The losing team was gaining enthusiasm as its coaches in an unusual move, gave them a four-hour pep talk on the virtues of winning and winning big.
The message was more than "Win one for the Gipper." In this case the coaching was from several Chrysler Corp. executives -- including its chairman who delivered a stern lecture via television -- in an effort to inspire the 200 Washington-area Chrysler dealers to sell more cars or face a continuing losing streak, broken this season only by financial Gatorade from the federal government.
The occasion was the introduction of Chrysler's new campaign to sell more cars and raise its public image by giving customers a money-back guarantee if they are not satisfied with the car they buy.
The new game plan also includes $50 to customers who test drive a Chrysler product and then buy one of a comparable competitor, free scheduled maintenance for two years or 24,000 miles and a free membership in the Amoco Motor Club. The strategy is part of what the executives touted as the New Chrysler Corp. It cannot work, the executives stressed, without commitment from the team's front line -- the dealers.
At first dealers said they were skeptical. During the steak lunch provided them by Chrysler, a waiter nearly toppled a tray of glasses. "Is that the New Chrysler Corp.?" one dealer quipped nervously.
But after the pep rally, many of the dealers said they felt that they might win.
"I'm going with it," said Bruce Blythe of Blythe Dodge in Franklin, Va. "I've got a lot of cars I've got a move right now."
"Think it's a good program. It takes guts" said Franklin Perry of Perry Chrysler-Dodge in South Hill, Va.
What takes guts, the dealers said, is to offer customers their money back if they are unsatisfied with their new Chrysler car after 30 days or 1,000 miles. To allay dealers' fears that persons will buy the cars, ride around in them from 30 days and then ask for a refund the Chrysler executives said that only one guarantee is allowed per customer. The executives said they, of course, wanted no returned cars and expected only about one percent of the cars sold to be brought back for a refund.
Some of the dealers, however, wanted the program extended to the dozens of 1979 models they still have on their lots. That would be impossible, the executives said.
How long would the program last? one dealer asked. "It may go on forever," one executive replied.
In a videotaped message to the dealers, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca said that the program is meant to increase traffic in the showrooms and raise Chrysler's image with consumers who "think our quality is lousy."
If a car is returned in good condition the customer will receive his money back except for interest and insurance charges. The dealers, however, will get back the car which can then be sold only as a used car. Chrysler will pay them 5 percent of the car's wholsale cost. But one dealer said that was no problem. He can just hike the price of the return car and sell it to someone else and still make a profit, he said.
The dealer, however, will be charged by Chrysler for the $50 given the test driving customer if the purchaser buys a Chrysler product. If he buys one of the competition, Chrysler pays.