End of Plymouth presents PR struggle for car maker

DETROIT: Automotive giant DaimlerChrysler has begun to tackle one of its biggest post-merger PR challenges to date: dealing with the fallout from the discontinuation of its long-established Plymouth brand.

DETROIT: Automotive giant DaimlerChrysler has begun to tackle one of its biggest post-merger PR challenges to date: dealing with the fallout from the discontinuation of its long-established Plymouth brand.

DETROIT: Automotive giant DaimlerChrysler has begun to tackle one

of its biggest post-merger PR challenges to date: dealing with the

fallout from the discontinuation of its long-established Plymouth

brand.



Though rumors of the demise of Plymouth had been circulating for some

time, the company didn’t make it official until two weeks ago in a news

release spinfully headed ’DaimlerChrysler Strengthens Brand Strategy for

Global Growth.’



While the release’s subhead more succinctly explained, ’Chrysler brand

to be expanded, Plymouth to be discontinued at end of 2001 Model Year,’

it marked a sad and quiet ending after 71 years for one of America’s

best-known brand names. Now, the company’s PR pros are left to deal with

the fallout, a major challenge given Plymouth’s hallowed status - for

several decades, it was one of the three top-selling automobile brands

in the US.



According to Kathryn Blackwell, Daimler’s senior manager for

Chrysler/Plymouth/Jeep product communications, timing of the

announcement was predicated on three factors: a clause in dealer

franchise agreements which requires 12 months’ notice, a previously

scheduled dealer meeting in Las Vegas and the availability of Daimler’s

new president, James Holden, to field both dealer and media

questions.



In addition, Daimler’s US PR team was forced to deal with internal

communication issues. It required delicate timing, one source said, to

ensure that employees heard the announcement not only at the same time

as the dealers, but also before the news release hit the wires late in

the morning Pacific Standard Time.



From a PR perspective, sources said that Plymouth’s discontinuation was

executed professionally. The news release announced a Las Vegas media

briefing with a toll-free number for US and international press.

Additionally, key members of the automotive press were already in Las

Vegas for the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association

convention.



The carefully laid PR plans were sabotaged somewhat by a leak to The

Wall Street Journal, promptly picked up the next day by USA Today and

other publications. Still, the company’s PR pros don’t believe the leak

did great harm, since the news had already been rumored in the trade

media.



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