FCA’s sweater-in-chief Sergio Marchionne has a plan to turn around the debt-laden and ailing automaker: stop building cars that lose money. That sounds like common sense, so long as oil prices stay low and the demand for trucks, SUVs and crossovers remains high.
But that plan introduces a new set of problems, chief among them the fact that ditching the car market leaves FCA exceptionally exposed to future volatility in oil prices. Crude prices affect prices at the pump, which affects the demand for certain types of vehicles. Sergio is betting oil prices will stay low by focusing on vehicles with ever-increasing price tags and ever-growing gas tanks.
Still, there will always be some demand for small cars. It was true in 1950 and it is true today. So what will Mr. Sweater do to meet that demand? Simple: he’ll buy those vehicles from another automaker and badge engineer them the old-fashioned way.
FCA Canada only sold 220 Dodge Darts in June 2015, a 79-percent year-over-year decline. Through the first six months of 2015, Dart volume is down 55 percent to only 1,979 sales, one-fifteenth the total achieved by the best-selling Honda Civic and equal to just 1.1% of the compact car market.
The Dart’s market share in the United States, meanwhile, grew from 3.4 percent in the first-half of 2014 to 4.2 percent in the first half of 2015. Though no industry observer would suggest that the Dart’s U.S. uptick relates purely to increased desirability and demand – and not to cash allowances and fleet-friendliness – the car’s Canadian dive speaks volumes about FCA’s emphasis on light trucks and SUVs north of the 49th parallel. (Read More…)
It is the Mustang that could help students become future astronauts, however.
Ford announced Wednesday the one-of-a-kind Apollo Edition Mustang that will be auctioned July 23 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to benefit the Experimental Aviation Association’s Young Eagles program, a youth flying education program.
On top of the Saturn V-inspired paint, the 2015 Mustang GT goes like a rocket: 627 horsepower and 540 pound-feet of torque.
Compared to the stodgy-and-sensible Valiant on which it was based, the Plymouth Duster was pretty sporty and sold well to coupe shoppers who wanted a cheap car that could handle indifferent maintenance and bad road conditions (the Zaporozhets not being available in the United States). These things were amazingly reliable for the era, when not so many cars made it to 100,000 miles, but most were discarded like empty pull-tab Burgie cans during the 1980s. The Duster survivors today tend to be lovingly restored trailer queens. That makes the 1970-76 Duster a rare Junkyard Find, so I broke out the camera immediately when I saw this ’72 in a Northern California wrecking yard. (Read More…)
Often criticized for its poor performance in North American markets, the Dodge Dart has performed significantly better over the last five months, a period in which its midsize sibling, Dodge’s Avenger, gradually disappeared.
After generating nearly 50,000 U.S. sales in the first three-quarters of 2014, the discontinued Avenger dried up at the end of the year, generating only 2342 sales in the fourth-quarter and 461 in the first two months of 2015. The clear-out of deeply discounted, V6-engined, midsize cars from the Dodge portfolio opened up an opportunity for the Dart. (Read More…)
There was a time when the late-60s/early-70s Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant sedan was the generic automobile in the United States, possibly the most invisible car on American roads. Swimming-pool blue and this queasy shade of green were the most common colors, and the cars were so cheap to maintain that they survived in everyday use much longer than most of their peers. You don’t see the old A-bodies so much these days, but enough remain that they continue to show up in big self-service wrecking yards. Here’s one that I saw in Northern California last week. (Read More…)
The Chrysler Group reported the Dodge Dart’s best-ever sales month in November 2014 as year-over-year volume jumped 39% to 9012 units.
This was the first time Dart volume climbed beyond 9000 units in a single month. The previous top month for this modern incarnation of the Dart was May of this year, when 8644 were sold.
Yet at best, a best-ever month from the Dart still represents nothing more than a mid-pack performance. (Read More…)
Since the launch of the Dodge Dart, the 9-speed automatic has been touted as a crucial component of that vehicle’s competitive advantage, offering unparalleled refinement, fuel economy advantages and a performance boost to the 2.4L 4-cylinder, and the less inspiring 2.0L mill. There’s just one problem: it’s vaporware.
So many Chrysler A-bodies in junkyards these days, even though the last ones rolled off the assembly line in 1981 (in South America and Australia; the final Detroit-built A-body was a 1976 model). These cars were cheap and simple, and they’re still useful transportation in the 21st century, so many of them manage to stay on the street well into their 30s and 40s. Sadly, even the most fanatical Dart/Valiant restorer has all the affordable two-doors and/or factory V8 cars he or she can handle, and so when a made-by-the-zillions Slant-6 Malaise Era sedan craps out, it’s going to The Crusher. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’60 Valiant wagon, this ’61 Valiant, this ’63 Dart, this ’64 Valiant wagon, this ’67 Valiant, this ’66 Dart, this ’68 Valiant Signet, this ’73 Valiant, this ’75 Duster, and this ’75 Dart, and now we’re adding yet another ’75 to the list. (Read More…)
Four hundred cubic centimeters. That’s not a whole lot of volume. A cylinder that’s about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall. It’s rather amazing what a difference that about a coffee cup’s worth of displacement will make in the character of an automobile. In my first look at the Dodge Dart, I felt that the Dart is a nice compact car, but that it was deeply compromised by a powertrain that combined the 2.0 liter four cylinder with a six speed automatic transmission. In a quest for a calibration that yields impressive EPA fuel economy numbers, Chrysler produced a car that’s a chore to drive. Now that I’ve had a chance to drive the Dart with the 2.4 liter MultiAir Tigershark engine, I’m happy to report that those 400 ccs of displacement make a night and day difference, changing “chore to drive” to “fun to drive”. (Read More…)