Last month, Jim Schroer, executive vice president for global sales and marketing for Chrysler Group's Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands, suddenly resigned. Schroer, 51, who joined the DaimlerChrysler unit in February 2001 from Ford Motor Co., has been a champion of leveraging entertainment properties throughout his entire career, long before it was fashionable.
Car companies have been at the vanguard of branded entertainment, and there has arguably been no better evangelist for the space than Schroer. His unexpected departure left many in the Madison+Vine community wondering what Schroer's departure would mean for the company's entertainment efforts while at the same time creating wide speculation about his replacement Joe Eberhardt, 39, previously the president-CEO of DaimlerChrysler U.K. Eberhardt arrives as the company is vowing a more hard-sell approach with its ads to boost summer traffic to dealerships.
A Chrysler group spokesman said Eberhardt won't be available for comment for several weeks, however, several auto industry execs—all speaking under the condition of anonymity-- speculated that Eberhardt would cut back on entertainment marketing in favor of more traditional ads with the U.S. unit under pressure.
One Hollywood advertainment maven, who requested anonymity, thinks it will be business as usual. "The individual brand marketing teams are firmly entrenched and all believe in the space enough where [Eberhardt] would be asking for trouble if he tried to steer them away from [entertainment-based initiatives]."
What will Schroer's ultimate legacy at Chrysler be?
If Eberhardt does decide to shift the emphasis back to more nuts-and-bolts car marketing, many of Schroer's supporters will certainly argue that his vision was stymied by an unforgiving U.S. automobile market. His efforts in associating Chrysler brands with entertainment properties and personalities, such as Celine Dion, Aerosmith, and the upcoming "Tomb Raider" movie, were mounted against the face of rising discounts and rebates for new cars in the industry that set off a price war that Chrysler refused to engage in, leaving them with over 500,000 unsold models in dealer lots. The Chrysler group had planned on a $2 billion operating profit in 2003, but in the first week of June the company announced that it will post only a slight operating profit, and expected a $1.2 billion operating loss in the second quarter. Chrysler group market share fell half of a percentage point to 13.8 percent as sales in May rose just 0.4 percent.