When sharing's a one-way street

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Since Daimler-Benz acquired Chrysler Corp. in 1998, the sharing of major systems among Chrysler Group vehicles and those of sibling Mercedes-Benz has been on a one-way street. Chrysler Group picks through Mercedes' bins considerably more than the luxury brand turns to the mass marketer.

The parent, DaimlerChrysler, "has done a good job integrating some assets and technologies Mercedes had to Chrysler products in a way that doesn't hurt Mercedes," says Edward Hellwig, senior editor of auto site Edmunds.com. It's a little harder to judge how Mercedes-Benz has benefited, he adds.

Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing/Research, puts it more bluntly: "For Chrysler to have Mercedes' components is a positive, but for Mercedes to have Chrysler components would be a negative."

Mercedes-Benz can't share platforms with any sibling brand according to a "rule in our brand guide," says a spokesman at DaimlerChrysler's headquarters in Stuttgart. That said, Mercedes models still share certain under-the-hood parts, which allows the automaker to buy in bigger bulk and get better prices.

Mercedes-Benz "is adding more technology to us than the other way around," says Chrysler Group's Jeff Bell, VP-Chrysler and Jeep. However, the core values of each of Chrysler Group's three vehicle brands drives new models' look, content and performance, he says. If the sharing among vehicles "compromises what a brand has promised, that's a problem."

Mr. Bell says that "in the old pre-merger days, Chrysler developed products first and later decided what brand it would be." When the retro-looking Chrysler PT Cruiser landed in 2000, there was talk it was to badged as a Dodge, but the marketer denies it.

Now the opposite strategy holds, with vehicles developed to fit the image of a specific brand.


The hot Chrysler 300 sedan and Dodge Magnum sport wagon share parts from Mercedes' C-Class and E-Class lines, including rear suspensions and steering columns. The two 2005 Chrysler Group models are on the same platform, but the automaker says buyers don't do a lot of cross-shopping of Dodge and Chrysler.

The positioning of Chrysler Group's three vehicle brands drives how each new model will look and feel, Mr. Bell says. Although the marketer made the Hemi engine available in the 300C and Magnum, the Chrysler version has more torque while the Dodge has more horsepower.

The same platform will also be used for the 2006 Dodge Charger sedan. The Charger will share more than 80% of its parts with the Magnum, though the sheet metal is very different on the two Dodges.

Magnum advertising touts the vehicle's interior and flexible space, along with its available Hemi engine. The campaign carries Dodge's tag: "Grab life by the horns." The 300 campaign highlights the sedan's styling elegance and is tagged with Chrysler brand's "Inspiration comes standard." Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Troy, Mich., handles both brands, with different teams working on each.

Gary Topolewski, co-chief creative director at BBDO , says both the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300 are "rocket ships" when it comes to power, but they come from different family trees, brandwise.

Dodge "is such an in-your-face American brand," he says, while "I wouldn't call the Chrysler 300 a bad-ass brand machine. It's more sophisticated, so it makes it easier" to differentiate the two vehicles in advertising with executions true to each brand.

John Casesa, auto analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., says the Magnum and 300 have "radically different looks so each model may have tangible benefits to different customers."

High points

While the Chrysler 300 and sibling Dodge Magnum have some components in common, they're marketed to separate groups:

Chrysler 300 target demo:

* "Leading edge boomers," aged 40-54, with higher incomes (median $75,000) and education levels than that of the typical boomer.

* Generally, slightly younger than buyers of the prior Chrysler 300M (50-60).

Dodge Magnum target demo:

* Married men, aged 35-45, middle to upper-middle class.

* Former sedan and SUV owners looking for something new and exciting that allows them to express their youthful, boisterous side.

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