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Published: Tuesday, 3/22/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

JEEP ANNIVERSARY

Chrysler runs over local dealers' initiative

Toledo version ‘dilutes' campaign, company says

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

‘I want to promote Toledo. I want to promote Jeeps,' says Ralph Mahalak, Jr., owner of Monroe Dodge Superstore. But Chrysler Group LLC has turned thumbs down on his ‘Imported from Toledo' T-shirts. ‘I want to promote Toledo. I want to promote Jeeps,' says Ralph Mahalak, Jr., owner of Monroe Dodge Superstore. But Chrysler Group LLC has turned thumbs down on his ‘Imported from Toledo' T-shirts.
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Maybe because it's "Not a Jeep Thing, you wouldn't understand," but local Jeep dealers who have modified Chrysler Group LLC's critically acclaimed "Imported from Detroit" slogan to celebrate Jeep with an "Imported from Toledo" tag are being told: "Thanks, but no thanks."

Chrysler has squashed plans to sell a commemorative Jeep 70th-anniversary T-shirt at the Monroe Dodge Superstore in Monroe with the Toledo-centric saying on it. And the Auburn Hills Mich.-based automaker also apparently has taken issue with a Wrangler Unlimited from Grogan'sTowne and Charlie's Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram that drove on the ice during intermissions at Walleye games last weekend with "Imported from Toledo" written on its four doors.

Chrysler dealers nationwide are holding what the automaker is calling Premiere events to mark the introduction of 16 redesigned or refreshed 2011 models in its lineup. To mark the event and the Jeep anniversary, Monroe Dodge Superstore designed and printed up about 600 white-on-black T-shirts with "Imported from Toledo, and "Jeep 70th Anniversary" above and below a likeness of the Jeep's seven-slot grill.

In a news release late last week, owner Ralph Mahalak, Jr., said the shirts would be sold for $19.41 — a tribute to the Jeep's birth year — with proceeds going to three local charities. But when it learned of the promotion and saw the shirts, Chrysler objected.

"I want to promote Toledo. I want to promote Jeeps," said Mr. Mahalak, who, as part of an arrangement with Chrysler to resolve any potential trademark dispute, was giving away the T-shirts Monday to customers who test-drove a vehicle. "I love these vehicles, and I love seeing the American auto industry coming back."

Through Monday, Chrysler's two-minute Superbowl ad for the Chrysler 200 sedan had been viewed nearly 9.8 million times on YouTube, the Internet video site.

The critically acclaimed ad featured rap superstar Eminem in a newly restyled Chrysler 200 driving through Detroit and featured the tagline "Imported from Detroit" above the new Chrysler winged logo at the end of the commercial.

Mr. Mahalak's T-shirts play off Chrysler's ‘Imported from Detroit' ad line, introduced Feb. 6. Mr. Mahalak's T-shirts play off Chrysler's ‘Imported from Detroit' ad line, introduced Feb. 6.
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The "Imported From Detroit" tag­ line was so well received that, shortly after the ad first aired Feb. 6, Chrysler began selling limited-edition clothing and other items featuring the slogan, which it had trademarked in January.

Just last week, the automaker filed suit against a Detroit-area business called Pure Detroit that sells what it calls "authentic Detroit apparel" for infringing on its "Imported from Detroit" trademark.

A Chrysler spokesman acknowledged that the automaker doesn't own a trademark for "Imported from Toledo," but said its use to promote or sell Jeep-brand vehicles was misguided.

"We appreciate the enthusiasm and support of our dealers, but we do not want to dilute the Chrysler Brand's ‘Imported from Detroit' tag­line," said Michael Palese, a spokesman for Chrysler authorized to speak on the automaker's legal matters.

But it's not just T-shirts at issue. The "Imported from Toledo" tag also made an appearance last weekend on the Toledo Walleyes' home ice, something Chrysler said it did not know about.

This Wrangler from Grogan'sTowne and Charlie's Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram showed the modified slogan to Walleye fans. This Wrangler from Grogan'sTowne and Charlie's Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram showed the modified slogan to Walleye fans.
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Denny Amrhein, managing partner of both Grogan's and Charlie's, said the idea for the "Imported from Toledo" logo on the Walleye Wrangler came just recently.

He said he and his co-workers at the dealership felt it was a way to celebrate the vehicle's local heritage as it marks the brand's 70th anniversary this year.

"We're going to get ‘Imported from Toledo' copyrighted. We got a lot of positive response from customers and [Walleye] fans about the signs this weekend," Mr. Amrhein said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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