On September 1st Daimler Chrysler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche was, for all intents and purposes, fired as advertising spokesperson after only 2 months (more). Perhaps you’ve seen the grandfatherly Dr. Z answering questions about the German engineering incorporated in Chrysler and Dodge vehicles.
Chrysler sales slumped during the 2 months of the ads so Dr. Z is gone replaced by a 72 month zero interest promotion. The original thinking was if Lee Iacocca could do it in the 80s why not Dr. Z in 2006?
You may remember that Chrysler chairman Iacocca led the company through a remarkable turnaround in the early 1980s and appeared in ads talking about improved production quality. His famous selling line: "If you can find a better car, buy it." The phrase made sense in the early 80s. Chrysler had re-tooled and introduced the innovative K-Cars and the first mini-van.
You may not remember the return of Lee Iacocca in the fall of 2005. Chrysler put out a series of ads featuring the retired CEO and a string of “celebrities” including Snoop Dog, Jason Alexander and his grand daughter. “If you can find a better car, but it,” didn’t hold as much water and I’m fairly sure that Snoop fan has no idea who the old geezer was.
It isn’t Dr. Z’s fault that his ads weren’t compelling. I happen to like many Chrysler products (I don’t own any – I just like them) but a Chrysler isn’t a Mercedes no matter how you spin it. Where the original “If you find a better car…” line in the sand tone rang true in 1983, Dr. Z’s discussion of German automotive superiority was met with a collective “So what?” by consumers. Which is pretty much the same reaction Chrysler is going to get from 72 month zero interest financing. Why not just pay us to take the cars off your hands?
Now that’d be something to talk about.