By on December 27, 2011

Once upon a time, the Dodge brand was brimming with pride. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Dodge had it all: affordable compacts, big front-drive cruisers, the hottest trucks on the market, and of course, the Viper. And when the times were good, all of those part melded into one brash, exciting, quintessentially American brand. From Neons and Intrepids, from Rams to Vipers, Dodge could do it all, as long as “it all” included a healthy dash of in-your-face attitude. But over the years, as Dodge’s shining moment faded into memory, the brand has managed to become both less viscerally appealing and less well-rounded. And when Fiat’s leadership stripped Dodge of the Ram “brand,” shucked its designs of their truckish cues, and repositioned Dodge as a more “youthful” and “refined” sporting brand, it seemed as if Dodge as we knew it was dying. Since hearing of Fiat’s plans to bring Alfa stateside, and with Dodge appearing to have lost out in brand alignment product battles, we’ve been wondering for some time now if Dodge isn’t headed out to pasture. Now there’s even more evidence that Dodge is being hollowed out en route to replacement with Alfa, as Automotive News [sub] reports

Absent from the redesigned SRT Viper will be the name Dodge… Viper has been linked to Dodge since the Dodge Viper RT/10 concept debuted in 1989. The first Dodge Viper SRT-10 went on sale in 1992, and over the years 28,056 Vipers were produced, according to Chrysler.

Not any more. Essentially, SRT becomes a brand with its own vehicle, in this case the SRT Viper.

That’s right, Dodge won’t have a Viper or a Ram (or, more prosaically, an Avenger or Caravan). Some might argue that, absent these components, the Dodge name doesn’t mean much of anything anymore. Certainly it doesn’t seem that Dodge can have a particularly bright future without any links to its last moment of glory.

Chrysler Group insists that the branding shift has nothing, NOTHING, to do with any elimination of the Dodge brand. In the words of a Chrysler Group spokesman,

SRT is the high-performance end of the company. The whole brand philosophy and the branding separation between Dodge and SRT will evolve over time. This is kind of that first step establishing what SRT means to the company and what that car means to the brand.

The other side of the company’s argument: the Dodge brand has “baggage” in some global markets, and by branding it as an SRT, the Viper can have a unified global brand and be sold (theoretically) at Alfa and Maserati stores. On the downside, these kinds of sleight-of-brand moves don’t tend to fool anybody, and more to the point, how many consumers know anything about the SRT “brand”? But all that aside, the mere existence of an SRT brand seems to trade off directly with Dodge’s continued success. After all, without trucks or performance halos, what exactly is Dodge again? And with Dodge’s post-Fiat-takeover brand boss Ralph Gilles jumping from Dodge to SRT, it seems that the corporate winds are blowing the once-proud Dodge brand towards oblivion. Perhaps Alfa will ultimately prove to be the more compelling performance brand, but in the short term, Fiat-Chrysler seems to be trading in one potentially strong brand for two relative unknowns.

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65 Comments on “Dodge Brand Phase-Out Watch: There Will Be No Dodge Viper...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    If they were going to phase out the Dodge brand, it wouldn’t make any sense to be introducing the new Dart under the Dodge brand, would it?

  • avatar
    Stu L Tissimus

    You may be prognosticating a bit too much. Look at Viper’s closest cousin: Corvette. It lacks Chevrolet branding unless you’re looking closely. Heck, in Europe they sell it sans Chevy branding at all. If anything this move is to prepare the Viper for a European introduction, in my opinion.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    As stated, they’ve already done it to the trucks, but in reality, is there anything separating them from the “Dodge” name besides the sole fact that it’s technically not?

    I don’t understand the reasoning behind it, not very well, but at the end of the day, it’s still a Dodge Ram, a Dodge Viper. Only people who think otherwise seems to be the journalist probably told by a corporate rep to drop the “Dodge” from the headline.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Sorry, but I think that you’re barking up the wrong tree with this one.

    It looks as if Fiat is trying to create narrowly focused brands. Alfa is slated to be their global BMW competitor, while Dodge will be their North American mainstream line.

    That makes sense, at least to a point. If the Viper can’t serve as a halo to sell more Dodges, then there isn’t much point in branding it as one. If it is going to be priced high, then it makes more sense to tie it to a higher value brand in the lineup.

    That being said, the Ram thing is just stupid, on a number of levels. They’re taking the segmentation idea too far. Americans don’t have a problem with brands being shared by cars and trucks that don’t closely resemble each other. Inventing brands where they didn’t previously exist doesn’t make much sense for a company in Fiat’s position.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    They should just make everything with a V10 truck motor a Ram.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Plymouth was expendable; Dodge isn’t.

    Branding next-gen Dodges as Alfas or Maseratis cheapens the A & M brands, and alienates former Dodge owners.

  • avatar
    abgwin

    Really? It’s not so hard to figure out. Dodge has to fill the entry level slot now that Plymouth is dead and Fiat isn’t going to work as a replacement. ‘Entry level’ and ‘muscle’ aren’t comfortable together, so Dodge will lose its performance image over time and broaden its white bread/vanilla branding with Dart, a Journey replacement aimed at Escape and I predict the Charger replacement will change names to something blander. But make no mistake: the Dodge marque isn’t leaving anytime soon.
    SRT has been a brand for months now, so the Viper living there isn’t a surprise: SRT has been part of Viper’s name for years anyway.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    If it were me…

    Dodge-Fiat (mainline & fun cars for the masses)
    Chrysler-Alfa Romeo (premium)

    This builds out the Fiat & Alfa network & brand day one.
    Fiat needs this to get the “500″ out there or the whole Fiat as a separate brand will collapse.

    As for the Viper, it is raw (raw is good!) and should stay under the Dodge umbrella. Other future refined halo cars should fall under the Chrysler-Alfa Romeo brand. Perhaps an Alfa Romeo model itself.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      Agreed. If the 500′s sales keep slowing, there won’t be a Plymouth, Dodge, or Fiat name. It’d directly effect the Chrysler name too. Someone please tell me the execs aren’t this dumb.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Not dumb, just short-sighted, myopic, and greedy.

        Oh, and arrogant, that to.

        The 500′s marketing was probably the biggest clue that Sergio just doesn’t understand Americans, American Car Culture, or the American Market. Now that the novelty is worn off and all the enthusiasts who were panting for the Abarth have gotten tired of waiting and gotten something else or have shifted their sights to the new Toybaru venture nobody is gonna want a car that’s marketed as..

        “Fiat 500, the car that matches your handbag.”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    This bears watching. (FYI the Dodge/Chrysler dealer in my town that got closed during Chrysler’s bankruptcy still said “Plymouth” on the sign.)

  • avatar
    seanx37

    I don’t quite understand. I thought this was long confirmed. Especially since the new Dart is the only new Dodge product listed on the Fiatslers product timeline. That there is nothing planned at all after 2014 for Dodge. And the new Dart is just a re-bodied Alfa. Would be easy to re-body it again as a Chrysler.

  • avatar

    Consumers will still consider the Viper a Dodge just as they do the fullsize trucks, dropping the Dodge off the front won’t do anything to diminish that. They also all still sit on the dealer lots together as well.

    GM did something similar with the Aurora but was always tied to and was an Oldsmobile. It didn’t work for GM then, it doesn’t really work for Chrysler now.

    The real questionable move is not offering an affordable Dodge version of the next minivan, they are potentially sacrificing a huge volume of sales for absolutely nothing.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Maybe if Dodge is going to become the bread-and-butter “car” car brand, they could reach all the way back to the Dodge Brothers bag of tricks and make them of the highest build quality and reliability one could buy? That, a midsize RWD sedan (embrace what Chrysler used to do well…), and a restoration of the Star of David hood ornament would move metal.

  • avatar
    tanooki2003

    If anything (and i’m sure most would disagree) they should phase out the Challenger and keep the Viper. Enough with dipping back in the retro time period and giving it new life. leave the past in the past and try to focus on new designs, like the Dart for starters. Also this so called “edge” design on the rest of their lineup really needs to go and get back to more aerodynamic award winning designs like they did in the mid 90′s.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      You are correct, I definitely disagree, the Challenger needs to stick around. Why kill the best looking car they (or just about anyone else) have made in years, to save a car with very limited appeal? Besides, since it’s built alongside the Charger and 300, it’s not an either/or situation unless the new Viper would be built at the same facility.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As long as its still a Viper that’s all the matters. It only said Dodge on the back, even the logo on the front was a Viper right?

