Christine Fuels was out of the auto industry to recall the slow, painful decline in sales of minivans made by Chrysler and everyone else. And of course, over the past year or so as the new CEO of the Chrysler brand of Stelantis, Fuel has been presiding over a surprising revival of fortunes for the company’s minivan Model Pacifica.
In fact, this success has helped encourage Chrysler parent Stelantis to think about the Chrysler brand in terms of blue skies for the first time in more than a decade. Fuel and its owner, Stelantis CEO Carlos Tavares, want to add a few more models to the Chrysler lineup, put it at the forefront of the automaker’s electrification effort, and scale up its product range to what it was before the Great Recession. was not seen.
“The brand is down to two nameplates, the Pacifica and the 300” sedans, Fuel admitted in an interview with me, a revamped five-year-old look at Chrysler’s 40-year-old minivan franchise and Chrysler’s much-longer. -The-tooth remaining sedan.
“But we have talked about our brand-revival strategy. We are going 100% battery-electric vehicles by 2028. Chrysler will be the sustainability pillar for Stelantis in North America. We are looking to transform the brand to become more contemporary and modern. and incorporating the latest technology, but positioned for the mainstream market.”
However, to help his vision board, Fuel did an assignment that uncovered more about the brand’s roots, and there he discovered that his plans for Chrysler were based on founder Walter P. In line with Chrysler’s core aspirations.
“I took a look at some of Walter P. Chrysler’s renditions and quotes early on, and one of my favorites is ‘We will deliver quality, beauty, speed, comfort, style and power at a low price.’ What Chrysler was very representative of: an innovative company that created breakthrough solutions and features but for the mainstream market.” He continued, “The Chrysler brand has always been ambitious but accessible. I think it’s important for us to maintain that positioning strategy, but we definitely need to modernize the brand, bring more contemporary offerings to market. ,
Thus, Fuel said, Chrysler “will bring at least three new products to market over the next few years, including some sport-utility vehicles. “We haven’t been in the SUV segment in about eight years,” she said, adding Chrysler Since Aspen.
Even more important, Fuel said, Chrysler will emerge as the bell cow for Stelantis’ slow but rapid electrification efforts in the US. Pacifica already beat minivan competitors to the punch in offering a hybrid version. Now, at a time when not only the auto industry but many others are electrifying with speed in various ways, Fuel likes the fact that their brand is leading the entire company.
Fuel is a former automotive arm at Ford, and returned to the industry with progressively more responsibilities in sales, marketing, product management and P&L leadership at Johnson Controls and Honeywell. It established what Tavares called “a strong track record of delivering profitable growth through integrated products, software and services”.
Returning to the auto industry under Chrysler’s leadership, Fuel was certainly well aware of the brand’s history, which included not only its founder but another great man: Lee Iacocca. The inimitable marketer famously said in a 1980s Chrysler ad, “If you can find a better car, buy it”—even though the original members of Detroit’s Big Three Triumvirate at the time were basically plain-vanilla models. But were wheezing what are known as “K-Cars.” Iacocca’s brilliance basically kept the company alive.
Now, it’s Fuel’s turn to apply its brand of leadership to revive the Chrysler brand legacy.
“I showed that I would bring a different kind of thinking to the business and to the brand,” Fuel told me. “I’m excited to be part of the revitalization of such an iconic brand that I think we can grow and continue to differentiate.”