Tim Kuniskis, the car-crazy U.S. sales guy handed control of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' celebrated Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands, knows something about creating excitement.
He made his mark by championing Dodge's performance brand revival, which led to his being named head of passenger car brands in North America in 2015 — and won him lots of praise from Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
Now, the 51-year-old veteran of Chrysler's zone sales ranks is being asked to light a fire under the two Italian marques.
Kuniskis replaces Reid Bigland in the global Alfa and Maserati jobs. Bigland, 50, has overseen the two premium brands since 2016. He retains his role as head of U.S. sales and CEO of FCA Canada.
FCA named Steve Beahm, 54, a longtime executive, to replace Kuniskis as head of the Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat passenger car brands in the U.S.
Bigland and Kuniskis will both continue on FCA's Group Executive Council, the automaker's highest-level management decision-making body, FCA said. Beahm was not appointed to the council.
Kuniskis took over the struggling Dodge brand in 2013 after successfully salvaging a botched return of the Fiat brand in North America. A lifelong fan of Dodge — and the owner of a restored 1971 Challenger — Kuniskis relished the role at the brand, injecting his own frenetic style into the lineup.
In 2014, he focused Dodge's future on performance and embraced its muscle car heritage. Dodge launched the 707-hp, 6.2-liter Hellcat- powered Challenger SRT and Charger SRT models and sponsored street-legal drag racing. For the brand's 100th anniversary that year, he brought the story of the high-spirited Dodge brothers to the brand's marketing.
Last year, Kuniskis reveled in the launch of the Challenger SRT Demon, a one-year, special edition street-legal drag racer powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that could produce up to 840 hp — enough power to lift the front wheels at launch.
The result of the effort was renewed life for Dodge — which, in 2009, had been a mishmash of products from the Avenger sedan to the Grand Caravan minivan and the Challenger. Kuniskis' efforts gave Dodge a definable brand identity, according to Marchionne.