Fiat Chrysler turns to kids to sell Pacifica minivan

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Minivans aren’t sexy. They’re not sports cars or rugged SUVs. They are family-haulers that children turn into their mobile playgrounds on cross-country trips or rides to grandma’s.

The Chrysler brand’s PacifiKids took over Victorville Motors (Calif.) in a hidden camera stunt putting the spotlight on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

So to help draw attention to the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is having kids sell and market the vehicles for them as part of a new online-digital ad campaign and sweepstakes featuring the “PacifiKids.”

“Kids love minivans. Kids have never heard of a minivan stigma,” said Tim Kuniskis, Fiat Chrysler- North America head of passenger car brands. He added parents now actually rely on kids for their opinions. “So who’s better to talk about minivans than the ultimate end-user? The kids.”

Three children debuted in March as “PacifiKids” during the automaker’s Spring Fest, a gathering of Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and Challenger owners.

“Who doesn’t want to talk to three cute kids – especially when they know a lot about minivans?” Kuniskis said. “They can walk them through the minivan and all of the features and benefits. It’s pretty amazing.”

Fiat Chrysler took control of Victorville Motors in California for two days and turned it into a kid-friendly and kid-operated dealership, complete with a full staff of children salespeople.

The success of the children during the events, including a stop during Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge in Pontiac for the Woodward Dream Cruise, led the company to turn the PacifiKids into a digital ad campaign and now a dealership takeover.

“It really was an experiment for us to see if we could pull it off,” said Jason Russ, FCA US head of experiential marketing. “I’m really proud of what we came out with.”

Fiat Chrysler took control of Victorville Motors in California for two days and turned it into a kid-friendly and kid-operated dealership, equipped with a ball pit, slide and full staff of children salespeople.

“It was a great experience,” said Victorville Motors President and CEO Tim Watts. “We were actually quite busy during the day of production and have sold a few Pacificas because of it.”

Customer reactions during the hidden camera shoot ranged from confusion and laughter to one of the adults calling the business the “best dealership ever.”

“It was so fun. We are seriously looking at budgets and trying to figure out how we can make it happen when the (Hybrid Chrysler Pacifica) comes out,” said McCall Lawrence, a current Dodge Grand Caravan driver. “The kids sold it.”

The Los Angeles resident and her husband, Kyle, along with their children, Marley, 8, and Harper Jo, 10, were one of the unsuspecting families to walk into the dealership during the PacifiKids takeover.

She said as a result of the experience her kids now want to work at a PacifiKids dealership. “It was amazing,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

The dealer takeover kicks off a six-week online contest that includes consumers visiting www.thePacifiKids.com to submit “permission slips” for a chance to be one of 21 families in certain markets to win a week with a Pacifica or be one of three families in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York for a chance to win one of the vehicles.

The three families participating to win a minivan will record their experiences with the minion van for a nationwide vote at the PacifiKids’ website to vote on which family had the best “field trip” video.

The Chrysler brand’s PacifiKids took over Victorville Motors (Calif.) in a hidden camera stunt putting the spotlight on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Additionally, one consumer who voted for any of the three finalists will be awarded an Pacifica. The winning family and voter will be announced the week of Nov. 21.

Kuniskis is expecting the dealer takeover and contest to more than double the more than 41 million impressions the PacifiKids have already made through social media and events — helping increase brand recognition for Pacifica, which replaced the Town and Country as the company’s flagship minivan.

“From where we started to what I think will be 150 million impressions by the time this hits, we’re real, real happy with the direction it’s going,” Kuniskis said.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2504

Twitter: @MikeWayland