After 17 years selling cars in West Palm Beach, Fla., James Arrigo
knows a thing or two about what consumers want.
"There shouldn't be 1,000 ways to order a minivan," he
tired of watching Chrysler
botch the launch of critical new models like the Sebring, a midsize sedan.
"It should be a front-runner in that segment, but because of quality and marketing issues, it doesn't compete."For years Arrigo
and outspoken dealers like him have offered suggestions for how Chrysler
could sell more vehicles and improve its image.
Too often, especially in recent years, when Chrysler
was owned by Germany's Daimler
, those ideas took a back seat to concerns about cost control or factory productivity.
ow Chrysler has a new owner, new bosses and a newfound interest in what its dealers are saying.
Between now and the end of the year Chrysler's executives are hitting the road for a series of "fireside chats" with dealers to solicit feedback on how the company can turn its business around and simultaneously help dealers improve their profits.
discussions are needed to repair dealer relations after a disastrous 2006.
built more cars than it could sell, forcing dealers into a financial bind: They had to pay higher borrowing costs to carry the extra inventory yet offer bigger discounts to move unsold cars off their lots.
"We couldn't make any money," explained Arrigo, who is president of the Chrysler-Jeep Dealer Council.
As inventories piled up, he says, "dealers lost faith in the company."The frosty relationship started to thaw in January, after Chrysler ousted its top sales and marketing executive and began putting in place more dealer-friendly policies.
Under Cerberus Chrysler has accelerated those efforts.
Probably."Noting that 70% of Chrysler's
sales are of trucks, SUVs and minivans, Arrigo
says: "There's a huge passenger-car market that we haven't even begun to touch."For all the problems, however, Arrigo
is more optimistic than he's
ever been as a Chrysler dealer.