When you think of CEO’s, the general perception is of stuffily-dressed older men who make tons of money while they sit in their window-lined offices and have very little to do with the customers of a company. However, while he wears a suit and tie and probably makes more than we’d like to know about, the CEO of Dodge and Chrysler Canada, Reid Bigland, is a far-cry from the stereotypical head honcho.
As we learned from an interview that Allpar did with Bigland, he is actually very in tune with the Chrysler Group’s customer base and excited about what the company has to offer now and in the future. And yes, that means he answered some questions that have been on everyone’s minds for some time now.
Bigland has been the President and CEO of Chrysler Canada since 2006. In September 2011, he was appointed the President and CEO of the Dodge Brand, as well as the Head of the Chrysler Group’s U.S. Sales, Head of the Dodge Brand and a member of the Group Executive Council (GEC) for Fiat. Needless to say, he’s a bigwig and Allpar put him to the test with some complex questions.
The Chrysler Group has been very successful in the last few years, especially in Canada. With the company being the fastest growing auto maker in Canada for the last two years and here in the U.S. with sales up 43 percent, there is no denying that Chrysler is doing something right.
Bigland accredits the company’s success to the products they supply, specifically the 16 new or refreshed vehicles that the Chrysler Group has introduced in the last year and a half. Sure, some models do better in the Canadian market, but Chrysler/Dodge has come leaps and bounds from just a few years ago.
But what about the Dart and the future of the Chrysler Group? Well, Bigland had plenty to say on those subjects as well.
There has been a lot of talk about why the Dart name is being resurrected and Bigland addressed this quite well, telling Allpar, “We did a lot of research on the name Dart. Interestingly enough, anyone that we spoke to that was under the age of 35, we showed them pictures of the 2013 Dart with the aggressive aero, the look, the sportiness and asked them which names they thought fit best.
“Dart was the overwhelming bulls-eye. These people weren’t very familiar with the 1960-1976 Dart. They were just looking at Dart for matching the design and the aero of the current car.”
The original Dart was definitely a love-it or hate-it type vehicle but Bigland seems to be upbeat about the nameplate being reinstated, adding, “The affiliation with the name Dart, the original, was very positive. The vehicle had a great run. 1960-1976 sold almost 4 million Darts. If I can get halfway there with this car I would be pretty happy.”
Interestingly enough, the Dart is set to be backed by Mopar like the original model was. Mopar will offer over 150 accessories for the Dart in addition to the OEM customization options. That’s great news for all you Mopar fans.
Bigland also addressed questions about the company’s three types of transmissions. According to him, the automatic, dual-dry clutch transmission DDCT that we’ve seen pop up is from the Fiat brand while the other six-speed automatic transmission Chrysler is offering is from an “undisclosed location” that is not Fiat. According to Allpar, the undisclosed location seems to be either Aisin or Hyundai. In addition to the automatics, there is also a six-speed manual offering from the Chrysler Group that Bigland confirmed will be available across the company’s entire engine line, including with the 1.4L engine.
So what can we expect from the Chrysler Group in the future? According to Bigland, we will see more concepts coming through, a greater potential realized for several Dodge models, including the Journey and the 31mpg Charger, as well as the new Dart being a key focus area. With a company Bigland describes as “a mainstream American brand” that is “about value and performance,” we wouldn’t expect anything less.