Chrysler Aims to Zap Japs, Quadruple Global Sales in Decade

29 July 2002

German-American auto giant DaimlerChrysler announced Friday a new sales strategy, as aggressive as it is ambitious: reverse the massive inroads made by Japanese carmakers into the US market and within a decade quadruple its Detroit subsidiary’s global sales to four million units annually.

Hissed Chrysler’s US chief executive Dieter Zetsche, poised in Kung-Fu attacking stance: “We are clearly focused on lifting this company from a struggle of survival to a level of excellence. We are not seeing the game [just] between the [US] big three ... the only way to succeed is really to take on the imports and fight back, and that's what we intend to do.”

Zetsche also implies that Chrysler is willing to sacrifice margins for the sake of volume and to exploit new markets. The strategy, which will be implements as of this year’s fourth quarter, will focus on cars and SUVs as opposed to light trucks and minivans – the former categories accounting for just 30% of the group’s US output at present.

Eleven new auto products are awaiting the green light come Q4 although, according to Zetsche, Chrysler will not emulate GM and Ford in their [pyrrhic, some say] use of finance incentives and price slashing as a sales tool.

In common with other members of the big three, Chrysler’s car and SUV ranges have received the biggest battering at the hands of Nipponese rivals, attributable largely to the latter’s greater focus on manufacturing efficiency.

This boosted US market share for Toyota, Nissan and other Japanese marques from 32.3% in 2001 to 34.7% during the first half of 2002; whereas their grip on the light truck market remained virtually static.

Even the entrail-rakers were impressed at Chrysler’s bellicose blueprint: “It's the most aggressive statement about the passenger car business I’ve heard from Detroit so far,” said Merrill Lynch auto-oracle John Casesa. “They [the big three] all acknowledge they have to do something but this is an offensive statement.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff