With these two new models, what is Chrysler’s positioning in the UK?
In our discussions with Fiat in Turin about where the Chrysler brand was going, the decision – and it wasn’t an economical decision – was about building a foundation for the brand. The right-hand-drive market is very important for the brand and we need to be competing in the two largest segments in the UK – B and C.
While we plan to deliver relatively small numbers, it is more about delivering our dealers with a quality product to sell in competitive markets and one that’s a credible alternative to the mainstream.
There will be dealers who are confused about this change in direction. What is your message to them?
The majority of dealers who have had the existing franchise through the very difficult times between 2008 and 2010, demanded that we deliver a new and competitive product. The formation of the alliance with Fiat and therefore with the product line-up of Lancia, I believe that our dealers are genuinely excited about this because it gives them an opportunity for volume.
What has been your approach?
We took the whole sales force to Milan and spent two days talking to them about the new products, the positioning of the brand, the heritage of the brand, and got them to unpick their own businesses to see how they need to approach the business differently with new customers. The dealer network is very motivated behind the new Jeep and new Chrysler product coming.
Is the network growing?
What has been really encouraging from a network perspective is that we are attracting new businesses – this year there will be a further 10 dealers opening and they are a mixture of existing partners, brand new PLC partners, and new owner-drivers.
How does the Delta sit alongside other Fiat Group C-segment cars in your new ‘brand centres’?
We know that we have multiple vehicles in the same segment. We believe the audience for Bravo is completely different from Giulietta, and the audience for Giulietta is completely different for that of a Chrysler product. Within that it is down to personal desire and image, not price point. We are under no illusion there will not be some inter-brand competition, but that is better than external competition. There will be some cross-selling, but the majority of customers coming to a brand centre will already know what they are looking at.
There will be customers who only see these as re-badged Lancias. Will this be a challenge to overcome?
I think, in the short-term, it is going to be a challenge – a challenge against perceptions. People can get emotional about various brands and their re-emergence into markets and the whole term ‘badge engineering’, but the key thing is we didn’t invent badge engineering – it’s been around for years. And anyway, this isn’t about badge engineering. This is a true fusion of the businesses through integration of the engineering functions.
Ultimately, the consumers will make their own minds up. What we are looking for is to provide credible alternatives. Is it a Lancia or is it a Chrysler? It would be wrong of me to play smoke and mirrors. Delta has been sold as a Lancia for the last 18 months, but the Ypsilon is an all-new model which has been influenced by the Fiat and Chrysler alliance. It is a very difficult question to answer – we are Chrysler, it is a Chrysler product and it is made out of Poland, not Italy.