As with most Internet forums, there are postings that involve immature name calling, emotional outcries and lengthy off-topic rants. But a good deal of the frustration over the Rumble Bee production numbers has been clearly focused on presenting evidence to support the owners’ claims. One owner posted a copy of the newspaper ad from his dealer where he purchased his truck. In addition to offering over $6,000 in discounts, the ad also lured shoppers with a sunburst graphic announcing that the truck was “#1019 of only 3700 built.” Other postings often referred to dealers using the 3700 limit during their sales pitches. One member, who goes by jak112460 when posting, says he saw the 3700 number on the Dodge Web site and called Dodge customer service twice; each time he claims he was told 3700 would be the limit. In one of his postings, jak112460 said: “We all bought the idea of the truck being a limited edition of 3700. Most dealers used the ‘limited edition’ as a selling tool. Many used the actual 3700 number. That dash plaque wasn’t put there for nothing. It is there to instill value and create urgency to buy one before they are all sold.”
One of the few pieces of evidence posted on the site that attempts to give Dodge’s point of view is an email from the Dodge Information Center to a Rumble Bee owner named Paul, who goes by the nickname vizaracer when posting. The email from Dodge, as posted on RumbleBee.org, said: “Thank you for your email regarding the production numbers of the 2004 Dodge Rumble Bee. At the time of production DaimlerChrysler planned on producing 3700 units. However, DaimlerChrysler reserves the right to produce additional vehicles as related to market demand.” The email closed with comments appreciating Paul’s query and was signed by C. Sean Hogg, Senior Staff Representative, Dodge Information Center.
Such a disclaimer was never mentioned by Joe Eberhart in an interview with PUTC at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2005. PUTC editor Mike Magda was gathering notes on the Dodge Daytona pickup, another special edition Ram designed with cues from a popular ‘60s muscle car. The Ram Daytona was on display in the Dodge booth but no information was made available to the media during press days. So Magda requested an interview with Eberhart, who is the Executive Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, during a Dodge media party. Magda asked a few general questions about the Daytona, and then brought up the question of a limited edition vehicle. Following is a transcript of the remainder of interview:
Mike Magda (MM): Is this (Ram Daytona) going to be a limited edition like the Rumble Bee?
Joe Eberhart (JE): I’m not sure. I need to get the details. I think they’re actually limited and each truck comes with a number.
MM: Now, getting back to the Rumble Bee a little bit. I saw a lot of comments on the bulletin boards about how you guys went over 3700. Is that true?
JE: No we didn’t.
MM: You did not go over?
JE: We built exactly what we said we were going to build.
MM: There were also comments that you built 3700 out o ’04 models and you started over again with ’05.
JE: We didn’t.
MM: You did not do that?
JE: No, we didn’t.
MM: Okay, so I can put to rest all those rumors?
JE: Yes, yes.
MM: You built 3700 and that was it?
JE: We did. We did. Because otherwise you really lose the (inaudible), the draw that you get with these vehicles. The customers buy them to get something special. And if you say you’re going to build a 1000 and then build 10,000. I mean it’s just a (inaudible).
PUTC did not find evidence that Rumble Bee owners paid a dealer premium over MSRP. But one RumbleBee.org moderator said the Indiana dealers he visited said they would not offer incentives because of the limited production. Mike Smith also says the limited edition number was attractive for resale reasons and doubts he would have purchased his Rumble Bee (#2056) had he known production would have exceeded 3700. Also an owner of a Ram Quad Cab 4x4, Smith says he went through a similar situation when he owned a 1999 Dodge Dakota R/T. In that scandal, Dodge advertised a 6000-pound towing capacity for the special edition R/T. But the lowered suspension could really only handle 2000 pounds. A class-action lawsuit was leveled at Dodge, forcing the company to either buy back the vehicles or offer other perks such as an extended warranty.
Loyal Mopar owners such as Lancaster and Smith—both have multi-Dodge driveways—are understandably upset over the matter. Legal action is unlikely since it will be difficult to prove loss of real value—given the depressed used-vehicle prices in today’s incentive-driven market. Also, DaimlerChrysler high-powered legal team can probably dissect the fine print into the company’s favor. It’s more a question of trust and honesty with the customer. These buyers thought they were purchasing a special vehicle from a brand they enjoy a close and unique bond. It’s no different than AMG owners and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and DaimlerChrysler should treat both equally.
All the promotional literature from Dodge stressed the term “limited edition.” By any stretch of the definition, “limited edition” includes a restricted number. Conventional wisdom says that number is usually determined before a product is produced, or at least before it’s offered for sale. The owners say it’s not customer-friendly to call a product “limited” and allow it to be sold for as long as the dealers keep ordering them. The 3700-limit number that is critical in this case didn’t originate with the owners, dealers or the press. All indications point to Dodge. The owners are hoping Dodge will assume the responsibility of clearing the air with them. They say the first step is to offer a clear definition of “limited edition” so customers won’t be confused in the future. The next step is to release the production numbers for the Rumble Bee and break them down for the owners. The owners say this step will allow them to better judge their position in the Rumble Bee marketplace and assess the resale value of their vehicles, which they deem to be collectible. They want Dodge to release a matrix that shows the split between yellow and black, between 4x2 and 4x4 and distinguish between trucks sold in the US and Canada. Early buyers would also like to see those splits within the first 3700 vehicles. Basically, Rumble Bee owners say they want to feel special again.