Two Longtime Chrysler Execs Retire, Clearing Way for Changes

Sales and Marketing Operations Revamped as Dealers Bristle

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DETROIT ( -- Exacerbating its woes with dealers, Chrysler Group is restructuring its sales organization following the retirement of two American sales veterans and the elevation of an executive who helped Exec VP-Sales and Marketing Joe Eberhardt terminate DaimlerChrysler's U.K. dealer network.
Raymond Fisher
Raymond Fisher

Effective July 1, Gary Dilts, 56, senior VP-U.S. sales, and Raymond Fisher, 53, VP-sales, service and parts operations, will retire. Messrs. Dilts and Fisher have spent their entire careers at Chrysler and are well-respected by dealers, one of whom called them "the strength of the dealer body" and a "great loss" at a time when Chrysler is strong-arming dealers to take more inventory than they can sell.

The automaker said a revamped sales and marketing operation would "result in a sharper focus on two distinct sides of the sales business."

New roles for two execs
With the restructuring, Michael Manly, 42, a Brit who worked for Mr. Eberhardt in the U.K. running Mercedes-Benz dealerships, was named VP-sales strategy and dealer operations from VP-dealer operations. Steven Landry, 47, becomes VP-sales and field operations from president-CEO of DaimlerChrysler Canada. Both report to Mr. Eberhardt.
Gary Dilts
Gary Dilts

Chrysler President-CEO Tom LaSorda, who joined the company six years ago from General Motors Corp. and assumed his current post last September, has already stated the company would reduce head count through attrition and limited buyouts; a spokesman said the two veterans opted for retirement.

The automakers' dealers are blaming Mr. Eberhardt for endangering Chrysler brands by slashing first-half ad spending, ratcheting up incentives and alienating talented marketing executives, as Advertising Age reported earlier this week.

Higher incentives than rivals
This year, Chrysler incentives moved higher than that of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., both of which have cut way back on generous deals as they try to generate profits. Chrysler Group, Detroit's darling in 2005, said its sales through May slid by 14% to 191,261 units and are down 3% for the first five months to 943,600 units compared to a year ago. The automaker counts sales when dealers, not buyers, take delivery.

The spokesman said Messrs. Dilts and Fisher are not fall guys for the automaker's sales slump and inventory buildup. "We're going into the second half of the year and a lot of launches so we want this new team in place."
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