Thursday, August 7, 2008



This morning’s (i.e., 8/7/08’s) Wall Street Journal reports that Chrysler is in discussions with Nissan about jointly producing a mid-sized sedan. Since Chrysler has already entered into a similar deal with Nissan on pickup trucks and subcompact cars, and with China’s Chery Automobile on subcompacts, the Journal concludes, quite correctly, that Chrysler is well on its way to becoming a marketer of cars made by others.

In my 81/08 post, I referred to Chrysler’s product line as “pathetic,” which probably understates the case. So it is good news that Cerberus is addressing this potentially fatal shortcoming; carmakers, after all, have to produce good cars, or at least refrain from producing awful cars, in order to survive. However, think about the major flaw, at least for Chrysler, in the apparent strategy of becoming a marketer of other people’s cars. This might work when selling products from Chery Automobile. But Nissan (or virtually any other brand)? What customer says:

“I don’t want to buy a crappy Nissan. I want to buy a high quality Chrysler!”


“I don’t trust those malingerers and lazy louts at Nissan! I want to buy a quality car! I want a Dodge!”


“I can’t be seen in a Nissan; what will the neighbors think! Give me a Chrysler!”?

The problem with a simple branding strategy is that the brand one brings to the table must have some cache. The cache of any Chrysler brand (with the possible, and only possible, exception of Jeep, the appeal of which has been dwindling for at least the last ten years) is long gone. No one aspires to own a Dodge.

Perhaps the next big idea to emerge from the Cerberus braintrust (which one would have thought, with Jim Press and Wolfgang Bernhard, inter alia, in the fold, should be quite formidable) will be to bring back the Plymouth and DeSoto brands.

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