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    For all its entirety, the Viper was sold as a Chrysler in Europe. Yup, that’s right, we didn’t get no stinking Dodge Viper, we got a Chrysler Viper. What did they think we were? Idiots? Like nobody had ever heard of a Dodge in Europe? I hate being talked down to like that. I mean, it’s not that anybody being the slightest bit interested in buying a Viper wouldn’t know ten times over it was a Dodge? And was supposed to be all along?

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    The Dodge Ram Trucks share the same DODGE VIN Code as the rest of Dodge Vehicles. The Viper will likely retain the Dodge Vin Code. The name changes are purely superficial and marketing driven. The Ram Trucks, the Viper, are all technically part of the same division. The Ram still has the name “Dodge” embossed in the interior. All it takes is some research to find this stuff out. However in an ideologically driven blog, I guess there is no need for that right?

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Increasingly, I feel like they should just bite the bullet and call everything either Fiats, Chryslers or Jeeps and then take all of them global in a big way (esp China). Regional brands just don’t seem viable in this Twitter age.

  • avatar
    Les

    Am I the only one who thinks Sergio Marcionne hasn’t got clue one about the American Market, and is arrogant enough to think he doesn’t need one?

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Les, I don’t care what brand name Sergio slaps on the front of his vehicles, just as long as they don’t suck. If he gets the product right, everything else will follow.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    This isn’t going to work. I don’t know how anyone can say that this is a good idea. This idea smacks of the the execs being given the order to “do something” and this was the best idea on the back of the napkin. Rebranding has always been a shell game.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Sounds like to me they’ll have too many little brands to market and manage.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Les is right. Since when does Fiat know diddly about selling cars to North America ? Since never.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      The cleaving-off of Ram, the flubbed 500 launch, now this?

      What’s next?

      “What is this, this HEMI? Is not even hemisphere. Gone, no more Hemis, all beeg and powerful Chryslers from now on will have the Ferrari engines. This, this I know Americans will like.”

      • 0 avatar
        moparcon

        That would be the dumbest move in Chrysler’s history, Why would you replace a mas produced engine with one that would cost twice as much ????????????
        scratching head

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        @moparcon

        Exactly my point.

        This is what is known as a ‘Hyperbole’, where one’s opinion is expressed through blatant exaggeration to denote emphasis. :)

        Still, wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere down the line Sergio kills the Hemi for some Italian-Designed high-revving, steep-torque-curve, narrow-power-band V-8 if the pattern holds.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    Had Fiat wanted to ditch Dodge cars, they wouldn’t have separated Ram. They would have just phased out Dodge cars and made Dodge the truck and people mover brand. That was Daimler’s original plan with Mitsubishi and then, briefly, Hyundai (who they were courting at the time) taking up the bread and butter car market. It’s why the 2006 Charger looks an awful lot like the Mitsubishi Galant. Dodge wasn’t supposed to get a sedan, Mitsu was and Dodge was supposed to be content with the Magnum.
    Fiat is laser focusing the individual brands so you don’t get overlap and internal cannibalization. It’s a lot easier to market a $100K sports car as worth the dough if it doesn’t have the same name as a $14K appliance. Likewise, it’s a lot easier to market a car as fuel efficient if it doesn’t have to share styling with a big rig truck.
    Alfa is too upmarket to fill Dodge’s shoes as a mainstream brand. It doesn’t have anything in the price point of something like the new Dodge Dart. Fiat won’t move Alfa downmarket for volume. They have other plans for them here. Fiat has product at a volume price point but isn’t established in this market. The 500 hasn’t been a raging success so the days of Fiat being anymore than a niche brand in the US are far off.
    Dodge isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It will be the North American volume brand for Chrysler Group and will have marketing to match.

