“Branding” is cheapening Mopar brands

FCA US and Stellantis claim to be trying to strengthen local nameplates, marketing the mystique of Dodge and Jeep, the capability of Ram, and the history of Chrysler. Yet, in the same press releases, they mark down these names by constantly reminding us that they are just brands—just nameplates on the side, just words.


There has never been any reason for Dodge people to refer to “the Dodge brand.” It’s just Dodge. Nobody thinks that Dodge City, Phelps Dodge, or Grace Dodge is making cars. The only car company with the Dodge name used to be Dodge Brothers… and Dodge Brothers didn’t make other brands of cars, so there’s no historical confusion either.

Unless FCA US or Stellantis intends to replace all the American heritage marques with some global name (FCA and Stellantis aren’t catchy or evocative names), which seems very unlikely there’s no reason to keep calling its marques “brands.” Chrysler didn’t even do that in the 1960s when it was bragging about what a big, awesome rocket-making company it was. They put a small pentastar on each car’s fender—and that was about it.

Dodge Charger Daytona

Nobody needs the extra words in the press release; they add nothing but detract from the strength of the marques. GM doesn’t refer to “the Chevrolet brand,” especially in headlines. It’s Chevrolet, proudly wearing Louis’ name for nearly a century. Saying “the Jeep brand” is exactly the same to anyone else as saying “Jeep,” except it’s demeaning. It says, “Jeep (or Ram or Dodge or Chrysler) isn’t real. It’s just a nameplate, and we’re going to rub your nose into it.”

This all comes as FCA US has started Jeep-only stores, shifted Jeep press releases to a unique look, and ran “brand strengthening” ads for Dodge, Chrysler, and Ram. It’s as though nobody realizes that brands are weakened when their owner makes it clear that they are just a marketing ploy of a large company.

feldman cdjr (jeep dealer)

The new dealership design says “I’m unique;” the repetition of “the Jeep brand” says “I’m just a nameplate on an everyday car.”

In fairness, many brands are marketing ploys of large companies. Kia hasn’t been needed for ages, since Hyundai bought them; and Genesis is clearly artificial, along with all Japanese luxury brands. At this point, the former Auto Union (Audi) is a bit artificial, too, along with the remnants of Rolls and Bentley, and of course Lincoln, Cadillac, and so on, though all of these have their roots in real companies.

Dodge comes from the Dodge Brothers. Chrysler comes from Walter Chrysler. In some ways these are more than “brands.” (Jeep and Ram, in contrast, come from a nickname and a Dodge hood ornament, respectively.)

Alfa Romeo mostly escapes being called “the Alfa Romeo brand,” though their chief leads “the Alfa Romeo brand.” Most of the time, it’s “the legendary Alfa Romeo.” Sales charts refer to Chrysler Brand, Ram Brand, Fiat Brand, etc.—and Alfa Romeo. Never mind that Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler can all match Alfa Romeo in rich histories with times of impressive engineering. All have had periods of strong innovation; and Jeep and Chrysler, at least, have both transformed parts of the industry at least once. But never mind, we’ll dismiss all that at “the Chrysler brand.”

Chrysler clothing

Nothing takes away from dignifity or legendary status like “the xxxx brand.” Strong brands, like Apple and Toyota, aren’t called “the Apple brand” and “the Toyota brand.” They’re Apple and Toyota.  While it may cause some confusion to have Ford as part of Ford and Toyota as part of Toyota, there is no such confusion about Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, or Mopar.

It’s bad enough that the company, through several changes of leadership and ownership, chose to shove all its marques into the same dealerships, instead of keeping them separate and trying to make them more distinctive. (The rationale, that it’s easier to have product discipline when dealers aren’t demanding their version of every car, suggests weak leadership more than a strategy.) Okay, we understand why everything is labeled “FCA US” under the hood. But making the marques mere branding exercises to the general public only cheapens them, and the last thing they need now, as competition intensifies and whole new lineups are soon going to sink or fly, is to be cheapened.

ram ornament

So go on, Stellantis. Keep telling us how we should respect Chrysler’s heritage, or Dodge’s heritage, or Ram’s independent spirit, or Jeep’s heritage—but don’t tell us to respect, say, “the Chrysler brand’s heritage.” Brands don‘t have “heritage.” Brands are here to be diversified and cheapened and thrown away, brands are Proctor & Gamble names that keep getting overextended and meaningless. Celebrate your marques and stop calling them brands—even if, yes, they really are just brands.

