Special Coverage

Chrysler's Next Chapter

Expect the Dodge name to get a new look in accordance with Chrysler Group LLC’s 5-year business plan, scheduled for unveiling today.

CEO Sergio Marchionne and Chairman C. Robert Kidder promise “the launch of an ambitious growth and profitability plan.” The strategy is expected to be fully implemented by 2014, the executives say in a statement released this morning.

Ward’s learns the auto maker has designed a new logo for the brand, recently realigned to comprise passenger vehicles only. Trucks once labeled Dodge, such as Chrysler’s volume flagship Ram fullsize pickup, will hit the market under the Dodge Ram banner, signified by a stylized version of the ram’s head logo.

Until now, the well-known ram’s head logo was associated with car and truck products. The move to divide passenger vehicles from those with potential commercial applications mirrors a strategy adopted by Fiat Automobiles SpA, which has a 20% stake in Chrysler. The two auto makers also share a CEO: Sergio Marchionne.

Fiat’s passenger cars boast the brand’s trademark red-and-white Fiat badge, while truck offerings, such as the Ducato, feature a smaller version of the traditional badge underlined by the word “professional.”

It is unclear whether Chrysler will unveil the new Dodge logo today. Chrysler spokesman David Elshoff declines comment on the auto maker’s plans.

Improvement can’t come soon enough for the auto maker. Chrysler sales plummeted 32.8% in October, compared with like-2008, according to Ward’s data. The auto maker’s overall share plunged 3.5 points to 7.8%.

The Dodge brand lost 1.6 points of share, sinking to 7.8% on sales that lagged prior-year 28.4%.

While there is considerable equity in the ram’s head logo, there is “no silver bullet” to improve the auto maker’s performance in the market, warns Derrick Daye, managing partner-The Blake Project, an international strategic brand consultant.

“How quickly consumers get their arms around what this new (Dodge) brand and what it means to them is going to be determined by the skill of (the auto maker’s) ad agency and the will to drive this message,” Daye tells Ward’s.

The Detroit Free Press reports Chrysler has registered with the U.S. Patent Office a stylized version of its core-brand logo.

Today’s event at Chrysler headquarters is scheduled to last some six hours as Marchionne, Kidder and other executives are expected to outline brand strategies as well as plans to share platforms, engines, engine technology and transmissions between Chrysler and Fiat.

By 2014, they say, Chrysler will be “a new and vibrant player in the world automotive industry.”

emayne@wardsauto.com