Embargoed interviews help Chrysler drive new program

DETROIT: DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group made its CEO available for a series of embargoed interviews in order to get the widest possible media coverage for its new seven-year, 70,000-mile warranty program.

DETROIT: DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group made its CEO available for a series of embargoed interviews in order to get the widest possible media coverage for its new seven-year, 70,000-mile warranty program.

The new Chrysler Group warranty on Powertrain components is seen in Detroit as a PR move by Chrysler to improve consumer perceptions of Chrysler vehicle quality. "It had to be done, said Paul Eisenstein, a veteran Detroit auto writer who runs the Carconnection.com.

Chrysler quality has improved in recent years, Eisenstein acknowledged, but lingering consumer tales about problems with Chrysler minivans has been hurting the company's image.

Jan Zverina, director of product PR for the Chrysler Group, said he offered advance interviews with CEO Dieter Zetsche to The Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg,The New York Times, USA Today, and the Detroit papers to give the new program maximum exposure.

Those interviews were held just before July 4, with the story embargoed until after the holiday weekend. The major outlets all agreed to the embargo.

Chrysler decided Zetsche should be the lead voice on the new program to show how vital it is to the Chrysler Group.

The timing of the announcement was dictated in part by the pending expiration of another special warranty offer. But Zverina also admitted having the news break the Monday after the July 4 holiday meant maximum exposure on an otherwise slow business-news day.

Chrysler also had senior executives outline marketing plans for the warranty to senior auto writers. Those plans include radio, print, and TV advertising.

On the PR side, information is being prepared to help dealers answer customer questions on the new program.

All PR efforts for the program were handled in-house, Zverina said.

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