COLOGNE, Germany--In November 2009, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne picked Olivier Francois, a French Lancia executive, to breathe new life into the ailing Chrysler brand.
Francois, now 49, CEO of the Chrysler and Lancia brands, considers the period since then "the best and worst 20 months in my life." He was interviewed here by Staff Reporter Luca Ciferri at the Automotive News Europe Congress.
Q: What was the best day in your 20 months at Chrysler?
Francois: It was the Super Bowl night I spent--alone and unrecognized--at the Red Coat Tavern in the suburbs of Detroit. I wanted to see myself the reaction of the Detroit people to the "Imported from Detroit" ad. When I saw tears in the eyes, I got the confirmation the message we wanted to pass had passed. Today this looks a given, but in mid-February it wasn't.
The TV spot, which features Detroit-born rapper Eminem, was a great success. Is it true that Chrysler spent $9 million just to air it?
Francois: That figure is the list price, but Chrysler Group is a considerable ad spender and we leveraged our volume to get a discount.
How much did you pay Eminem?
Francois: He made a special effort because we were promoting his hometown. I promised to keep the figure confidential, and I am a man who maintains his promises.
How could you measure the return of such a celebrated spot?
Francois: The three numbers I consider significant are: 17 million views on YouTube; Chrysler brand awareness jumped in the following 24 hours; the "cool factor/vehicle image" for Chrysler sedans grew from 17th place in the final quarter of 2010 to third place in the first quarter this year.
Will there be a new spot for the next Super Bowl?
Francois: Absolutely. We are still discussing if it would be dedicated to a specific brand and model or if it would feature more brands. But for sure the new Dodge compact sedan that debuts at the Detroit auto show in January would be in.
Your biggest challenge ahead?
Francois: Continue to work to improve the "coolness" of our brands. We have to increase our awareness and recognition to get closer to people. This is part 1. Then part 2 is to deliver the brand-specific messages: luxury for Chrysler, sporty for Dodge, and capability for Jeep.
(Source: Automotive News)