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Dodge Not Going Away, Insists Brand Boss

No “master plan to consolidate brands,” insists Kuniskis.

by on Sep.16, 2013

Dodge has a "very solid future," says brand chief Tim Kuniskis, as it launches new Durango.

Despite some uncertainty over its future product program, the Dodge brand isn’t going away, insists the man in charge of coming up with its long-term strategy.

Having dropped such brands as Eagle and Plymouth over the years, there’s been growing speculation in recent months that Dodge would also be sent off to the automotive rust heap, especially after documents leaked out suggesting some of the brand’s key products might not be around for more than a few years.

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But that only suggests that Dodge, like the rest of the Chrysler Group, is trying to get a better handle on its overall line-up and end product duplication – badge engineering, in industry-speak – insists Tim Kuniskis, the President and CEO of the Dodge brand.

Getting rid of Dodge, “is not a part of a master plan to consolidate brands,” the executive said during a media preview of the new 2014 Dodge Durango in suburban Los Angeles.


Chrysler Shakes Up Brand Management Team

Maker moves fast after Diaz defects to Nissan.

by on Apr.15, 2013

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and new Ram Truck boss Reid Bigland.

After unexpectedly losing one of its top brand bosses to Nissan, the Chrysler Group is shaking up its executive lineup, putting new managers in charge at its Ram, Dodge and Fiat brands.

The quick switch following the loss of Ram chief Fred Diaz, appears designed to maintain momentum at a maker that has posted three years of month-over-month sales gains. But while Chrysler might be showing off the “depth of our talent pool,” the shake-up also reveals how a handful of top executives are each being asked to handle multiple assignments in an unusual lean corporate structure.

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“These appointments are part of the Chrysler Group’s strategy to continuously reinforce its leadership ranks as we continue on our path to achieve our business targets,” declared Sergio Marchionne, chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler Group LLC, in a statement issued Monday morning.


First Look: Fiat 500X

Maker set to add CUV as third model.

by on Jul.06, 2012

Fiat has offered a first look at what is expected to be the third model line in its growing U.S. line-up, a small crossover it is calling the 500X.

The unveiling came as a surprise to journalists who had been invited to Turin, Italy for the formal launch of the Fiat 500L, a 5-door hatchback that the maker plans to bring to the U.S. in 2013.  Fiat officials had previously hinted that another product was coming but refused to reveal details until lifting the covers in Turin on a silver concept vehicle.

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Tim Kuniskis, who took over as Fiat’s second U.S. brand boss last year, following a disastrously slow debut of the Italian brand, has told TheDetroitBureau.com on several occasions that there would be more products coming – but he has also emphasized that Fiat will remain focused on small vehicles in the B-car segment.

Beyond that, Fiat officials had little to say about the 500X prototype they revealed in Turin.  But it is expected to be powered by several versions of the Italian makers MultiAir engine family – starting with a 0.9-liter turbocharged version for the European market that makes 104 hp, and a 84 hp 1.3-liter turbodiesel.  An American version of the crossover would likely share the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir gas engine producing 101 hp, as well as the 160-hp version now offered in the Fiat 500 Abarth edition.

Reports from Europe suggest the 500X will measure about 13 feet, nose-to-tail, and that the new model will feature optional all-wheel-drive, much like the similarly sized Mini Countryman.

The 500X is expected to follow the 500L into production for Europe later this year, then follow the 4-door to the U.S. market in 2013.

It is expected to help Fiat not only expand its appeal but to specifically target the popular Mini brand.  That British marque has steadily expanded its own range of offerings and this week announced it will add a seventh product line, the Mini Paceman, next year.

(For more on the Paceman announcement, Click Here.)

Fiat currently offers a range of variants of the brand’s smallest model, the 500, including a standard coupe, a convertible and that higher-performance Abarth edition.

The Abarth has proved highly popular since making its American debut in mid-spring.  Fiat has had to advise dealers it will no longer take orders for the 2012 model.  It is planning to boost capacity for the 2013 model-year.

Abarth’s added momentum has helped Fiat’s U.S. dealers generate overall sales 20,706 units for the first half of 2012 – more than the brand sold in all of 2011.  The maker had originally forecast volume closer to 50,000 for that first year on the market, a number it now could hit this year.


Fiat Halts Orders for New 500 Abarth

Demand for performance model outstripping supply.

by on Jun.05, 2012

Fiat officials halted dealer orders for the 2012 500 Abarth though some dealers still have a few in stock.

Barely a month after launching sales of the new Fiat 500 Abarth the maker has told dealers it will no longer be able to supply orders for the rest of the 2012 model-year.

The high-performance version of what Italians call the Cinquecento has helped kick-start demand after a rough launch for the Fiat brand – which led to the ouster of the marque’s original marketing chief.  But sales have surged in recent months, buoyed by more aggressive marketing and the launch of the new Abarth edition.

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“The Fiat 500 Abarth is unstoppable,” Fiat brand boss Tim Kuniskis said in a statement.  “Dealer orders for the Abarth dramatically exceeded the number of units we had scheduled for production. We had to schedule additional production to try and keep up with the demand. Most Abarth units are sold within one day.”


First Drive: Fiat 500 Abarth

Why did we have to wait so long?

by on Mar.05, 2012

The Fiat 500 Abarth delivers subtle visual tweaks -- and a 60% boost in power.

You can’t sell a young man an old man’s car, goes the old automotive marketing adage.  And, the conventional wisdom goes, it’s tough to sell a guy a “secretary’s car.” Now, we’ve got nothing against secretaries, but the term usually applies to products that are more show than go.  And, arguably, that applied to the Fiat 500 hatchback that rolled into U.S. showrooms a year ago.

The Italian automaker is quick to note that it’s already sold over 500,000 of the 3-door microcars outside the U.S., but demand in the States has been sorely lagging behind expectations, and the anemic little 101-horsepower engine is likely one reason why.  But perhaps things are about to change.

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With the help of supermodel Catrinel Menghia and “bad boy” actor Charlie Sheen, Fiat is staging a high-amp launch for the new Fiat 500 Abarth.  With its taut suspension, 160-horsepower engine – and subtle styling tweaks that give it a bit of its own bad-boy look, the Abarth is the machina the Italian automaker should have brought State-side from the start.


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.


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.