A Two-Day Trip, Two Years Later
Pietro Gorlier recalls a phone call that he’d made to his wife in June, 2009. The then-senior vice president, customer service, Fiat Group, and senior vice president-customer care CHN Global (the agricultural equipment arm of Fiat Industrial that includes the Case and New Holland brands), had gone to the U.S. from Italy for a two-day business trip. Traveling to America was some-
thing he’d done frequently starting in 2007, when he joined CHN. (“In the ag business,” he says, “you live and breathe the core of the U.S.” He traveled to places in the heartland of the country that many people know of only from maps; he experienced it on the ground, first-hand. “The ag business is very real.”)
On June 10, 2009, Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy and then Chrysler LLC was formed, which brought Fiat into the boardroom.
Gorlier called his wife and told her that (1) he had a new job and (2) she needed to pack. They were moving to America because he was named president and CEO of Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care.
Gorlier was put in charge of the part of Chrysler that distributes some 280,000 parts and accessories; that is the source of all original equipment parts from Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram vehicles; that has distribution in more than 90 countries.
“’Remember when we talked about moving to the United States?’,” Gorlier asked his wife.
Adding Muscle to Mopar
Next year, Mopar will celebrate its 75th anniversary. The name comes from Motor and PARts; the contraction was originally trademarked for a line of antifreeze products from the Chrysler Motor Parts Corp., which was established in 1929, the year after Chrysler had purchased Dodge.
But speaking of the situation in 2009, when he took on the job of leading Mopar, he says that the company had “been neglected for 10 years.” Daimler,
he suggests, didn’t believe in the importance of an operation like Mopar and Cerberus didn’t much care.
“When I came on board,” he recalls, “they probably thought, ‘And now we have an Italian running the company.’ They looked at me like I was E.T.”
Gorlier says that he asked the people working at Mopar for information about the company and he says that in addition to answers, he was given numerous books about American muscle cars. “Many of these cars were called ‘Mopar,’ but they simply used the parts,” he says.
But he knew that if the name had such resonance, then something more had to be done. So the following year, he called up Ralph Gilles, then (and now) senior vice president-Design, and said that they had to create a car. “Two months later, we had the Mopar ’10, a special edition, Brilliant Black Dodge Challenger, which was based on a 2010 Dodge Challenge R/T that was Mopar modified both under the hood and in the cabin. When it was introduced on July 23, 2010, Gorlier said, “Dodge put the heart into this Challenger and Mopar added the soul.”
The success of that car led to the Mopar ’11 Charger, a Pitch Black 2012 Dodge Charger, another 5.7-liter HEMI-driven machine for enthusiasts.
And there will be, Gorlier says, a Mopar ’12, but doesn’t reveal what it will be based on.
Still, he points out, “We are not a brand that’s about building cars.” Rather, it is a brand that is about personalization—personalization in the context that individuals can buy Mopar components from key fobs to cylinder heads, from owners’ manuals to an 800-hp V10 engine.
“About Your Quality Situation . . .”
“The first day I came on board, Doug Betts”—then the senior vp-Quality—“came in and said, ‘You have a big problem.’,” Gorlier remembers.
The problem was that in the aftermarket business, the whole notion of “quality” and of having “standards” is somewhat nebulous.
So if a company is providing products that don’t meet the same standards that production OEM parts meet . . . well, that’s just how it is. Unless that company happens to be part of the OEM.
Gorlier decided from the start that Mopar quality standards had to be as good as those of the brands he was providing parts for. He insisted that Mopar have its own quality manager. He made sure that Mopar parts are made via the same cycle of testing for quality and process robustness as the original equipment parts. “We don’t accept a compromise when it is about quality.”
“In the U.S., there is a high level of personalization. The car is part of the family,” Gorlier says. “In Europe, they’ve done a good job of taking the emotion out of cars,” he adds, but then notes that there are some exceptions to that statement, as in the case of the Fiat 500, about which he quotes Laura Soave, former head of Fiat Brand of North America, who called the car “a perfect canvas for personalization.”
Yet as previously noted, Mopar distributes parts in more than 90 countries. He points out that of Mopar’s 52 parts distribution centers, 20 are in North America. In addition to which, when they measure social media activity, 17% of Mopar’s on-line run comes from places other than North America.
Gorlier sees that there is interest in personalization around the world. Perhaps it isn’t as enthusiastic as it is in the U.S. (“In Europe, there is the feeling that at some point you are not really an adult if you are working on your car. Here, you get a job and you can finally afford to really work on your car.”), but there are fans of modified vehicles the world over.
He recalls that a couple years ago, he flew to Moab prior to the annual Jeep Safari, where the corporation always shows its specially modified vehicles for the off-road community. He arrived on a Monday night for a Tuesday reveal. When he got up in the morning he’d received an email from his wife who told him that she’d received an email from a friend in Italy about the Wrangler that Gorlier was to reveal later that day. It turns out that a blogger had spotted the vehicle on Monday in a parking lot and posted the photo, which was found by a Jeep enthusiast in Italy . . .
Perhaps having an Italian in charge makes a lot of sense.