Having had the chance for an afternoon nap and time to dream about my ideal Miata roadster, I felt relaxed when I woke up and took time to look at all that was going on in the world of the automobile and two things struck me today as I surfed the Web, one interesting and one sad.
As Tough As Flint
The sad thing first. Jerry Flint passed away at age 79, and that is definitely something that saddens me, for it was he who inspired me to expound about cars, as I have adored all things automotive since I was a kid and like to shoot my mouth off. I used to read his columns in various online and paper journals and he always had an interesting point of view on his subjects. I would say he was a controversial tough nut, as tough as Flint, Michigan, a city whose products he covered with a rough edge itself.
His articles were no holds barred. He didn’t shy away from topics and often said stuff just to get people thinking, in my humble judgment. (I once commented on a great piece he wrote that you could call inflammatory for Forbes about GM and the unions, and he actually responded to my post telling me what a great writer he was!) It got me to think about the rough situation GM was in well before the monumental GM bankruptcy of 2008. He was on the ball then and made me think about the American car makersand what trouble they were in 6 years ago. And he was pretty darn direct about it too, no dancing around the topic. And now, the curmudgeon commentator of Detroit has shuffled off this mortal coil but will be in my automotive thoughts for some time to come.
The Tough Sell
In fact, Flint’s many attempts at prodding and pushing people to think about were the inspiration for what struck me for this post. That would be Chrysler’s attempt to push--count ‘em--four nameplates as their product lineup starts to flesh out over the coming years. Quite the opposite of Toyota, BMW, or any successful car maker. Fewer brands are easier to handle. I smell some pride-cometh-before-the-fall coming, unless the product is wickedly good.
Fiat has reorganized Chrysler into brand-based business units and that reminded me of something GM failed at miserably under Ronald Zarella. Now, GM had lame product and badge-engineered vehicles, a mistake Fiat is unlikely to repeat. However, there has to be one thing to underpin this re-branded car maker’s latest near-death experience: best-in-class product. And that is not an easy thing to do with Ford, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota, and to a degree GM pumping out the best products they have in ages. Chrysler will need to outmatch and in particular out-market and advertise the heavyweights.
What Would Jerry or I Do?
What would Jerry Flint suggest to Sergio Marchionne to make Chrysler stand out? I could imagine it would involve Flint’s ascot getting into a wrestling match with Marchionne’s infamous sweater and then having a “hybrid” come out as a result. Since that won’t happen, I do have three suggestions of my own for future Chrysler Ad campaigns:
- (Theme: Crazy Antonio’s Auto Store)
Chrysler: Come On Down! We Got You Covered--Huge Hemis for Men, Feminine Fiats for the Ladies, and Minivans for the Masses!
- (Theme: Roberto Benigni comedy)
Fiat-Chrysler: Molto Bene! No More Lido Ads or Vinyl Roof Cars--We Swear!
- (Theme: Disco music)
Chrysler: We Will Survive--Two Bankruptcies, a German Merger and Thrashing, and now Italian Products Made for Americans--Again!