CHRYSLER TO DISCONTINUE NAT'L SUPPORT FOR EAGLE: MAY BE PRELUDE TO SCRAPPING CAR

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Chrysler Corp. will end national ad support for its struggling Eagle brand in the 1998 model year.

Marketing executives unveiled the switch to a regional strategy during a meeting at Chrysler's Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters last week with some 400 media sales representatives.

Eagle advertising has been dwindling since 1994, when Chrysler tried to pump up sales by spending $67 million in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. That slid to $57 million in 1995 and $27 million last year.

Chrysler officials could not be reached for comment.

A switch to regional buys will most likely mean another spending cut for the brand, handled by Bozell, Southfield, Mich.

SAYING GOODBYE?

"Chrysler is saying goodbye to Eagle," said Art Spinella, VP at CNW Marketing/Research. He likened the decline in ad support to Chrysler's phasing out in the mid-1960s of its DeSoto brand.

A recent CNW study of car buyers ranked Eagle sales people last among 33 car brands in knowledge of their brand's product features.

Chrysler has insisted that Eagle has a future, citing the redesign of Vision for the 1998 model year. Chrysler denied reports last fall it was studying whether to roll Eagle models into another brand.

Eagle sales have been dropping sharply. During the first five months of 1997, sales sank to 7,910 vs. 15,419 a year ago, according to Automotive News. Eagle's 1996 sales plunged 46.5% from the previous year, to 28,695. Eagle will have just two 1998 models, the Talon and Vision; Summit production ends with the 1997 model year.

The move to regional ad support makes sense, said one Eagle dealer who asked not to be named, because the brand has regional pockets of strength.

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