[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-1]In one ad, a man sits at the wheel of a red Charger, sipping coffee. As the camera pulls back, a drag car pulls up next to him with a straight-away laid out before the two cars. It capitalizes on the "unleashed" theme.[/size][/font]
Race fans to get tease of new Charger sedan
NASCAR TV ads showcase muscle car that automaker is counting on.
By Brett Clanton / The Detroit News
Dodge Charger marketing plans
• Six 15-second "teaser" ads air Saturday
• Full campaign, including TV and online elements, launches week of May 16
• Print advertising appears in June
In new TV ads debuting this weekend, DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group will give U.S. consumers the first look at its 2006 Dodge Charger sedan, a reborn version of the classic muscle car the automaker hopes will make it a bigger player in the import-dominated passenger car market.
Chrysler is planning to air six 15-second "teaser" ads for Charger during Saturday's telecast of a NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina to build excitement before the car lands in showrooms later this month.
The commercials, to be followed in coming weeks by a full-scale marketing launch, offer some insight into Chrysler's strategy for marketing Charger, a vehicle that fills a hole in the truck-heavy Dodge lineup.
In one ad, a male driver in his late 30s or early 40s sits at the wheel of a red Charger, sipping coffee. As the camera pulls back, a drag car pulls up next to him with a straight-away laid out before the two cars. A traffic light turns green, the screen goes black and a message appears: "Prepare to unleash Dodge Charger, coming June 1."
Darryl Jackson, vice president of marketing for Dodge, said the "unleashed" theme will run through all Charger advertising, whether it is aimed at NASCAR dads or soccer moms.
"It's all about letting your inner expression loose," he said.
The advertising will not feature images of classic Chargers of the 1960s and 1970s or try to recall the heritage of those vehicles.
"We think this car stands on its own," Jackson said.
Chrysler introduced nine new vehicles in 2004 and has promised 16 more models by the end of 2006.
Chrysler was the only domestic automaker to increase sales and gain U.S. market share last year. Now, the automaker is looking to the Charger and a handful of other new vehicles to maintain momentum.
A full marketing campaign for Charger, including TV and online advertising, kicks off the week of May 16 and will be followed in June by the first print ads.
While Chrysler has offended some classic Charger enthusiasts by putting the name of the classic fastback on a four-door family sedan, the controversy has not seemed to hurt early interest in the vehicle.
The automaker says it has received 21,000 orders from dealers and 95,000 customer requests for information -- more than it had at the same point before the popular Chrysler 300 sedan launched last year.
Joseph Barker, an industry analyst with CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills, predicts the Dodge Charger could achieve annual sales of 80,000 to 100,000 units. While still off from peak sales of the Dodge Intrepid sedan, which Charger replaces, the numbers would amount to a solid hit for the brand.
"We see it as a compelling product that will appeal to a broad range of customers," Barker said.
Dodge sales are up 3 percent this year, but the brand's trucks and SUVs have been pulling much of the weight.
The Dodge passenger car lineup, which includes the midsize Stratus sedan and coupe, the low-volume Viper sports car and soon-to-be-killed Neon compact, has been neglected in recent years as Chrysler worked to fill other gaps in its lineup.
"(Charger) is a huge opportunity for us to get back into the car market," Jackson said.
Though Chrysler has proven with its popular 300 sedan that it can find an audience for new passenger cars, it may have trouble repeating that car's success as competition stiffens, said Brian Chee, editor of the online car buying site Autobytel.com in Irvine, Calif.
"The 300," he said, "was like catching lightening in a bottle."