  • avatar

    the caliber wrecked the brand

  • avatar

    the caliber wrecked the brand. The Journey didn’t help.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure enough people realize that either exists for these to wreck the brand. People simply don’t think about Chrysler or Dodge when they consider getting a car. The 300 broke through for a while, but it’s so 2005…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The 300 broke through for a while, but it’s so 2005

        Chrysler has had a tendency as of late to create individual hit products that help for a time, but that don’t create momentum to build overall brand cohesion. While that pays to keep the lights on, it doesn’t take market share away from its rivals, which makes it a constant battle to find that next hit.

        I suspect that this Marchionne brand-for-every-whim concept is not going to pay dividends. I rarely pity car dealers, but I sort of feel sorry for those who took the plunge with the Fiat stores, only to find that they’ll have hardly anything to sell. (Maybe that’s where the Alfas will end up?)

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    In Canada we had Chrysler Viper, Chrysler Intrepid, Chrysler Neon.

    In UK Corvette sold as a Corvette, not a Chevrolet Corvette.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Honestly in the end does the name matter that much? It’s still going to be sold primarily through the same dealerships.

    The real question is can the cars compete? If they can compete and generate buzz, then they will succeed, if they can’t then it’s a slow march to obscurity and then death.. aka Plymouth.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      Yea but the problem is: it takes years for the buzz to generate and Chrysler/Fiat don’t have that. Consumers still recognize a quality product by name. Why the hell even have a name? The name means something. I don’t keep changing my kids names from year to year.

      BTW: Plymouth didn’t die because it couldn’t compete in the late ’90s. Plymouth died because it couldn’t compete in the late ’60′s. It was the same damned car as Dodge from the early ’70s on.

  • avatar
    MusicMachine

    Mr. Niedermeyer, I liked “General Motors Death Watch” and other series but this one is not making as much sense. Either execs are this dumb or it’s possible they’ll make more $ by running Dodge into the ground or you’re being far-fetched.

    This reminds me of when my roommate, then editor and chief of the student paper of a certain Bible Collage, wrote an article that raised the question: Are the recent raft of prof’s resignations due to the schools new more conservative stance on speaking in tongs and other sign-gifts? He was stringing together some far-fetched stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      bluegoose

      Niedermeyer can no longer hope and pray for the death of the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands. Now he is just hoping for one brand at a time. Like Farago, it is more likely that Niedermeyer will quit blogging than Dodge being “phased out.” He should just stick to whatever he does for his day job.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    In the minds of most people the Ram is still a Dodge Ram as the SRT Viper will still be a Dodge Viper. Any way they spin it, Dodges will always be a Dodge. Can’t wait until the Dodge Dart.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    I think the “Sergio doesn’t get America” stuff is getting overplayed here.

    Maybe “Sergio has a big ego if he thinks Americans give a hoot about Fiat.” But the tremendous improvement in appeal and interior quality across the board at Chrysler shows that in some very important ways, Sergio gets it way better than stars-and-stripes Cerberus did.

    Before Scion, the Toyota umbrella covered everything the company sold here that wasn’t a Lexus (the latter being another story in itself). With its far lower sales volume, it probably makes sense for Chrysler to have fewer nameplates, especially since they seem to have already combined them at a lot of dealerships. Chrysler, Ram, Dodge, Fiat, Alfa, SRT — and don’t forget the most successful of the bunch, Jeep. That’s too many.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Takes usually 3 years for a change to be seen in new product, 2 years if the organization is really humping it.

      The interior upgrades recently reflected in the cars were instigated by Nardelli and approved by Cerberus; Doesn’t fit your narrative, I know, but dems da facts!!

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    To phase-out Dodge brand would be a nail in the coffin for this Fiat/Chrysler shotgun wedding.

    Such a move by Senor Marchionne would alienate not only die hard Mopar fans, but potential ‘Gen Y’ buyers. EVERYONE in North America knows what Dodge is (for better or worse). This would prove he doesn’t know (OR CARE about) the NA market.

    They can rebadge as many Alfas and build as many 500s in MEXICO!!!! as they want. I still hear yuppies talk about Plymouth Shadows and Dodge Daytonas.

