Following last November's appointment of Pete Grady as president and CEO of Maserati North America, Dodge brand CEO Tim Kuniskis added the oversight of Chrysler Fleet Operations to his responsibilities. Grady previously oversaw Chrysler Fleet Operations.
In addition to his new fleet responsibilities, Kuniskis continues as president and CEO of Dodge. In his first interview with Automotive Fleet, Kuniskis discussed his strategic plans to grow Chrysler's commercial fleet business, plans to make its dealers more fleet-minded, and initiatives designed to make it easier for fleet managers to do business with the company.
Below are excerpts from our interview:
AF: What is Chrysler's outlook for the commercial segment of the fleet market for 2014 and beyond?
KUNISKIS: First, I would like to say thanks for the opportunity to speak to your readers. It's great to see sustained growth in the industry and the highly-competitive market assures innovation and increased value for fleet customers. We expect to see continued growth in the commercial segment and believe we have positioned ourselves to grow sales and share in this expanding market.
Over the past year, we have made several key additions to our lineup that addresses the specific needs of the commercial market.
We have added the new 2014 Ram ProMaster full-size van, which is ideal for so many commercial uses, and announced the start of production later this year of the Ram ProMaster City, an all-new small van, which will further expand our coverage of the market. To our truck lineup, we have added 8-speed transmissions, the new 6.4L gasoline engine, a new 3.0L EcoDiesel engine on our 1500 series, best-in-class towing capability on heavy-duty units, and advanced fuel saving technologies.
I could not be more pleased with the truck offerings our Ram Truck brand provides. The all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee gives us a state-of-the-art compact sport/utility, which represents a great opportunity for growth in a very large segment of commercial sales.
And, this spring we are launching the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan, which represents the perfect combination of style, comfort, fuel efficiency, safety, and value that will make it an excellent choice for many fleets. We are very proud of our lineup and our consistently-improving residual values demonstrate that the market recognizes our effort.
AF: How is Chrysler planning to further leverage its relationship with Fiat to increase its market share in the commercial fleet market?
KUNISKIS: Fiat is no stranger to the commercial market. The successful relationship with Fiat Professional gives us a competitive advantage with access to proven products and technologies that resonate with commercial buyers.
The ProMaster and 2014 Ram 1500 3.0L EcoDiesel are good examples. The ProMaster is a shared platform with the Fiat Ducato that was adapted and enhanced for the North American fleets. With more than four million sold worldwide, its reliability and durability are well established. The same is true of the 3.0L EcoDiesel, proven technology adapted for the North American market. The Dodge Dart, the Cherokee, and the Chrysler 200 are all built on platforms and technology shared worldwide.
So, there are plenty of examples in our showrooms today and much more to follow.
AF: What upcoming initiatives is Chrysler developing to help fleet managers do business with Chrysler?
KUNISKIS: Most importantly, our products are designed to help fleet managers findsolutions to their challenges. Increasing productivity of the workforce, fuel efficiency of the vehicles, safety and comfort of their drivers, and reducing the total cost of ownership will all help fleet managers do business with Chrysler.
We continue to grow our team to support fleet managers in search of solutions. It's our goal to provide more personal and responsive support to our customers as a competitive advantage. We are currently adding experienced regional truck managers to help provide the right trucks best suited to the specific needs of fleets.
AF: As an industry-wide issue affecting all OEMs, what is Chrysler doing to make its dealers more fleet-minded in terms of fleet maintenance turnaround times and fleet driver satisfaction during the courtesy deliveries process?
KUNISKIS: At the dealer level we have significantly grown the network of BusinessLink dealers. These dealers have made a very specific commitment to the fast and efficient care of fleet customers. They have invested in the required facilities, tools, and training to provide the proper maintenance and minimize downtime for our commercial customers.
Fleet customers do not go to the end of the line for service repairs, but are usually provided the next available service bay. We have systems in place to expedite parts if not immediately available at the local dealer, and through our Service Net program, we accelerate payments to dealers who are servicing large fleets.
AF: What message would you like to convey to fleet managers about yourself and your philosophy toward fleet sales?
KUNISKIS: The Chrysler Group has long recognized the importance of fleet sales to the success of our company. It is our belief that we will only build value for our company by building value for our customers.
We provide value by helping fleets find solutions to maximize efficiency, safety and productivity, and helping to minimize downtime, cost of ownership, and the hassles of managing large fleets. We want to make it easy for fleets to do business with us and our team is committed to their success.
To all of our current customers, I want to say thank you, we appreciate your business and are dedicated to your continued satisfaction. To those fleets not currently driving our products, our lineup has vastly improved over the past several years and we would greatly appreciate the opportunity to earn your business.