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Published: Sunday, 9/20/2009

Chrysler to transform Ram into 4th brand

Local dealers are worried Chrysler's transformation of its lineup will mean less advertising for Jeep products. Local dealers are worried Chrysler's transformation of its lineup will mean less advertising for Jeep products.

Chrysler Group LLC will create a fourth brand among its vehicle lineup, differentiating its line of Dodge Ram trucks from the rest of the Dodge brand, and reducing the amount of advertising for Jeep and Chrysler in the process, The Blade has learned.

Chrysler spokesman Jodi Tinson said the automaker had no comment when asked Friday about the plan, which was e-mailed to Chrysler customers.

The e-mail solicitation included an image across the top with four Chrysler Group brands: Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, and Jeep.

The automaker, which hasn't had a fourth brand since it dropped Plymouth in 2001, has Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep in its brand stable. The Sprinter commercial van, which some dealers identified as a separate brand because it was a rebadged Mercedes product, was sold under the Dodge brand. Ram also has been sold under the Dodge brand.

Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June in a new alliance with Italian automaker Fiat SpA, which owns 20 percent of the company.

The company's new management has been working on a long-term plan for returning Chrysler to profitability by infusing its product lineup with small-car technology from Fiat and increasing its profile overseas, especially with the Jeep brand. The plan is to be unveiled in November.

Local dealers, who did not want to speak for attribution, said they have been told that the automaker plans to remodel its advertising lineup as well, differentiating Dodge Ram trucks from Dodge's automotive lineup.

They worried that the additional emphasis would dilute scarce advertising dollars for Chrysler and Jeep products.

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