“You only get one shot,” hip-hop artist Eminem rapped on the lead track for “8 Mile,” his 2002 film. It turns out Chrysler Group LLC is giving the Detroiter another chance to tout its product -- this time on a nameplate.
The next phase of Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” campaign, which debuted with Eminem in a two-minute Super Bowl commercial in 2011, includes an 8 Mile edition of the Chrysler 200 sedan to mark the movie’s 10-year anniversary, said Olivier Francois, the automaker’s chief marketing officer. It’s also introducing a 300 Motown sedan that will be tied to Broadway’s new show “Motown: The Musical,” Francois said in an interview.
Chrysler is combining new models such as the Dodge Dart compact and Ram 1500 pickup with what Reid Bigland, the U.S. sales chief, calls “buzz packages” to extend its streak of year-over-year sales gains beyond 30 months. Chrysler had the first Super Bowl ad to thank for some of its early monthly gains, which were recorded as the carmaker rebounded from its 2009 bankruptcy.
“If you wanted to change the conversation about Chrysler - - Chrysler the bailout company, Chrysler the Detroit company -- we had to change the conversation about Detroit itself,” Francois, 51, said this week in an interview. “We needed to give Detroit credit for what it really does stand for.”
The Detroit-themed 200 and 300 sedans were among 66 future models that Chrysler showed to dealers last month during a preview of products planned by 2014. The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker just completed a commercial for the 300 Motown, Francois said. It’s unclear whether Eminem will appear in another commercial to promote the 200 8 Mile. Marketing plans for that car are “still in discussion,” he said.
Other new iterations of existing models on the way for Chrysler include the 300 Glacier edition, aimed for all-weather markets such as Denver, as well as the 300C John Varvatos, named for the Detroit native and menswear designer.
The 300 Glacier, arriving later this year, will feature an active transfer case and front-axle-disconnect system that allows the car to transition between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive without any action by the driver. The 300C John Varvatos, going on sale next year, is decked out in premium leather, hand-sanded matte wood and chrome exterior details.
“Running that blend of all new, significantly refreshed, and then the buzz packages is what you’ll see continue to be deployed from us,” Bigland said in an interview last month, without elaborating on future products.
Chrysler has introduced several “buzz” vehicles in the past year for its Jeep, Fiat, Ram and Chrysler brands. Jeep introduced the 2012 Wrangler Unlimited Altitude in April that started at $33,740, an $8,195 premium to the base Wrangler Unlimited. The automaker built only 4,500 Unlimited Altitude SUVs, which featured black-spoke wheels and red accent stitching in the interior.
Other limited-edition vehicles included a Red Wings Edition Ram truck for the Detroit area and the Fiat 500 by Gucci.
Chrysler’s U.S. deliveries surged 24 percent this year through September, led by the 300 and 200 sedans and the Jeep Grand Cherokee sport-utility vehicle, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Industrywide U.S. sales rose 14.5 percent.
Chrysler has added 0.9 percentage point this year to its U.S. market share, which has climbed to 11.5 percent. That’s second only to Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s 1.9 percentage point gain, as it recovered from the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last year.
Since its monthly year-over-year growth streak began in April 2010, the automaker has added 2.1 percentage points of share. General Motors Co. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F)’s market shares have slid during that period.
Dealers including AutoNation Inc. (AN), the largest U.S. new-car retailer, have praised Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” marketing theme and back-to-back Super Bowl commercials for helping drive traffic to their showroom floors while tapping into the city’s comeback. “Awesome! A tribute to America’s fighting spirit,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson posted on Twitter after the second ad.
The first ad with Eminem “talked about a bunch of scruffy guys who got their act together again and started a very slow process of a comeback,” Marchionne told reporters on Oct. 8 in Columbus, Ohio, where he spoke about the campaign on the campus of Ohio State University. “Because of the fact that we were that frank and dead honest about ourselves, people related.”
Chrysler followed the Eminem commercial with another two-minute ad this year featuring Clint Eastwood, whose “Gran Torino” film focused on a retired Detroit auto worker. The actor heralded the city’s recovery midway through the 2012 Super Bowl, declaring that it was “halftime in America” and pledging that the world would “hear the roar of our engines.”
The automaker is backing up its pro-Detroit messaging by hiring and by moving some of its salaried employees to the city, which lost 25 percent of its population in the past decade.
Chrysler last month began moving about 70 employees into a building renamed Chrysler House after the company agreed to lease two floors of office space in what was formerly known as the Dime Building. The 23-story structure is owned by Rock Ventures LLC, a portfolio of companies, investments and real estate run by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
The new 2013 SRT Viper sports car, the most expensive model in the Chrysler lineup at about $97,000, begins production in November at the automaker’s Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit that has been idle since July 2010.
The Jefferson North factory in Detroit, which assembles Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs, also is accelerating the addition of 1,100 jobs and a third crew of workers. Marchionne said in April that Chrysler would pull ahead to November plans for increasing production at that plant, which previously called for adding a third crew early next year.
“We’re the Detroit kids,” Marchionne said this week. “That’s who we are.”
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