Chrysler Dealers Desire Peace

DaimlerChrysler dealers have strongly urged company management to stem the executive overhaul of recent weeks and look inside for a new executive vice president of global sales and marketing for Chrysler/-Jeep/Dodge.

Dieter Zetsche, who took over as the automaker’s president following the ouster of Jim Holden two weeks ago, told the dealers at a meeting late last month that it will also consider external candidates to replace Ted Cunningham. Cunningham played an integral role in the company’s $2 billion advertising consolidation, but resigned two weeks after the process ended amid an executive housecleaning led by the automaker’s German parent. Zetsche said he hoped to have Cunningham’s job filled by early next year.

The dealers also urged Zetsche to retain senior vice president Arthur “Bud” Liebler, said Tom Barenboim, owner of Clark Chrysler Jeep in Methuen, Mass., and chairman of the dealers’ council.

Amid turmoil that includes a lawsuit by the company’s third-largest shareholder, Kirk Kerkorian, several sources said marketing decisions are getting pushed back.

True North chairman David Bell met with Zetsche last week to discuss the review won by Omnicom’s BBDO. Bell, who has expressed dissatisfaction with the review process, requested another hearing, sources said. Zetsche told Bell the review decision would not be changed, sources said.

TN is negotiating with ex-ecutives whom BBDO has sought to recruit for the new PentaMark Worldwide. FCB’s Mike Vogel and Bill Morden are both hampered in making the move by their contracts. Sources said that hang-up could be among elements that could spur renewed acquisition talks between the two holding companies.

At FCB’s Southfield, Mich., office, staffers are working on résumés while waiting to hear if they’ll be offered posts at PentaMark, sources said. They have not been told if the office will stay open after the client’s move to PentaMark is complete.