The carmaker is investing undisclosed millions of dollars in new computer programs to create real-time ties to its dealers and consumers.
The plans call for Chrysler's database to be linked to the Internet, dealer computers and customer interactive kiosks. This database helps improve marketing and retailing efforts by giving consumers, dealers and the corporate office up-to-date information-something not provided by other auto marketers.
WILL AID REGIONAL MARKETING
"We can manipulate the information for retail demand and this will give us greater regional marketing abilities," said James Holden, Chrysler's exec VP-sales and marketing.
Chrysler will start revealing details to its 4,652 dealers next month.
The carmaker has signed deals with Microsoft Corp., Trilogy Corp., and other high-tech vendors, Mr. Holden said.
Chrysler plans to expand its Plymouth brand shopping mall kiosks, called Plymough Place, to all its brands.
Currently, a glitch in the Plymouth Place kiosks requires data changes be physically made at every terminal. But with the new technology, Mr. Holden said, "we'll do something here and it will change at 47,000 terminals." All pricing and marketing data will be linked.
Since January, Plymouth's kiosk program has expanded to 121 malls in 59 cities. The kiosks seem to have some impressive returns, as with the Breeze sedan, launched early this year. Mr. Holden said 20% to 30% of early Breeze sales were initiated at Plymouth Place.
Chrysler has been on a mission to be a high-tech winner. Earlier this year, Chrysler tested a kiosk at one of its Dallas Jeep-Eagle dealers in an effort to improve repair service. But the pilot was yanked after a month with no explanation.
Tom Healy, a partner at auto consultancy-researcher J.D. Power & Associates, said "Chrysler does like to innovate."
Thanks in part to technology, Chrysler has cut its product development time down to two years, while other domestic carmakers need at least 36 months. "General Motors is just now starting to reduce its development time."