An Image U-Turn?

For a sense of how Chrysler (DCX ) is rethinking its image, just look at its TV commercials. Barely a year ago, the No.3 U.S. carmaker was making waves with ads that featured wife-swapping and backseat trysts -- all in the name of selling family cars. "We want to be the most daring marketer in the business," Chrysler marketing chief Jim Schroer said back then.

But there was one problem: Getting down and dirty does nothing to raise your brand image. So now that Chrysler is out to remake itself as an upscale auto maker, it has done an about-face, swapping sexual innuendo for, well, Céline Dion.

Since mid-January, the French Canadian singer and her smiling baby son have been appearing in ads for the Pacifica and the Town & Country minivan. Although the beaming new-mom thing might seem the wrong image for the upcoming Crossfire -- a high-performance sports car -- Chrysler nonetheless inked a three-year deal with Dion last November. It calls for her music in Chrysler ads, including a song the chanteuse will pen just for the brand.

Why Céline Dion? "She's refined, she's glamorous, and she's family-oriented, which are Chrysler's values," Schroer now says. In other words, Chrysler is betting that Dion's class will help them both move up the charts.

By Christine Tierney

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