Chrysler's Dodge division is hitting the road with an experiential campaign timed with the advent of spring, should it ever truly arrive.
The company says it is using the “Dodge Power Rallye Tour,” which starts in Southern California, to show off all of its vehicles, as well as SRT-branded, factory-tuned performance cars. Featured are the Charger, Challenger, Durango, Dart, and the Journey and Grand Caravan.
Chrysler leadership has been on a tear to fix the Dodge lineup in the last couple of years. The automaker announced this year that the Avenger sedan will be phased out after the 2014 model, which means no mid-sized sedan for the division, unless it is replaced with something else. With the automaker having used an Alfa Romeo car platform for the Dodge Dart, it is not unlikely that the Avenger nameplate will also have an Alfa in its future, one with rear-wheel drive. That would help give Dodge the performance raiment that Chrysler has, for a long time, wanted it to wear. Some inherent performance credibility for Dodge is especially important now that the Viper sports car is no longer the Dodge banner.
And along those lines, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that they will jettison the Caravan minivan in spite of its strong sales, since the same van exists as a Chrysler. The Ram pickup departed the Dodge brand in 2009, and the automaker removed the Viper sports car from under Dodge in 2013.
"It certainly looks like they are shrinking their array and concentrating on trucks and performers," says Jim Sanfilippo, former auto brand and agency executive. He says that based on the agility they have demonstrated with other brands, Chrysler brass will probably act with speed when it comes to defining Dodge, or eliminating the brand if it comes to that. "They have shown the ability to fix, improve and restyle," he says. "They don't miss the obvious, and they are especially smart about brands."
Jesse Toprak, head of industry analysis at Cars.com, tells Marketing Daily that the company is probably mulling the dissolution of the Dodge brand. "They are running into same issue GM did with Pontiac and Saturn: similar vehicles, different brands. From the perspective of economies of scale, it just doesn't make sense," he says. "So I think they are looking at every possibility. And that includes what would life be like without Dodge. It isn't a brand that resonates with the younger generation." He adds that European sibling brand Alfa Romeo's entry into the U.S. makes the argument stronger. "It is much more likely to appeal to younger buyers."
For this spring's event the company says it will bring its cars to fifty events as part of the grassroots program. All will also have test drives, vehicle displays, and interactive games tied to promotional sweepstakes, dangling pretty much all the money you'd need to buy a Dodge vehicle.
The automaker, which inked a deal to sponsor rock band Motley Crue's "Final Tour," will have the program at several of that band's dates this year. In January, Dodge signed as presenting sponsor of the tour, a deal that included Dodge using the band's "Kickstart My Heart" song as backing for three TV spots. Dodge isn't the first to use that song. Kia used it along with the band itself in the 2012 Super Bowl launch spot for the Optima sedan.
In addition to drives, the events will have technology and Dodge heritage elements, one of which chronicles the century-old brand. There are also special-edition cars, a tie-in with Chrysler's Mopar after-market equipment division and a drag-racing experience in an SRT.