By Patrick Rall
On October 5, 2009, Chrysler Corporation issued a press release announcing a handful of new corporate positions throughout Chrysler Group LLC, as well as the introduction of the new Dodge RAM brand. The previous CEO/President positions of the Dodge and Chrysler brand, held by Michael Accavitti (left to pursue other interests) and Peter Fong (“personal reasons”) respectively were suddenly vacated when the two left the company. The top position in the Chrysler brand has been filled by Olivier Francois, who is the acting CEO of Lancia, and has been a member of the Fiat management team for almost 5 years.
The announcement of the new head of the Dodge brand, came with an interesting twist. Chrysler Group LLC has decided to split the Dodge brand into the Dodge cars brand – which will contain all of the cars, crossovers, and the minivans; and the new Dodge RAM brand.
The Dodge RAM will offer the Dodge Ram pickups and the commercial vehicles previously offered from Dodge. The press release fails to mention where the Dodge Dakota will land, and with no mention of the mid sized pickup, the future of the model could be up in the air, although we can assume for now that it will fall under the Dodge RAM brand. Hopefully Chrysler will have more information soon as to the exact model layout of the Dodge RAM and Dodge car brands. The creation of this new group includes a new CEO, and Fred Diaz Jr. will take that position, previously having run the Denver Business Center. The Dodge car group will be headed by long time Chrysler designer Ralph Gilles.
This decision to split the cars and trucks is similar to a Fiat
corporate split headed by Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, and
that split helped to stabilize the then-struggling European auto
giant. Mr. Marchionne hopes that this split of the Dodge brand will
allow for a better focus on improving the Dodge Car brand, as Dodge’s
cars (as well as Chrysler’s) have been suffering in sales. The Dodge
trucks, on the other hand, are among the best selling on the market,
and this new Dodge RAM brand will offer Chrysler Group a chance to show
positive numbers during these difficult times for automakers. There is
also the concern of the new CAFÉ laws looming over the industry, and
there could be some benefit to Chrysler to have the less fuel efficient
trucks separated from the cars to improve the overall efficiency rating
of the brand.
The downside to this new corporate layout is
that some analysts say that this could be a way of Dodge liquidating
assets associated with the poorer selling models, specifically the
Dodge cars. For the time being, this appears to be an attempt to help
get the entire company back on track, and the next few months promise
to be interesting, as the new Chrysler Group LLC front office decide
which models need to go in order to get the company back on its feet.
The Press Release from Chrysler Group LLC:
Chrysler Group LLC Announces New Appointments Auburn Hills, Mich., Oct 5, 2009 –
Chrysler Group LLC today announces brand and commercial organization changes.
brand-focused strategy has been refined further with the unbundling of
the Dodge Brand which now consists of the Dodge Ram Brand and the Dodge
Car Brand organizations. This reorganization will allow us to protect
and develop the unique nature of the product offerings within the Dodge
Brand,” Mr. Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer, Chrysler Group
Fred Diaz Jr. is appointed President and CEO, Dodge
Ram Brand with profit and loss responsibility for the Dodge Ram product
portfolio. Mr. Diaz will also be the lead executive for the Sales
organization in the United States. He was previously the Director of
the Denver Business Center. Mr. Diaz has been with the Company since
1989 in positions of increasing responsibility. The Company will
announce Mr. Diaz’s replacement with a separate announcement.
Gilles is appointed President and CEO, Dodge Car Brand with profit and
loss responsibility for the Dodge Car product portfolio. Mr. Gilles
will continue to lead the Product Design organization of Chrysler Group
which he joined in 1992.
Olivier Francois is appointed
President and CEO, Chrysler Brand, with profit and loss responsibility
for the Chrysler product portfolio. Mr. Francois joins the Company from
Fiat Group Automobiles where he serves as head of the Lancia Brand, a
position he retains. Mr. Francois will also be the lead executive for
the Marketing organization with responsibility to coordinate worldwide
marketing strategies, brand development and advertising for the
Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge Car and Dodge Ram brands. He will continue to
lead these functions within Fiat Group Automobiles. Mr. Francois joined
Fiat in 2005.
Michael Manley will continue as the President
and CEO, Jeep Brand with profit and loss responsibility for the Jeep
Brand product portfolio. Mr. Manley will also be the lead executive for
the international activities of the Company outside of NAFTA and will
be responsible for implementing the co-operation agreements for
distribution of Chrysler Group products through Fiat’s international
distribution network. Mr. Manley has been with Chrysler since 1998.
Veltri joins the Management Team as Head of Product Planning. Mr.
Veltri started with the Company in 1988. His career has included
positions in product planning, marketing, business strategy, and
finance. He served most recently as Product Planning Lead and Head of
Peter Fong, head of the Chrysler Brand has
resigned for personal reasons. Michael Accavitti, head of the Dodge
Brand has resigned to pursue other interests.