on advertising in the fist quarter of this year than it did in ALL of 2010 — and will then spend that same amount in the second quarter.
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