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News
Plymouth bites the Duster
November 3, 1999: 5:00 p.m. ET

DaimlerChrysler drops weakest brand to focus on Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - DaimlerChrysler pulled the plug Wednesday on the weakened Plymouth brand name, a move that had been expected by industry experts.
     The company, which made the announcement in Las Vegas, said the move was necessary to concentrate resources on its other brands.
     "We have made the decision to broaden and further strengthen the Chrysler brand with new, exciting cars. This eliminates often overlapping Plymouth brand models, and further focuses all our brands," said a statement from James Holden, president of the German-American automaker.

    

    
The strength of the Plymouth name in minivans wasn't enough to save the brand name.


     "As we move forward with our global growth strategy, Plymouth, as a U.S. brand only, did not contribute to that growth," Holden said. "This was an emotional decision because Plymouth will always be an important part of our heritage."
     Marketing and automotive experts said years of lack of support had doomed the once-proud name.
     "To a great extent, the brand has become a non-brand," said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group and an expert on marketing and brands. "It has not been nurtured or built upon for the last few years. They won't necessarily save money, but they'll consolidate their advertising dollars to a limited number of brands and do it better."
     The greatest risk is probably for the Chrysler-Plymouth dealers who could lose some customers to competing Dodge dealers in the same market, said David Cole, director of the Office for Study of Automotive Transportation at University of Michigan. Those dealers stand to gain, though, if the stronger support of the Chrysler brand helps their overall sales.
     "I think it makes sense, but it's not without risks," he said. The growing strength of light trucks and sports utility vehicles, neither of which Plymouth offered, probably hurt the brand, Cole said.
     Beemer said the company's Dodge brand is also getting weak, especially on non-truck models. He speculated that Dodge also may be dropped at some point if it is not strengthened.
     "I'm sure that Chrysler has been debating this for years," Beemer said. "It's probably easier for Daimler to make the decision than for Chrysler."
     The Plymouth brand had only five models left bearing its name. The Voyager and Grand Voyager minivans will become Chrysler products as of mid-December. The Breeze, a sedan modeled on the Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus, will be discontinued at the end of the year.
     The company will continue to produce the Neon, a subcompact car also made under the Dodge brand, through 2001 model year, along with the Prowler, a limited-production hot-rod that will be discontinued at that point.
     "This is a phase-out," said Kathryn Blackwell, a spokeswoman for the company. She said no employees would lose their jobs as a result of the cut. None of the assembly plants are Plymouth-only facilities, and all Plymouth warranties will be honored at Chrysler dealerships.
     Only three of 2,957 Plymouth dealers are not also Chrysler dealers, so there will be virtually no change in distribution. A dropping of the Dodge name would cause much more disruption because most Dodge dealers are not Chrysler-Plymouth dealers.
     The Plymouth brand has always been owned by Chrysler. It debuted in 1928, and within four years was the third most popular car brand in the country behind Ford and Chevrolet.Back to top

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