"I see it as a seamless transition," said Mr. Levine, 52. "I'm just playing another position on the team responsible for DaimlerChrysler."
Eight days after his birthday on April 20, he'll officially take early retirement from the car marketer. On May 1, he starts his new job.
Mr. Levine said he's not leaving because of any dissatisfaction at DaimlerChrysler. He said he's excited about "the possibility of having a second great career." BBDO, he quipped, had the advantage of interviewing him for nearly seven years when he headed Dodge Division as general manager and worked closely with the agency.
He moved to general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep-Eagle Division in fall 1996. His title changed with the demise of Eagle brand in fall 1998 and the upcoming end of Plymouth this year. In his final post at DaimlerChrysler, Mr. Levine works closely with FCB Worldwide's Southfield, Mich., office. His final product launch is the crucial early spring debut of Chrysler's new PT Cruiser, a retro sedan with the interior room of a minivan.
He'll succeed Tom Clark at PentaMark, although Mr. Clark, 63, will remain a vice chairman of BBDO Worldwide until his retirement at the end of 2001.
Mr. Clark said Omnicom Group's BBDO looked for his replacement for two years. "Marty Levine represents the perfect solution. He knows more about the markets, the dealers, the products, the brands and the agencies than any other single individual." Dodge is Omnicom's largest client, he added.
PentaMark was formed in 1997 to oversee the array of DaimlerChrysler accounts handled by BBDO and two subsidiaries in Troy, Mich. The BBDO office, which moves from Southfield to Troy next month, handles Dodge's national and regional dealer accounts. InterOne Marketing Group, a marketing services company, works on training, brochures and customer relationship management for the former Chrysler brands. PentaCom is DaimlerChrysler's dedicated U.S. media planner and buyer.
Mr. Levine, a native New Yorker, started his auto career working at a Ford dealership while attending the City University of New York's Queens College in the late '60s. He joined American Motors Corp. in 1971 as a district manager and served in a series of managerial posts in administration, sales and marketing. In 1986, he was tapped as general marketing manager of AMC's Jeep brand. The following year Chrysler Corp. acquired AMC.
Mr. Levine believes his biggest accomplishment to date has been the transitions from the service side of the car business to the sales side and then to marketing. He described the turnaround of the Dodge brand under his watch as a team effort. "I went into most positions with the initial charge of change," he said.
"In this case, it's very different. It's continuous improvement."