2 thoughts on ““Branding” is cheapening Mopar brands”

  1. This somewhat goes along with something I’d said a while ago about brands pigeonholing themselves into niche markets and now having to struggle to rebrand themselves over and over again as the market changes. Personally, I think it’s how the Stellantis Corp as a whole has marketed the brands, or rather mis-marketed and mismanaged the brands that have been the biggest disservice to the North American market as a whole. FCA North America as a whole has several brands that are all Niche-market brands when you really look at them. Dodge is a Muscle car BRAND, Chrysler is a pseudo-luxury/Minivan BRAND, Ram is a pickup truck/Delivery vehicle BRAND and Jeep is a Crossover/SUV BRAND. While Tim Kuniskis likened the Dodge Brand to the Hammerhead shark in his EV Day presentation speech a few years ago, as a whole, FCA North America more closely resembles the lifestyle patterns of a Canadian Lynx. A specialist predator that makes up the bulk of its diet on the snowshoe hare and as such, it’s population numbers rise and fall right along with the animal it relies so heavily on as a food source, where as it’s similar looking cousin, the Bobcat, thrives all through North America as it’s diet is not nearly as specific. Now before I go into an entire National Geographic type presentation on the small wild cats of North America, my point is that one of FCA’s biggest issues is that it needs to remove itself from being a bunch of Niche market brands and this especially holds true for the Dodge brand.
    It goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Dodge so pretty much anything I write is out of pure passion for all things Dodge past, present and future. Right now, FCA North America is trying to figure out how to re-imagine everything they have to get themselves out of the hole that they’re end with all of these tax credits and everything else as their “Put a Hellcat in everything” strategy didn’t go over as well as everyone might have hoped. But that also hurt them in another way, as fun as it is to have everything as a high horsepower V8 muscle car, the Dodge brand is now juggling with trying to keep up the bravado of their bad boy brand image while now trying to appease the EPA and pay off their debts that they owe and they’re now having a bunch of knee-jerk reactions of trying to do that while also trying to keep the loyalty and attention of their old school pushrod-v8 loving fans. It goes without saying that it’s probably not going to work out. So now, Dodge is at a position where it needs to grow up and mature so to speak and adapt to what is going on now but still not loose itself in the process. Basically it needs to re-brand itself and that’s not as bad as it may seem. Dodge can still 100% be a muscle car brand in every single market, but it needs to play in all markets to do so and to do that it needs more models and room to do so without competing with it’s in-house brands. First things first, Ram doesn’t need to be a brand. it really doesn’t. All these “sub-brands” the auto industry has now are absolutely absurd and pointless. Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep is all there really needs to be and honestly the Wrangler is the one of the only reasons the Jeep name even needs to exist and I’ll explain that in a moment. My reasoning for saying Ram needs to be back in the Dodge brand is simple. Look at every single other brand out there. The Silverado is not a brand, its a model, the Sierra is not a brand it’s a model, the F150 is not a brand, it’s a model, the Tundra is not a brand, it’s a model. Ram separated from Dodge years ago because the parent company thought it was a good idea because Dodge wasn’t doing so well so they abandoned the parent company’s name to try and balance things out. Moving the Ram trucks back into the lineup would actually help Dodge expand itself into another market. This next statement is the reason I say Jeep only needs to exists because of the Wrangler. All of the other Jeep models are pointless as Jeeps. They exist as spiritual successors of cars like the Neon, the Stratus and the Intrepid. Nothing more. The Wagoneer, the Grand Wagoneer and Grand Cherokee are luxury vehicles with more luxury than any Chrysler on the market and being that the Chrysler is supposedly the Luxury brand of the FCA north American lineup, why are there two brands that directly compete with each other? Drop one or the other. Me personally, I’m not taking vehicles as sexy as the new Grand Cherokee or the new Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer off road so to me, they don’t go with the Jeep brand, they are Chryslers. All of those other Jeeps, are just cars, Jeep is an off roading vehicle so they don’t fit the brand ether. Let’s just say Dodge has in it’s lineup crossovers such as the Hornet, a Dodge Nitro Crossover,(both STLA Medium), a Dodge Coronet performance 4-door crossover coupe (something like the Toyota Crown but with more Dodge), a Dodge Magnum Performance Crossover/Wagon, the Dodge Stealth 3-row crossover, the Durango (STLA Large) and a Ramcharger (STLA Frame), along with trucks such as the Rampage, the Dakota, the Ram 1500, and the Ram HD lineup. With that same mindset, let’s say that we rename the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer the Chrysler