    Caliber didn’t help matters (RUBBISH!). Charger is a good car, but is too expensive (for typical Mopar buyers). Challenger is marked up to the hilt; see: ‘Market Adjusted Value’, and thus, too expensive (don’t get me started on the lack of a manual option with the base model Pentastar). Anything the typical Dodge buyer would actually want is out of their price range without taking out a second mortgage, and if you’re going to do that, might as well buy something…well…reliable.

    Thus is the problem. Dodge is outdated. I hate to say it, I love Mopars, having had a couple myself over the years. However, the ones I had were about ten years old and AFFORDABLE! (’90 Ram D100 2WD, 318; and ’89 Plymouth Gran Fury Inteceptor, and also, 318, both of which I bought for $700 each in 2001 and 2003 repectively) Try getting a 2005 300C or Charger R/T for less than $15k (now 7 year old cars), good luck. And those were simply rebodied Merc E-class.

    I hope i’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good for Dodge. I’m interesting in seeing the new Dart, but quite frankly, if
    I can’t get one in AWD with a manual for under $18k, i’ll just get a new Impreza.

    P.S. Spare me the comments on the Ram Express, I am well aware of it and its value. In MN it just doesn’t make sense without paying the extra $3k for 4WD, nixing its ‘value’.

    • 0 avatar
      moparcon

      You know what really gets me fired up?….. the merc platform bull !!!! Mercedes was in no way involved with the development of the 300c sure they used suspension and steering bits and piece’s but the platform was and is CHRYSLER!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Look up the 300 Hemi convertible concept car, that was way before Dimler got their dirty paws on ma mopar,,,,………..

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m still crying over the loss of Plymouth. Dodge? Not so much, but still don’t want to see it go.

    I read some years ago that it was proposed that Dodge be trucks only. I couldn’t agree more. Plymouth should be the value brand and Chrysler should be, well, Chrysler – premium or at least somewhat upscale, maybe on a par with Acura or Buick.

    That all appears to be history…

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I agree with you. I will note that at least on the outset, today’s Buicks seem better than today’s Acuras…maybe they won’t last as long but when you sit in them and then sit in an Acura – this is what car shows are for – you can’t help but be pleased with how far Buick has come…just please, no hollow swaybars, ok?

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Fiat killing off the Dodge brand makes as much sense as GM killing off the Chevrolet brand.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      You know that..

      I know that…

      But can Sergio be bothered to clue-in on that while he’s fixating on using Chrysler as simply a spring-board to get his favorite pet-brands into the US market?

  • avatar

    Minivans are exact copy so I can understand dropping Caravan. What I do not understand – Sergio is dreaming if he thinks that rebadged Fiats and Dodge Chargers they call Alfa-Romeo are gonna beat BMW. Let them first beat Nissan/Infinity – then we can talk. Most likely Alfa will be dead in near future as well as Lancia. Italian market is too small to support these brands and in US nobody cares about FIAt and its derivatives. At least Dodge has some following. So better keep Dodge alive – they will need it. Sergio has to forget about world domination – FIAT is not VW or even Ford. At best they may succeed in US because of owning Chrysler/Dodge and in poor countries in South America.

  • avatar

    Sergio is Canadian. How he does not understand NA market? I think he understands it very well. He is a dreamer that’s all. Not a bad thing unless he starts resembling Muller and tried to resurrect dead brands at all costs.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    Branding? Meh.

    How many people call the Ram the “Ram Ram” instead of a Dodge Ram today?

    How many people call the Mazda convertible the “MX-5″ instead of the Miata?

    I doubt Dodge is in any serious jeopardy. They’re just trying to more closely define what it is that Dodge does. Dodge will make sporty cars? Then why would they make the Caravan, or the Ram, etc? They’ve still got the Charger/Challenger/Dart.

    • 0 avatar

      How about sport-pickups? We have many of then here driven like Porche. I normally try to move away if see Ram quickly approaching in rear view mirror. They could make sport-minivan too. Many soccer moms want to drive minivans like sports cars. I say – put big Hemi in Caravan, tighten suspension and make it hot minivan. GM did it with Pontiac Tempest and created the legend.


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