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Marketing America's Import: The Chrysler 200

Topics:  Chrysler 200
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Marketing America's Import: The Chrysler 200

Bill Crittenden
October 25, 2014

2015 Chrysler 200 Second Generation Dodge Challenger Japanese Advertisement
Chrysler's latest rebranding efforts for its 200 sedan seem to be aiming for the segment of buyers who think of imported cars as superior to domestic market cars.

It started a few years ago with the advertising line "Imported from Detroit." I actually particularly liked this one, as it referenced Detroit by name, referencing its American manufacture while still trying to put itself on the level of German automakers.

The slight evolution of this line is that the car is now "America's Import." Again, referencing its American birthplace while trying to elevate itself to the level of former business partner Mercedes-Benz.

But the stretch of this latest iteration of the slogan just ended up reminding me of this 1970's Dodge Challenger ad from its collection. They seemed rather proud of the Japanese source of this car. So much so that the whole ad seems really insulting to the American automobile industry that Chrysler was a part of.

That ad just seemed to say, "we suck. Please buy this Japanese car from us instead of from the company that made it so that we can continue to exist in some form."

The new 200 advertising isn't really bad, but in context of Chrysler's past advertising and its new Fiat ownership, following the years of the DaimlerChrysler partnership, at what point do we start to adapt to the idea that Chrysler isn't as American a company as it was in its heyday during the muscle car era?

And is that really a bad thing?

Sure, them's fightin' words to a segment of the flag-waving Mopar-mad crowd who cherish their Challengers as one of the greatest things the United States ever made (remember the silly ad a few years ago with George Washington driving one against the British army?).

But from a marketing standpoint for the Chrysler marque (independent of Dodge), that's not necessarily a horrible thing, to not be an American car company when selling to a sophisticated middle market buyer. Lately GM has been an embarrassment to the industrial history of this great nation, and Ford hasn't had the best history of reliability during my lifetime. There's only so many buyers to be swayed by the Stars & Stripes and patriotic themes, and that number may be declining, especially in the almost-luxury segment the 200 fits in to.

The average American car buyer on this segment has unprecedented access to build quality research, vehicle parts and design sourcing information, and news of the Big 3's troubles. The buyers who value dependable transportation over patriotic statements have been rewarding Asian automakers with solid market shares year after year already.

Depending upon the target demographic that Chrysler marketing has for the 200, of which I'm guessing Ted Nugent and his lifelong fans are not members, conveying the idea that Chrysler is a carmaker with foreign influences & aesthetics but otherwise traditional American values may both a positive thing and exactly what they aim to convey with a line like "America's Import."

The overall idea of imported American cars seemed to work well for the first generation of the car, under the original "Imported from Detroit" label. Sales peaked in 2012 but have remained strong, selling 87K on 2011, 125K in 2012, and 122K in 2013. The "America's Import" 2015 model started mid-2014 and is just gorgeous, far better than the still-attractive previous model. Hopefully, regardless of marketing, this model will sell enough improve the overall look of traffic jams here.

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