As the fifth anniversary of the troubled merger that created DaimlerChrysler looms, Chrysler Group's executives will launch an eight-city tour next week to convince their dealers that they have the cars, the strategy and the advertising to save the company, according to the Detroit Free Press
.The unusual sales pitch is timed to counteract an expected spate of negative news stories next week about perceived failures of the merger, the Free Press
said.DaimlerChrysler's stock has lost more than half its value in the five years since the Nov. 12, 1998, merger, and unhappy shareholders have launched lawsuits and called for management shake-ups, the Free Press
noted.The Chrysler Group's turnaround hopes hinge on its launch of an unprecedented nine new vehicles in the next 12 months. "It's very important to discuss the positioning and sales of these new cars and trucks," said Charles L. Fortinberry, president of Clarkston Chrysler-Jeep. "The main thing is that the dealers see there is a clear plan for the launches and have input to the local advertising."Top executives, including chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche, chief operating officer Wolfgang Bernhard and sales and marketing chief Joe Eberhardt will give the dealers the company's strategy to build sales with the new Dodge Durango SUV, V8-powered Chrysler 300C sedan and Chrysler and Dodge minivans, according to the Free Press
."We've been playing defense the last couple of years," said Ken Levy, Chrysler Group vicepresident for communications. "Now we're going on the offensive, and we've got the products to do it."