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Brands, Not Cars, Key Contends Fiat/Chrysler Exec

Have we heard this song before?

by on Mar.15, 2012

Fiat global brand chief Olivier Francois during the launch of the new 500L.

The idea that a car sells the brand doesn’t apply in the expansive world of Olivier Francois, Chrysler/Fiat’s chief marketing officer.

It’s the brand and its message that ultimately sells the car, Francois told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit. A lot of companies use cars to sell the brand but Francois has deliberately reversed the equation.

“The brand had better stand for something,” explained the French-born executive, noting he uses the exact same formula in Europe where he is in charge of the Fiat and Lancia marques.

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Francois also stressed that timing is critical. Chrysler’s celebrated Eminem ad, which was shown during the Super Bowl in February,2011, would not have worked a year earlier because there wasn’t any solid evidence yet of a Chrysler comeback. A year later it would have been considered “old news,” he added.

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Can “Bad Boy” Charlie Sheen – and High-Performance Abarth Finally Sell Fiat?

“House Arrest” spot part of racy shift for Italian maker after disastrous debut.

by on Mar.05, 2012

Supermodel Catrinel Menghia poses with a Fiat 500 Abarth during the car's media drive in Las Vegas.

It may be small, but one thing the Fiat 500 has is a lot of attitude – all the more so since the Italian maker introduced the sporty new Abarth edition.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that what the marque’s global brand boss calls the “bad boy of the Fiat line-up” should turn to the bad boy of the entertainment world, Charlie Sheen, to draw some attention.

The spot, which was pulled at the last minute from the Super Bowl, gave Fiat officials some “sleepless nights,” a senior official admits, but after a delayed launch has been generating plenty of buzz from a brand that had barely registered on most consumers’ radar until recently.

Fiat got off to a nearly disastrous debut little more than a year ago, sales for all of 2011 coming in at barely half the initial forecast – leading Fiat to oust its U.S. marketing chief.

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Since then, the maker has ramped up its marketing efforts, first with a series of controversial Jennifer Lopez commercials, following up with supermodel Catrinel Menghia’s racy “Seduction” spot first aired during the Super Bowl.

Now comes Sheen, shown racing the Fiat 500 Abarth inside his mansion during a party – the “tiger blood” actor explaining how much fun he is having while under “house arrest.”

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New Product Should Help Fiat Overcome Initial Setbacks

J.Lo campaign paid off despite controversy, Fiat officials insist.

by on Jan.19, 2012

JLo's ads for Fiat took plenty of criticism - but increased brand awareness substantially.

There’s an old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.  Just spell the name right.  That might be a matter of debate if you’re running for president, but it appears to be a valid contention for Fiat, which has been struggling to build momentum for its return to the U.S. market after a two decade absence.

Despite the controversy over the maker’s first national TV ads, featuring Jennifer Lopez, Fiat officials insist the campaign paid off, helping build awareness among potential buyers just as the Italian brand is preparing to roll out an assortment of new products.

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The line-up has been limited to variations of the initial Fiat 500 minicar – the performance-oriented Abarth edition set to hit showrooms in March – with a battery version to follow – but a new 5-door hatchback is in the works, along with yet another product that will markedly expand the Fiat brand’s range of offerings.

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Laura Soave, Fiat’s U.S. Brand Boss Ousted

Falls victim to sluggish sales.

by on Nov.22, 2011

Former Fiat marketing chief Laura Soave with the 500C during its New York Auto Show launch in April.

Automotive veteran Laura Soave has been forced out of her post as head of Fiat in the U.S. as the Chrysler Group LLC shook up the marketing effort behind the tiny Fiat 500 which has been suffering from sluggish sales since its public launch late last year.

Timothy Kuniskis, a veteran Chrysler Group marketing executive, was named to head of the Fiat Brand for North America, replacing Soave, who led the return of the Fiat brand for nearly two years. Soave, a veteran of top marketing jobs at both Volkswagen and GM “left the company to pursue other interests,” Chrysler said in a statement.

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In his new role, Kuniskis, will serve as Director for both the Chrysler Brand and Fiat Brand Product Marketing. That includes managing Fiat Brand sales, marketing, dealer network and service.

“Tim brings broad expertise and leadership in dealer operations and marketing where he has been already working with the team to shape the direction of the Fiat Brand,” said Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO, Chrysler Group LLC, who personally made the announcement of the change in management.

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