Sprinter now under the roof of Mercedes-Benz in Canada

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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Canada

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Canada

(picture courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Canada)

Mercedes-Benz has decided to turn the Sprinter from a former Dodge and Freightliner back into what is really under the hood: a Mercedes. As of 2010, the Sprinter will run under the prestigious Mercedes-Benz brand as is the case in all of Europe.

The Sprinter which has become the symbol of the light commercial vehicle segment is ready to take on the Fords and Chevrolets of the Northamerican market. As most of the competitors have barely undergone major improvements in terms of design, variability and of course technology, the efficient Sprinter is a serious threat. According to a Daimler press release, the Sprinter will be offered with a „3.0 litre 6-cylinder diesel engine that offers best in class fuel efficiency while still meeting the latest strict emission regulations, including the particularly stringent EPA 10 guidelines.“ In times of growing awareness for the economy and the gas prices the Sprinter is more than just a bulky means of transportation.
There is no doubt about the qualities of this vehicle. But the really interesting thing is the branding facet. Industry experts even spoke of breaking a taboo when Daimler in 2009 announced the Sprinter to carry the famous star after years of Dodge and Freightliner badges in the northamerican markets. This is a novelty. Never before have commercial vehicles been allowed to use the star which other than in Europe has been reserved for Daimler’s luxury car segment. And this is exactly where the so-called taboo is rooted. The brand will now have to play two roles at a time: that of the hard worker, the van that gets things done and on the other side that of a luxury car: stylish, desirable, elegant, prestigious. But maybe this balancing act even makes good sense. You and your Sprinter work hard every day, so that in the end when the job is done and your business has proven successful you can reward yourself with an E-class or similar.
It remains to be seen how successful this brand strategy will be. In terms of quality, dependability and technology, the Sprinter has nothing to fear. As to its rivals – better be prepared, there is a new van in town!

Daimler press release
Image Source: Mercedes-Benz Canada
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz is a client of the interactive agency I work for

DaimlerChrysler-Daimler+Fiat = Brand Confusion


Chrysler’s New Ram Plan Poses Brand Jam

Posted by: David Kiley on September 07


Chrysler is potentially headed for a brand problem that will rival the pickle that GM is trying to extricate itself from.

Here is the deal. Chrysler has three main brands at the moment: Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. But it has made it clear to the ad agencies pitching its ad account that it is splitting off its pickup truck and commercial vehicle business off to a new brand—Ram.

That’s right. Going forward, and as soon as Chrysler has the idea to run with, the pickup it sells now won’t be sold as Dodge Ram, but rather….Ram. Other vehicles that will come from the Fiat-Chrysler tie up in the commercial segment will also be called Ram.

So, now we are up to four brands to support. Now, add the Fiat 500, which will be sold as a Fiat when it arrives in Chrysler showrooms in 2011. And, don’t forget Alfa Romeo, which Fiat will sell through Chrysler distribution in key markets that make sense for the Italian sport car maker.

This seems like a lot of brand differentiation to manage and support by a company that has been poor at both.

As I look at auto sales numbers through August, I see a 9.2% market share for Chrysler spread among the three brands it has. That share is inevitably going to go down as the company pares models. Indeed, Merrill Lynch projects that Chrysler loses a whopping five to six points of share in the next four years unless it comes up with some product surprises from the Fiat alliance.

If you consider it likely that Fiat and Alfa-Romeo combine for less than 1 point of share, then you have five brands potentially carving up something between 4 and 6 points of share, and that is if the company over-achieves. Also…four brands at a single showroom, while we wait to see how the company sort out the distribution real estate for Alfa at Chrysler dealerships.

This goes to brand/distribution/marketing efficiency. Toyota has 16.5% of the market spread across three brands. GM has 16.7% of the market with the four brands it plans to go forward with—Chevy, Cadillac, Buick, GMC.

If Chrysler isn’t clever beyonid all expectations, it is going to have a brand jumble that will make people look to GM as a benchmark of brand/marketing efficiency.

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