Imperial, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer would the Chrysler Newport and then run down the other Chrysler names like the Airflow, the 300M and Chrysler Town & Country. FCA north America has issues with misnaming things along with redundancy, pigeonholing and honestly (and I hate to say it) a bit of laziness when it comes to alot of things. Now I love the Charger, the Challenger and Durango, but honestly, The Challenger hasn’t changed much since it’s rebirth in 2006 or so, the Charger hasn’t changed much since 2011 and neither has the Durango. I understand the though of if it’s not broke don’t fix it but let’s be real. There may be a reason the Challenger only existed from 1970-1974. Even the Charger back then Changed every few years before calling it quits. Not to mention the fact that there were other muscle cars back then such as the Dodge Coronet (which had more styling options than the Charger although the Charger is just so gorgeous!!!!!!!!) and the real Dodge Dart and the Coronet was a performance car way before the Charger came onto the scene and was actually the original Super Bee, the car that originally had the Bee emblem on it in the first place. Doing something like this, along with dropping most of the V8 engines, gives room to have niche vehicles and EVs such as the Charger Daytona/Banshee, the Chrysler Airflow EV and others and it does so without creating and entire niche-market lineup (outside of Jeep because Jeep itself is a niche market for off-roading) and without completely alienating the customer base and appealing to the EPA board as well without having to worry about fines and tax credits. This now brings me back to what I said earlier about the Jeep Brand. A rugged and cool Dodge Ramcharger SUV could easily be brought out to take on the Ford Bronco and the Nitro could take on the Bronco Sport with relative ease. A retro-cool Ramcharger with 2 & 4 door options with all of the off road goodies of a Wrangler mixed with a more livable interior wouldn’t hurt at all and of course with a 2.0L 4Xe hybrid base powertrain, it would definitely out-power the base bronco without issue. Another thing is, there shouldn’t be a vehicle in the Dodge or Chrysler lineup that isn’t electrified at this point. The Hornet R/T powertrain should be the only option for any FWD based FCA North American vehicle, the 2.0L 4Xe powertrain should be the standard base engine for any STLA large platform vehicle, both Hurricane powertrains should be hybrids and the gas-option STLA frame options should definitely be Hurricane hybrid powertrains. If the Dodge brand is all about out-muscling everyone anyway and needs to appease the EPA board, then why not make everything a hybrid that can get a minium of 25-miles of full electric driving this way they can still have the clean side to them while still make boat loads of horsepower and torque? Want an efficient vehicle that has hellcat redeye-like power, AWD and won’t cause EPA fines? Drop that 800hp Hybrid 3.0L Nettuno engine from the new Alfa Romeo supercar into the car names I mentioned above (Coronet, Stealth, Magnum, Durango, Ram 1500) as a top performance trim over the Hurricane Standard Output and the Hurricane Hurricrate Cat-3 Spec engine and have all of the power you need while offering roughly 30-miles of pure electric range when needed or desired. That not only spreads the technology around better which makes things more profitable, it also reduces alot of redundant models and brands, adds excitement to the lineups, still gives nods to the brands history while moving the brands forward, helps the Dodge brand keep its performance oriented image while better positioning it in several different markets, gives Chrysler an actual purpose again, creates more powerful, more efficient, cleaner vehicles, gives room in the lineup and a better market for pure EVs and opens more opportunities for Direct Connection outside of just the top tier performance car market which makes the venue more profitable as it becomes more accessable to a larger market of Mopar enthusiasts who want to upgrade their cars while still retaining the factory warranty. Not to mention the fact that through Direct Connection, it gives certain aftermarket companies a chance to survive in this new direction the industry is taking. Plus the fact that it may also help to revive the motorsports industry and keep other dragstrips and legal venues that cater to the car community from closing permanently.

  2. “Saying “the Jeep brand” is exactly the same to anyone else as saying “Jeep,” except it’s demeaning. It says, “Jeep (or Ram or Dodge or Chrysler) isn’t real. It’s just a nameplate, and we’re going to rub your nose into it.””

    My wife’s 2015 Cherokee is an oddly styled Fiat with all wheel drive. There are no two ways about it; it has literally no Jeep DNA to be found except in the badge. I don’t think the nameplate has been real since they rebadged the Caliber as the Compass. It’s a shame; they lost something important and distinctive when they diluted the brand, but they were looking for sales at all costs, and that meant producing cars styled to look a little bit like Jeeps. (I’ll give the Patriot a pass here, they did far better on the styling exercise, although it’s still just a Caliber under the skin.)

    You’re quite right. They’ve cheapened the marques.