Mopar at 75

Remember when you actually followed your owner's manual and replaced parts from your local dealership? You recall the clause in the owner's manual to replace your oil filter, air filter and spark plugs with a manufacturer's own brand. How many of us actually did that?

Seventy-five years ago, a company called Chrysler decided to join General Motors and Ford to offer a distinct brand of maintenance parts along with accessories to customize your vehicle. GM called their products "AC" or "Delco-Remy." Ford had "Autolite" and "Motorcraft." Chrysler came up with the brand "Motor Parts" whose acronym has gone beyond just a name they gave for an anti-freeze product – Mopar.

The name Mopar is more than just the brand for parts and accessories for Chrysler and Fiat products. It is a calling card for all things Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, SRT, Plymouth, Eagle, DeSoto, Imperial…and so on. For the past 75 years, Mopar is a term of endearment for a company and its output of loyalty through customization and optimal maintenance of Chrysler's vehicles.

Why Mopar? It is one of many things Chrysler has done right for the past 75 years. The reward is to distinguish the brand as an extension of the ownership experience. This experience has now been expanded to include replacement parts for Fiat worldwide, including the Magneti Marelli brand. As one of the outcomes of the Fiat-guided post-bankruptcy Chrysler, Mopar was given a new life beyond just the shelves of the parts department at the local dealership. Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne recognized this and announced the formation of an autonomous brand within the structure of both companies after the five-year plan was announced in late 2009.

Photo and image courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC

The point of Mopar today is to facilitate a lifestyle amongst Chrysler's enthusiasts. This began to take root as an extension of the birth of the HEMI engine in the 1950s. No one thought of in-house performance parts and accessories before the automobile grew along with customization and the new youth culture of the postwar era. By 1962, the Mopar brand grew from the parts attached the engine to its iconic status of the nickname for those early "funny cars" on the drag racing circuit. By the 1970s, performance parts for Chrysler products of old and new took on another layer of the Mopar name – Direct Connection. This led to a huge growth in aftermarket products with Mopar's name and logo happily emblazoned on it. When the AMC merger came about in the late 1980s, Mopar's greatest growth was realized by adding a line of Jeep accessories – a lucrative business in itself.

Nowadays, Mopar can offer you practically anything for your Chrysler or Fiat vehicle. For example: When the 2013 Dodge Dart was introduced at the North American International Auto Show, Mopar announced that it will offer 150 different accessories for the new compact sedan. It is not about how many items they can offer to personalize your ride – but, rather, having the foresight to create them while the vehicle is in development. Many manufacturers can say that, but you can tell there is an honest synergy happening at Auburn Hills to make this happen. Not to take away from various parts, accessory and performance teams at other companies, but there is a level of engagement within Chrysler that allows Mopar to be creative in terms of dealer-installed and aftermarket items for any particular vehicle.

Where Mopar differentiates itself from its competition is the volume of external engagement in the industry. Even if you are loyal to certain brand or corporation, you cannot ignore Mopar's presence on- and off-line. As we say in social media: "Engagement is the key to a successful presence with your customers and fans." Mopar's social media-driven engagement should be recognized as ground-breaking in this industry. If you followed events, such as MoVenture, then you get what Mopar is doing externally.

Who would have thought that a company's in-house parts, service and aftermarket accessory and motorsports brand would be so engaging after 75 years of brand recognition? The answer to that question is the heart of what social media successes are made of. It also serves as a huge lesson for the entire automotive industry – the service, parts and aftermarket sector included.

How will Chrysler celebrate Mopar's 75th? Lots of social media engagement, an introduction of their latest Mopar-branded vehicle (There are Mopar editions of the 2011 Dodge Charger on sale as we speak) and plenty of giveaways! It is an extension of what Chrysler had been doing through social media since the Fiat-guided five-year plan was announced in 2009. You can see on the website, if you're curious – as I have no details until their webcast on Tuesday, January 31. That’s how good the folks at Mopar are…

This celebration goes beyond offering an air filter for a HEMI or a Slant Six, a beefier camshaft for a one of the 2.2litre Turbos of 1980s vintage, a heavy-duty winch for your new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, the Wi-Fi router for your RAM 1500 to connect with the office from the construction site, or that cool retro Challenger cap you got for Christmas. It is an embodiment of how lingo, lifestyle and loyalty are embodied into a legacy spanning seven-and-a-half decades. It is about how Mopar's future as a global service, support and aftermarket brand is being shaped by the legacy off two historic automotive companies. It is as you walk through a line of Chrysler 300s, Dodge Omni GLHs and Jeep Grand Cherokees and simply call them "Mopars."

Cover photo by Randy Stern

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