This is part of a series of executive interviews on the state of North American industry.
Thanks to collaborative partnerships with, an increased focus on individuality and savvy marketing campaigns, continues to reignite interest in its product lineup and generate profit.
Now that sales and volumes are up, the potential for expansion at the auto maker’s plants appears to be greater now than before. Variousexecutives have spoken to media about their wishes to expand production when the time is right, but the auto maker has taken caution not to overspend.
Reid Bigland, president and CEO of the Dodge Brand and chief of U.S. and Canadian sales, addresses what’s to come in 2013 for Chrysler in an email interview with WardsAuto. The following is an edited version of that interview:
WardsAuto: Do you have enough capacity to meet production demand for 2013? Will you need to add shifts at any plants, and if so, how many?
That includes a third shift at our Jefferson (Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango) and Belvidere (Dodge Dart, Jeep Compass and Patriot) plants and expanded hours at our Toledo supplier park (Jeep Wrangler). We are in the process of adding a second shift at our Toledo North plant in 2013 (for a yet-to-be-named Jeep SUV).
Although things are never perfect, I think we are in pretty good shape heading into 2013 to be able to meet our forecasted demand.
WardsAuto: What issues will you and your dealers face, if any, selling vehicles with enhanced technology regarding fuel efficiency, alternative powertrains, infotainment systems and other new developments?
Bigland: Like most vehicle manufacturers, our vehicles have more advanced technology than ever before, which means our dealers must be prepared to explain, demonstrate and ultimately sell those features effectively.
We’ve seen this coming, and we’re meeting this challenge head-on. We’re now offering more training and more sales tools than ever before to not only help our salespeople and customers understand these technologies during the sales process, but also to make sure those technologies are appreciated throughout the ownership experience.
Technology is constantly evolving and improving, and everyone, at the corporation and the dealership, now recognizes that tools and training are essential for meeting the needs of today’s consumers.
WardsAuto: What are you doing to secure the expertise needed to keep pace with dramatic, technology-driven changes in the auto industry? How critical is it to hire from outside the auto industry at all levels?
Bigland: Since 2009, Chrysler Group has hired over 16,000 employees. Many of these people have come from outside the auto industry and have brought with them a diverse set of backgrounds and ideas to approach challenges facing our business and industry.
From my perspective, it is critical for any company to bring as diverse a group of employees together as possible when tackling problems or you are going to short change yourself in developing the best solutions.
WardsAuto: How has your job changed from three years ago?
Bigland: Aside from having my responsibilities expanded to include our U.S. sales operations and the Dodge brand, the competitive landscape has become much more intense. The traditional Big Three (GM,, Chrysler) are all back on their feet again after a tough 2009, profitable and competing with some of the best products in their history.
The Asian manufacturers have overcome setbacks associated with the unfortunate earthquake and tsunami; and the Europeans are as aggressive as ever in North America, looking to make up for difficulties in the European region.
Everyone is back in the game at full force. There is no room for error when it comes to product, customer service and promotional programs if you want to grow. You need to constantly innovate and innovate faster, because competitive advantages are shorter and harder to find in this environment.