Detroit 2012: Pietro Gorlier Explains Mopar’s Brand Strategy

This morning, Automobile Magazine sat down with Mopar chief Pietro Gorlier in a small cubicle in the middle of the Ram truck stand of the Detroit auto show. Gorlier has been a high-level executive at the Fiat Group since 2003, and the Italian has been president and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler’s favorite parts/racing/heritage division, for a year and a half.

How do you see Mopar’s brand evolving in the Chrysler hierarchy, especially now that more car brands — Ram and Viper — have been added?

We used to say the brand was in the basement. If you go around here at the auto show, there is no other aftersales brand that has the right of staying on a main floor. Normally you have aftermarket exhibitions in the basement.

We will always be the aftermarket brand for the company. We don’t have the ambition to become carbuilders. We do our special editions that are a tribute to the brand. Our mission starts the day a car is sold, either personalizing the car or taking care of the car with our service department.

We have been consistent at this in the two and a half years since the new company was created and Mopar was brought to the first level of the company to do everything to support this vision, either in terms of improving dramatically the quality of the service experience in our dealerships, giving dealers the best possible tools to take care of our vehicles, working on the largest number of accessory parts that there is in the industry. For instance, the Dart will be launched with 150 different accessories.

Mopar has hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts around the world. Would consider yourself one?

I became a Mopar enthusiast two years ago. When I came onboard in June 2009, the team was looking at me thinking, “Oh here we are again: after the Germans that didn’t really get what Mopar was, then the bankers that didn’t really care about promoting the Mopar brand, now we have this Italian that doesn’t know, either.” They gave me a bunch of books about the history of Mopar, and that is really when I started learning, reading, and trying to get connected with the brand. Up to the moment where I started challenging the team saying, “Now I’ve understood, so let’s do something new.” The Mopar ‘10 Challenger and the Mopar ‘11 Charger, for instance, were the result of the image of Mopar that I had from the beginning.

Do you expect to keep Mopar’s involvement in racing and racing sponsorship the same or increase or decrease it?

We have already doubled our engagement in NHRA with the recent sponsorship of Jeg Coughlin, so that is a clear statement that we are committed to motorsports. Involvement in motorsport is a part of our heritage. And not to forget that we started sponsoring the Torq truck series, and we literally dominated the championship. It’s part of the very diverse background of Mopar: racing, accessories, performance, taking care of the customer, et cetera.

The Stage 3 Charger Redline is a luxurious, four-door car, but its 426 Hemi engine isn’t street-legal, which seems to be a lost opportunity.

For now it’s not street-legal … We will probably look into the possibility to make that engine legal.

Is there a vintage Mopar in your personal garage?

I’m Italian, so when I came here [to the U.S.] I was struggling to buy a classic Mopar or an old Alfa Romeo, so I’m still in the middle between the two. I would probably go for a 1968 or ’69 Dart, at this point. [Shows a picture on his phone of a Hemi-powered drag-racer doing a monster burnout.] This is what I’m looking for in a Dart.

What can we expect as far as future products from Mopar?

January the thirty-first we are going to host an event in our worldwide headquarters in Centerline, Michigan, where we will showcase five vehicles, one for each brand.

Will Mopar do anything with the Abarth version of the Fiat 500?

We need to preserve Abarth, so we don’t want to overlap with them. What we are looking at is how we can work with Abarth to create a different venue for the Fiats.

What’s the big news for Mopar for 2012?

Our seventh-fifth anniversary. There are not many aftermarket brands with this heritage. Last year we launched 1500 new accessories. The 2013 Dart is like the perfect marriage of all our areas of development: You have the heritage/muscle-car DNA, so spoilers, ground effects, all the performance parts. You have the technology that we are installing in our cars. Also there are all the cool personalizations such as little fender badges, wraps, stripes. I see the Dart as the ultimate display of what we can do at Mopar.

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