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Dodge supports motorcycle racing, marathoning to reinvent brand

June 11, 2010 |  3:09 pm

Dodgerebranding Outfitted with copious cup holders and able to haul entire extended families, the Caravan is probably the best known product in the Dodge lineup. So it may have come as a surprise to attendees at last month's superbike race when, for the first time, the Detroit auto manufacturer showed up at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City to sponsor the adrenalized, two-wheeled event and offer "thrill rides" in some of its products.  

Not in the Caravan, mind you, but in some of the other cars Dodge wants a different kind of customer to consider, including its 425-horsepower Challenger SRT-8 muscle car and other as-yet-unannounced vehicles "more matched to a younger customer base," Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles said. The current Dodge customers, Gilles said, are "somewhat older families."

It's all part of a brand reinvention necessitated last fall when Chrysler separated the Dodge and Ram brands, removing the heavy-duty trucks from the Dodge lineup and, with it, a part of its brand recognition and cool factor.

"We want to show up in unusual places, expose ourselves to a different customer," Gilles said. "There's so many enthusiasts out there who play different sports, and they're made of the same DNA as our current enthusiasts. Let's show up in their backyards and have them experience something new."

Next up: marathoning. Dodge recently partnered with the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series -- which hosts endurance events around the country and features live music at every mile -- and will begin sponsoring races this fall.

Music, Gilles says, is the last pillar of the Dodge brand reinvention -- an effort to show off the cars' "phenomenal sound systems," Gilles says, which is a key feature for young buyers. 

"Will a NASCAR guy understand a superbike guy? Can a musician understand a jogger? I think so. They're enthusiasts who live life to the fullest."

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Dodge