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Chrysler hires top PR managers – and wants more

Gone: Former Chrysler Group Australia senior manager of marketing and communications Dean Bonthorne.

Chrysler Group expands local PR and marketing team as model range, sales strengthen

8 Dec 2011

CHRYSLER Group Australia is in the process of restructuring its senior communications and marketing team, leaving Mitsubishi and BMW to replace key local public relations personnel as the company responsible for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Mopar brands expands its operations in Australia.

GoAuto can confirm that Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) head of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher, who officially leaves the company this Friday after five years in the position, will return to Melbourne to take on a similar senior role with Chrysler as director of corporate affairs.

This is a newly created position which covers media, public and industry relations and internal communications. Ms Fletcher officially starts on January 9.

Meanwhile, Chrysler Australia senior manager of marketing and corporate communications Dean Bonthorne has left the company, with senior public relations duties and involvement in strategic events and sponsorships to be handled from early next year by Lucy McLellan.

Ms McLellan will join Chrysler from BMW Group Australia, where she is currently product communications manager.

Her departure puts a further dent into BMW’s corporate communications department after Michelle Lang left recently to become Opel Australia’s PR and marketing manager.

Detailing the changes this week in an interview with GoAuto, Chrysler Group Australia general manager of marketing Sam Tabart also revealed that the company is looking to hire two additional senior marketing managers to expand the marketing operations beyond the dual role previously held by Mr Bonthorne.

“We’ve now got two people (Ms Fletcher and Ms McLellan) effectively running the PR area, with a little bit of crossover with Lucy’s job into the marketing role, and then we’ll also have two new senior managers that we’re putting in place for customer relationship management and integration (one position) and a senior manager for dealer advertising and integration,” he said.

Applications for the two senior marketing positions close on December 14.

Mr Tabart said Chrysler Australia had made “huge inroads” since the US auto giant divorced from Mercedes-Benz and began a new era with Italy’s Fiat SpA.

 center imageLeft: New Chrysler Group Australia director of corporate affairs Lenore Fletcher.The local operations have been running out of the Fiat-owned Iveco Trucks Australia headquarters in Melbourne this year, with former DaimlerChrysler executive Clyde Campbell at the helm for the past 13 months and presiding over year-to-date sales increases of 51.9 per cent for Dodge and 37.9 per cent for Jeep.

Chrysler is down 54.2 per cent this year, but the company expects significant growth from mid-2012 with the launch of the long-awaited new-generation 300 large car.

“We’ve changed the marketing and public relations massively over the past 12 months, the brand is obviously massively up in terms of year-on-year sales, which we’re very happy about, and we’re just trying to recruit the best possible people in the industry who are going to help us take it even further,” Mr Tabart said.

“We’re reinvesting in the areas that we need to reinvest in. It’s fair to say that we’ve come out of some difficult times, and that we’re now backed by some great financial partners in Fiat.

“Looking forward to the future, we’ve got to reinvest in our business, and one of those biggest areas are people – we want the best, and we’re looking for the best to come and work for us.”

MMAL issued a short statement this week announcing Ms Fletcher’s departure and advising that, until a replacement is found, all media enquiries will be handled by corporate communications manager Caitlin Beale and corporate communications co-ordinator Shona Connolly.

Ms Fletcher has almost two decades’ experience in Australian car industry public relations, joining Nissan Australia’s PR team as media relations manager in 1992 after working in a variety of areas including dealer relations and motor show programs since starting with the company in 1987.

She subsequently rose to public relations manager for Nissan in 2000.

Mr Bonthorne was appointed to senior manager of marketing and communications at Chrysler in June last year, replacing Jerry Stamoulis (who shifted to Mercedes-Benz) and moving from his previous role as advertising and interactive marketing manager for the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Mopar brands in Australia.

Mr Tabart said Mr Bonthorne left the company to concentrate on running his own business.

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