Chrysler president Jim Press met his UK dealers last week and was told of mounting concerns over low sales, high list prices and brand confusion.
Some in the network want the manufacturer to drop Dodge in the UK, saying no attempt has been made to establish it as a distinctive brand. One dealer said: “We want to give customers a clear choice between a value and a 4x4 brand, Chrysler and Jeep”.
Other dealers believe the UK network has to contract from around 70 to 40 or 50 selling a smaller range of models. “A number of us loyal to Chrysler believe this is the only way to achieve profitability,” said one.
A meeting was taking place at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham as AM's last issue went to press. Dealers were asked in advance to table questions on issues of concern, and a vigorous exchange was expected.
Afterwards Press was continuing discussions with the network over dinner. He joined Chrysler from Toyota where he was the first non-Japanese board member.
Before the meeting one dealer said: “We’ve heard a lot of talk about product rationalisation, but nothing has happened.
“The problem with the Chrysler brand is that PT Cruiser has finished, we’re no longer selling Crossfire and Sebring doesn’t work in the UK. The Caliber is replacing the PT Cruiser as a cheaper alternative to a Focus or an Astra, but should be badged a Chrysler.”
Another dealer said: “Many of us have been telling Chrysler for ages that list prices are too high. The 300C has a place in the British market, and we can sell a few Voyagers and Grand Voyagers, but there are too many models for the sales that can be won. We have to stock too many demonstrators.”
Dealers meet Federico Goretti
Earlier this month a group of Chrysler UK dealers met new UK managing director Federico Goretti.
One said: “We put some points strongly to him. We had an especially good relationship with Simon Elliott and hope to develop one with his replacement.”
Elliott left Chrysler to become managing director of Volkswagen commercial vehicles in the UK.
Chrysler UK and senior dealer council members declined to comment on recent discussions.
In America, Press has said Chrysler “will adapt its course according to the changing market”, rather than using past successes to carve a path.
He accepted the need to generate brand identity, saying each had a core theme: Jeep off-road, Dodge volume and performance and Chrysler affordable luxury.
Press has said he hoped to put an end to the many recent deviations in that strategy.
He wants Chrysler to appeal “to drivers rather than consumers”.
Seven new models are due for launch over the new few years. One will be a car-based, fuel-efficient compact SUV likely to be sold under the Jeep Cherokee brand.
Chrysler, owned by investor Cerberus, is investing close to £1 billion in its main Detroit assembly plant.