With their new designs the vehicles will offer increased cargo and off-road capability as well as mild hybrid powertrains for improved fuel efficiency. Both models are especially popular with owners who modify their vehicles.
That creates an opportunity for Mopar, the automaker’s in-house accessories arm, to capitalize on demand for aftermarket parts that has become a $40 billion industry in the U.S. alone. Mopar will have an array of 200 parts available at launch for both the Wrangler and Ram. The new vehicles could help the brand grow its presence in the U.S. and globally, Pietro Gorlier, head of Mopar, told Trucks.com during the Chicago Auto Show.
Here is an edited version of the interview.
Are Wrangler and Ram the two biggest vehicles for Mopar?
I would say if you look at customization the three vehicles on the podium are Wrangler, Ram and the Dodge Challenger. Obviously we have a great opportunity with the launch of the new Ram and new Wrangler to refresh and expand our portfolio. That’s important because it gives the possibility to start that process of customization with the customers being there.
We’ve seen research that people want to add accessories when they buy the vehicle.
This is something that I keep on reminding when I talk to the dealers. Having accessories on display in the dealership is not only a business opportunity for Mopar — it helps to sell cars and trucks. The availability of customization is always among the top five reasons why a customer buys a car. Everyone likes to add something that is unique. This is why we have developed this process of custom shops that are essentially small plants near the production plant. We offer dealers and customers the opportunity to order the vehicle with the accessories installed directly from production.
Have you seen that make a big difference?
Absolutely because last year we processed 300,000 vehicles globally — I would say that is a remarkable number. Secondly, we guarantee not only the warranty of the accessories and the vehicles but also fit and finish. Third, vehicles arrive at the dealership already customized so displaying the vehicle with the accessories is a key driver for customer choice. The customer is going to say “I want that vehicle.” Then we include the accessories into the cost of the car, thus increasing the residual value of the vehicle and allowing the customer to get the accessory financed with the proper value.
We monitor the turn of the vehicles in the dealer lot when they have the custom accessories and not — those with accessories always turn much faster. Two or three times faster.
What’s unique about Mopar’s relationship with FCA as opposed to other automakers that have their own accessories units?
Obviously, everyone thinks themselves to be unique. I think we have a couple of things — first of all we have very different brands. We can go to the limit of off-roading with Jeep; we can go to the limit of performance with Challenger and Dodge; we can go to the limit of convenience and making the life of the owner easier with Ram. We can go to completely new fields with our minivan. Wireless smartphone chargers, etc. Aside from a great tradition, 80 years in this business is something.
Also we are not generalists. We have a very dedicated approach to every one of the brands. For me it’s never about Mopar — it’s about the extension of the brand and the ability of the brand to provide something more. Mopar is the tool, if you like.
How important is Mopar to FCA overall?
Our business is not just accessories. We do service, we do customer cars. Every day we process 350,000 lines of orders in our supply chain. So you see the accessories as the tip of the iceberg but underneath there is an organization of 7,000 people that every day are supporting our customers and our dealers. That is what I think is a big value for FCA. The support to the customers is a big part of having the customers loyal to the brand and recognizing the value.
How much does the history of the name Mopar play into customer minds?
It is obviously very strong in the U.S. and North America. That DNA is less known outside the U.S. When people talk about Mopar they immediately get back 60 years to muscle cars. It has a history of upgrades, quality and best-in-class performance so we use that DNA for everything we do. Outside the U.S. it’s becoming important but I’m more interested in the value of the products we sell. And by the way there are markets where we’re growing very fast in terms of social awareness including Europe and South America, the Middle East. I think there are 400 Mopar clubs in the world and a good 20-30 percent outside of North America.
The Jeep brand now sells in more than 150 countries, does that have a big impact on Mopar?
Jeep is obviously thriving. And there is also tradition for Dodge outside the U.S. with a lot of collectors of cars. We have already started to open custom shops in Brazil, customs shops in Europe. We have two in Brazil and one in Europe and looking to expand to other regions. It’s no longer a North American story.