MITSUBISHI ADOPTS FORD-STYLE BRAND MANAGEMENT SETUP DEUTSCH WINS CRUCIAL $50 MIL GALANT LAUNCH

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Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America has adopted a brand-management system similar to that formerly used by Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division.

Mitsubishi has created three new market-planner positions, with each assigned several product lines under the categories sporty, luxury and family.

The executives filling the new posts at Mitsubishi are all insiders, and responsible for marketing, advertising, product pricing, incentives and product planning, including what options to offer on vehicles.

Marcel Millot, a product planner, was named sporty group market planner, overseeing the Eclipse coupe, Eclipse Spyder convertible and 3000GT sports car.

LUXURY GROUP

Jeanne Hoover, former manager of the sales support group-which shifts to the retail side of operations-is the luxury group product planner, handling the marketer's two Montero sport-utility vehicles and Diamante sedan. Ms. Hoover was part of a team that formulated Mitsubishi's new brand positioning of "spirited products for spirited people" earlier this year.

Dee Nelson, fleet and remarketing manager handling off-lease vehicles, is the new family group product planner, with responsibility for the Mirage coupe and sedan and Galant sedan.

Last week, the car marketer named Deutsch, New York and Marina del Rey, Calif., for the crucial $50 million launch of its redesigned Galant sedan, to take place in late July. Deutsch topped Mitsubishi's national agency, Grey Advertising's G2 unit, Huntington Beach, Calif., after a review (AA, May 4).

Mitsubishi VP-Marketing Katy Bremer said G2 "will remain involved in our business."

She added, however, that Mitsubishi is now evaluating whether it will renegotiate its contract with G2, expiring later this year. Under the current contract, the marketer was required to give 180-day notice before expiration that it intends to review the pact.

A FIRST FOR DEUTSCH

Ms. Bremer said the marketer is sorting out what duties G2 would keep and what tasks should move to Deutsch.

The win is significant for Deutsch, representing its first national car account. Most of Mitsubishi's activity for the rest of the year will focus on the new Galant, although Mitsubishi will advertise its Montero Sport SUV and Eclipse.

Ford Division's original brand-management structure, adopted in January 1996, had five brand managers heading teams called sporting, youthful, family, expressive and tough groups; each brand manager oversaw three or four products. But Ford changed the organization last summer.

`A CENTRALIZED PLACE'

Mitsubishi changed its structure after realizing "we kind of had a void .*.*. all the promotion pieces were scattered throughout the company," Ms. Bremer said. "We needed to have a centralized place."

John Bulcroft, president of auto consultancy Advisory Group, said other car companies also assign one person responsibilities in several disciplines. But he said he thinks it's a bad idea.

"It requires a very special person with strong multidiscipline skills to take this kind of position," he said. "While these disciplines need to come together to market a vehicle, they're somewhat different in scope."

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