By on February 15, 2010

Last week we took the counter-intuitive step of calling out Chrysler for refusing to hype its forthcoming products. “Let’s face it:” we wrote at the time, “Chrysler needs buzz, hype, awareness, or some kind of excitement surrounding its future generally and its forthcoming products in specific (if only in the irritating “teaser” format) almost as much as it needs anything else.” Well our wish has been granted, sort of, as this rendering of a 2013 B-segment Dodge hatchback has hit the internet [via AutoBirdBlog] to inspire rare optimism about the Chrysler Group’s future. For a number of reasons though, this is not the buzz-builder we were looking for.

First off, Chrysler has a huge hill to climb to even survive until this vehicle’s 2013 launch date. Chrysler had promised not to show any vehicles until three months before they go to market, so instead they’re showing pictures of a vehicle that’s three years out? Fiat’s Chrysler experiment will live or die with the 14 “interventions” they’ve got planned for the second half of this year. Because these vehicles are based on Chrysler’s current, uncompetitive stable, there is plenty of reason to be pessimistic about the actual improvements they will offer. Moreover, Chrysler will be dependent on these warmed-up leftovers until about 2013, when Fiat-platformed vehicles begin to replace the entire lineup.

Moreover, we’ve seen this particular Dodge subcompact before. The Hornet concept of 2006 showed the way to a Dodge subcompact hatchback, back when Chrysler was trying to get it built on a Chery or Nissan Versa platform. This new rendering looks distinctly different from the Hornet, but we’ve known for some time that Dodge wanted a vehicle like this in its lineup. And looking at the differences between the Hornet and this latest rendering offer yet another reason for Fiatsler pessimism: the new-look Hornet is “inspired” by Fiat’s European-model styling to the point that first impressions are of a re-grilled, re-tweaked Grand Punto. Equally troubling: its underpinning will likely be identical to the Alfa Romeo MiTo, which is sure to spearhead the rumored return of Alfa to the US (if it comes to pass).

Since Chrysler may or may not be listening, we’ll be way more specific this time: the fate of Chrysler rests on the “refreshed” vehicles debuting in the second half of this year. These are the products that will have to inspire faith in Fiat’s leadership of Chrysler, and therefore, these are the products that need to start being teased. Otherwise, the company won’t be around to capitalize on the hype generated by teasers like this one.

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8 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Fly Like Fiat, Sting Like A Dodge Edition...”

  • avatar

    While I agree with you about the interim products that are important to Chrysler’s survival as to your question my answer is nothing. It’s an attractive design overall and fits in well with the current/upcoming crop from Ford (Fiesta), Chevy (Spark, Beat, whatever they’re calling it), etc. I would rather see them make something like the Hornet concept to be different, but that time has passed I’m afraid.

  • avatar

    You also have to consider that this is a sketch of a car being planned for 2013. There are probably 1,000 different sketches for this vehicle and you have one example.

    At this point, the only conclusion you can draw is that the automaker has some interest in being around in 2013 and playing in the B-Segment-market.

    Looking at one individual styling cues may give you some idea of basic styling requirements; like the grille shape and technology used in the headlights. But other than that; just appreciate or judge it as one idea out of many.

    You’re right though, getting to 2013 is tough. But there was a 5 hour Powerpoint slide show that you guys had to sit through to demonstrate how they’d get to 2013. A random camera-phone photo wasn’t intended tell you how they’d get to 2013.

  • avatar

    With the crosshair grill and rams head badge, I would have to assume this is a VERY early rendering. Nobody should count on this sketch being antying more than an exercise.

    That being said, I look every day for news on the refreshed D-seg cars. They can’t come fast enough!

  • avatar

    Chrysler… damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    First, I can understand the pessimism waiting for the near term turn around. More so, truthfully, I agree. The hot topic question right now isn’t what Chrysler will be making in 2013, but what will get them to that date.

    Second, what I don’t understand is the downplaying of the platform sharing or possible (maybe even likely) rebadging. Fiat may indeed deserve all possible ire for being allowed to grab Chrysler without putting any real skin in the game, but dropping an existing platform down for the US market is what they said they would do. Besides, do you want a bailout company spending money to develop a platform from scratch when one exists across the pond? (That is, as long as they just have the Dodge version in the US and don’t try to overlap and compete against themselves by importing the Fiat and Alfa too… a la GM’s rebadging history.) Now, if there are actual platform problems with the Fiat B-car, that would be a different story. Your treatise above, however, only complains about the program being a rebadge.

    Finally, I’m not sure why you are waxing nostalgic over the Hornet prototype. Other than the cross-hair grill, it was a complete oddity from the (then) current design for the Dodge brand.

  • avatar

    So let me ask you something, Steve. I see that you drive a subaru. How many cars have they sold in the US lately? Do they even still sell cars here? I never see them on the roads.
    On the other hand, I will say that the only newer chrysler product that I own is my 07 Ram. The only cars that chrysler currently makes that I would own are the challenger, 300C and charger.
    There’s just nothing else there for us old time mopar guys. And we certainly won’t want anything from fiat. My as well drive a subaru as one of those.

  • avatar

    If this is to be a reskinned Grande Punto, then I can see it being the next Caliber. It doesn’t look bad, as far as concept sketches go. However, the Hornet was a response to the all-the-rage (at the time) MINI Cooper, a much smaller car than the Grande Punto, and they even entertained the idea of using the same Brazil-built 1.6L engines as found in the Coopers. If they were serious about a Hornet, they could come up with something based on the Panda more so than the GP. But this is a definite Caliber replacement in my opinion.

    • 0 avatar


      It may not look it when you’re (presumably) not passing examples of both vehicles in the flesh every day, but for the record the Grande Punto’s only around a foot longer than the MINI. The FIAT is also (apparently) a couple of hundred pounds lighter than the baby beemer.

      Of course the Punto’s a well packaged little all-rounder, while the MINI’s a fun fashion accessory, so on the inside the Punto is far bigger, but outside they’re very similarly sized cars. Both dwarf the little 500. I guess it’s hard to tell scale from photos.

  • avatar

    We’re picking at crumbs here. As previous posters have noted–this is one moment from a 5-hour presentation, and very likely this is one sketch from a large number of proposals still undergoing evaluation.

    I should also point out that if this is indeed the upcoming Fiat-based b-segment entry, it is not the new Dodge we should be watching. According to the previously announced Fiat business plan, the first of the Fiat-engineered Dodges will be a 2012 c-segment car that will replace the Caliber. That will inevitably be a much higher-volume vehicle, and it will arrive a year earlier (give or take) than this one.

    As for the styling…hard to tell from such a fuzzy sketch but yes, it looks like a fairly generic profile with a rather flavorful front end, at least on par with the competition (Versa, Yaris, Accent, Aveo).

    Wake me when we get some real intel on the 2010/2011 refreshes.

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