Chrysler's Fleet Strategy: An Interview With Jim Sassorossi
Automotive Fleet spoke with Jim Sassorossi, director, fleet sales, on his outlook of the fleet market for 2013, as well as the automaker’s short- and long-term goals. Also discussed were initiatives to increase residual values.
Jim Sassorossi is very bullish about Chrysler’s long-term outlook for the commercial fleet market. “Knowing our product pipeline, I’m confident we will be able to compete on the product side. As you know, our competition is very tough and we need to push for new frontiers on delivering hassle-free levels of service for our customers,” he said.
At a Glance
Points discussed during the interview with Jim Sassorossi included:
- Debut of Ram ProMaster this summer.
- Teamwork to meet the needs of customers around the globe.
- Improvement in residual values.
In June 2012, Jim Sassorossi was named director, fleet sales for the Chrysler Group. Sassorossi is a 26-year veteran at Chrysler. Prior to joining fleet, Sassorossi was head of parts sales operations for Mopar. He spent 10 of his 26 years with the company working in the Mopar division. During his first year at the fleet helm, Chrysler has launched a slew of new products and bolstered its commercial fleet market share. Recently, Automotive Fleet interviewed Sassorossi to learn about his objectives in leading Chrysler Group Fleet.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
AF: What is Chrysler’s outlook for the commercial segment of the fleet market for 2013 and beyond?
SASSOROSSI: Our outlook is positive. As the economy continues to recover, we see many businesses starting to replace aging fleets. With that said, given the challenging times and lessons all businesses learned during the crisis, prudent spending is now the norm. This is where it gets fun. As our new product portfolio continues to roll out, it puts us in a great position to grow by assisting our customers to deliver what they need to solve their business challenges.
AF: What were your short-term goals for your first year in leading Chrysler’s Fleet Operations?
SASSOROSSI: Given the strength of our Chrysler Fleet Team, my short-term goal has been to learn the business by meeting with as many customers as I can. It has been a great learning experience and I believe that no matter how long you are in a position, you need to learn every day.
AF: What is your long-term vision for Chrysler Fleet Operations?
SASSOROSSI: For the longer-term goal, I am taking what I’ve learned and building on what my great predecessors started — providing our customers the products they need to achieve their goals and doing it in the most hassle-free way. Knowing our product pipeline, I’m confident we will be able to compete on the product side.
As you know, our competition is very tough and we need to push for new frontiers on delivering hassle-free levels of service for our customers. Business these days is challenging and full of long hours for everyone. If we can improve our customers’ lives by delivering excellent service through the total lifecycle process, we believe it will put us in a great position to grow our commercial business.
AF: What vocational markets are you targeting for the 2014 Ram ProMaster?
SASSOROSSI: Naturally, we’re very excited for our Ram ProMaster to debut this summer. With its best-in-class low step-in height, cargo volume, and multiple configurations, we have the opportunity to target several vocations.
Joined by the 2014 Ram C/V, the 2014 Ram ProMaster targets countless businesses in a variety of industries, including service and repairs; construction; transportation/shipping; large, medium, and small businesses; and agriculture. The economy has incurred pent-up demand to replace aging commercial vans and vehicles that are no longer offered in the market. This has created an opportunity and the ProMaster will be an attractive choice with a variety of capable and efficient models ready for any job.
One strength cited by Jim Sassorossi has been Chrysler’s increased residual values. “Over the past several years, our residuals have closed the gap and have either improved at the same rate or better than the industry. Chrysler Group continues to invest in quality improvements to improve the performance, competiveness, and reliability of the entire product lineup,” he said.
AF: The 2014 Ram ProMaster is Ram’s first shared truck collaboration with Fiat Professional. Do you envision future shared product collaborations with Fiat? For instance, do you envision a day when Fiat-badged and Alfa Romeo-badged products are part of Chrysler’s overall fleet portfolio in the U.S.?
SASSOROSSI: Given the competitiveness of the marketplace, it is important for us to keep future product plans close to vest. With that said, because of the strength of our alliance with Fiat and how great we all work today — in essence, as one team all helping each other — it is only natural to share products or components where it makes sense. In fact, we’ve come together so fast and so well, I don’t even look at it as sharing. We are one team working very hard to offer our customers around the globe the transportation solutions they’re seeking.
We are hearing from many of our customers that the interest in procuring fleets on a global basis is increasing at a rapid pace. With our global footprint and product availability through our global strategic alliance with Fiat S.p.A., Chrysler Fleet is in an excellent position to help our customers achieve their goals of a global purchase. Our team is in constant contact with our other markets and already has helped some customers achieve their global goals.
AF: What initiatives does Chrysler have in place to improve the residual value of its vehicles?
SASSOROSSI: Over the past several years, our residuals have closed the gap and have either improved at the same rate or better than the industry. The fuel efficiency of our vehicles, as well as substantial style changes, are contributing factors in our improving residuals. We now have 14 vehicles with an EPA-rated highway fuel economy of 25 mpg or higher, and six of those vehicles get 31 mpg or higher.
Chrysler Group continues to invest in quality improvements to improve the performance, competiveness, and reliability of the entire Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck, and Fiat brand product lineup. The company has invested more than $100 million in assembly plants to improve fit-and-finish quality of new vehicle launches, and vehicle reliability has improved approximately 60 percent in the past five years, based on number of warranty claims. Chrysler Group’s revamped product lineup and extensive quality investments made it the most improved automaker as it tied for second place in Strategic Vision’s 2012 Total Quality Index study, based on surveys with more than 45,000 owners. The Fiat 500, Dodge Charger, and Jeep Grand Cherokee led their segments in total quality.
AF: Prior to joining Chrysler Fleet Operations, you spent 10 years at Mopar. Now having experience in both areas, do you envision future synergies between Mopar and your fleet customers?
SASSOROSSI: This is a great question. The answer is two-fold. First, being a nimble company based on teamwork, Mopar and Chrysler Group Fleet have a long history of working closely together. For example, our Chrysler Group Mopar Service net invoicing system for excellent maintenance and service at our Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram Truck dealerships has long been greatly appreciated by our customers. Looking ahead, it’s natural to move this even further since Pat Dougherty and I switched positions and he is now head of Parts Sales Operations for Mopar Service, Parts, and Customer Care. We talk all the time and are already working on more collaborated opportunities that will assist our mission to deliver hassle-free lifecycle experience for our customers. We understand each other’s business and constantly see where we can further improve. We both carry a strong passion for the total business and are driven to deliver the best for our customers.
Earlier in the interview, I mentioned our long-term goal is to go to the next level of providing a hassle-free life for our customers. I believe the years Chrysler has invested in me to be a student and leader in the customer service arena puts me in a unique position to bring that core of what I’ve done for so long to build on what our great Chrysler Group Fleet organization has already achieved in delivering excellent customer service.