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From Automotive News......

Iacocca may be on TV for Chrysler again

Employee pricing campaign pitch: 'If you can find a better car, buy it.'


Dale Jewett





Lee Iacocca may once again be a pitchman for Chrysler.


DETROIT -- Lee Iacocca is in final negotiations to work for Chrysler again. The former Chrysler Corp. chairman would appear in a series of TV commercials touting the Employee Pricing Plus incentive campaign launched by the Chrysler group, the U.S. arm of DaimlerChrysler AG.

The first commercial, which also features actor Jason Alexander, would begin running Thursday, July 7, if the deal is finalized. In it, Iacocca revives the most memorable line from his popular commercials of the early 1980s: "If you can find a better car, buy it."

The campaign would mark the end of a years-long estrangement between Iacocca and the automaker he helped pull back from the brink of collapse in the early 1980s. Iacocca's reputation was tarnished in 1995 when he backed an unsuccessful takeover bid by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian.

The Chrysler group's Employee Pricing Plus incentive runs through Aug. 1. It offers employee discount prices, plus cash back of up to $3,500, on most of the Chrysler group's 2005 model vehicles. Excluded are the hot-selling 2005 Chrysler 300, the Dodge Magnum, Viper and Sprinter van, the Jeep Liberty diesel, all SRT models and all 2006 models.

The Chrysler group launched the incentive program in the wake of the GM Employee Discount for Everyone incentive in June, which drove General Motors' sales up 46.9 percent for the month. GM has extended the promotion to Aug. 1. Rival Ford Motor Co. has launched a similar incentive program.
Chrysler's advertising takes a dig at GM. One print ad reads: "First we beat them at the show, now we are taking it to the showroom. Now everyone gets our employee discount, plus up to $3,500 cash allowance." The ad pictures the Chrysler 300C, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Grand Caravan and touts their awards and innovations.

Jason Vines, the Chrysler group's public relations chief who first contacted Iacocca with the idea of pitching the incentive program, said: "We think this is a great move to cut through all the marketing clutter."

There are two more commercials in the first wave of the campaign, Vines said. Those commercials also would feature Iacocca. The commercials have already been shot.

Iacocca plans to donate his payment for the commercials to diabetes research in honor of his first wife, Mary. Mary Iacocca died from complications of diabetes in 1983.

Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche approved the use of Iacocca in the commercials, and DaimlerChrysler CEO Juergen Schrempp was told of the plan. "It was a Chrysler group decision," Vines said.

Relations between Iacocca and Chrysler -- once so bad that the automaker abandoned plans to name its Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters building after him -- have mellowed in recent years.

"Lee drives our products," Vines said. "He has reached out to Dieter. He has written letters to him."


 
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