By on July 22, 2016

2013 Dodge Dart GT

“If you’re a serious carmaker and you can’t make it in this segment, you’re doomed.”
— Sergio Marchionne, September 2012

“There’s nothing wrong with the car.”
— Sergio Marchionne, January 2013

“We have decided to de-focus, from the manufacturing standpoint, to de-focus on the passenger car market.”
— Sergio Marchionne, January 2016

The launch was flubbed by an emphasis on manual transmissions. The brand lacked the reputation of a competitive builder of small cars after 15 years of Neons and Calibers. Trim and engine variants were, sometimes, poorly aligned. The market for passenger cars began to shrink even as the overall auto industry expanded. Demand for the Dart, limited even at its peak, dried up as most Dart competitors posted modest declines.

The reasons for the Dodge Dart’s demise are many. At the end of its run, however, the Dodge Dart’s production end in September 2016 represents a premature euthanization. After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ boss said less than seven months ago that the Dart, along with the larger Chrysler 200, would be withdrawn from the marketplace “over a prolonged period of time,”

FCA has now clarified that “prolonged” equals only three-quarters of a year.

What’s the hurry? Jeep.

The Dodge Dart’s U.S. sales volume rose to an annual peak of 87,392 units in calendar year 2015, but through the first-half of 2016, Dart volume is down 41 percent, a loss of 19,976 units over the span of only six months.

The Jeep Cherokee, which will take over the Dart’s position at FCA’s Belvidere, Illinois, manufacturing facility, reported an all-time high of 220,260 sales in calendar year 2015. Sales are off that pace by 3 percent in early 2016, but Jeep wants to build more Cherokees. A lot more Cherokees. And they want to start building them sooner than later.

“The reason we’re ending [Dart] production in September is to allow ample time to retool the plant for production of Cherokee,” Jodi Tinson, an FCA Manufacturing and Labour spokesperson, told TTAC earlier this week.

2013 Dodge Dart GT

There appears to be little incentive to continue building soon-to-expire compact sedans — with a base MSRP of $17,990 and interest-free financing over seven years — that attract fewer than 5,000 monthly U.S. buyers when you can look forward to selling more copies of a $24,490 Jeep Cherokee with optional $2,000 all-wheel drive and pricing that stretches past $40,000 with profit-driving high-end trims and option packages.

Between its launch in the second-quarter of 2012 and the end of June 2016, FCA reported 309,021 U.S. sales of the Dodge Dart. Twice, in November 2014 and again when sales peaked in March 2015, the Dart crested the 9,000-unit monthly mark. Never did the Dart attract more than 10,000 new owners in a single month. Even at the height of its incentive-fuelled popularity in March 2015, eight direct competitors outsold the Dart: Corolla, Elantra, Civic, Cruze, Sentra, Focus, Jetta, Mazda3. That month, the Dart claimed just 4.4 percent market share in its category.

The Dart’s Caliber predecessor, however, produced 277,461 sales in its first three years, including a 101,079-unit U.S. sales peak in its first full year, 2007. By the end of its run, more than 400,000 Calibers were sold in America.

If the Caliber was not considered a successful venture, how will the Dart be remembered?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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151 Comments on “The Dodge Dart Is Dead: Here’s Why...”


  • avatar
    dougjp

    The Dart will be remembered as a good looking car that was way overweight and with the wrong engine choices. Especially, in opposition to what the Dodge brand is known for, absolutely no performance variant. More than what’s happening with the car market, FCA did this to themselves and didn’t listen or think logically.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      The Dart’s ultimate memory will be found, imho, in how long it lasts. Initial prospects do not look good.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. It’s one of the best-looking cars out there, but it had terrible engines. I’ve heard the 2.4/A drives OK, but that’s too little, too late.

      I wonder if anyone has stuffed a Pentastar into one of these – that would be sweet, as long as it kept a 6-speed automatic and didn’t get the awful 9-speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      No HELLCAT version. No performance model at all. Overweight. Not very well marketed. You seem to only see them in the ghetto.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    I really wanted to like this car, but the engines were weird and the seat cushions way too short.

    It’s not hard to build a competent, unobtrusive and basic four cylinder engine. Beats me why they decided to get fussy on the engine design and not the rest of that car.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    One more reason why the Dart failed: it was competing with the old 200 on the showroom floor.

    Dodge finally managed to put an automatic in the car, people went to check it out, and then drove home in a new (old) 200 which was bigger, better equipped, better looking on the inside, and cheaper. It was also way less confusing: do you want the 4 or the 6? The Dart had so many powertrain combinations and trim levels that nobody could keep it straight.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      For a while the Avenger also. We went looking for a smaller 4 door and walked out with a new Pentastar powered 2014 Avenger for Dart money.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I remember when I did a one-way rental to take delivery of my Jetta SportWagen three hours away; they gave me a 2014 Chrysler 200. I was pleasantly surprised by the way it drove and handled and by how much passing power there was; when I popped the hood, I found out it was the Pentastar 3.6-liter, not the base 2.4-liter. The previous 200 really was a value proposition. I suppose the new one is, too, since you can get it for pennies on the dollar with FCA’s massive discounts.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Interesting take, Kyree. It seemed that when the 200 replaced the Sebring, the media take was, “This is a surprisingly successful reworking of a platform that hadn’t been competitive. Decent job, Chrysler.” Fast forward to the introduction of the ’15 200, and, predictably, the consensus had become a revisionist, “The ’11-’14 200 was garbage!” Jack Baruth (reviewing a couple of rentals) and TTAC commenters like you, however, have been more objective.

        I’d rather have the ’11-’14 over the current one, simply because of the greenhouse and resultant headroom.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          the 200’s name and association with the dismal Sebring make the current 200 a safe “whipping boy” for your average worthless, talent-less hack “automotive journalist.”

          when the whole Scott Burgess flap happened a few years ago, I figured the Detroit News was better off without him just due to his uselessness.

          (“he’s the one who said the 2011 200 was a piece of junk because Sebring, yet his review of the 2007 Sebring was quite positive if not glowing.)

        • 0 avatar
          DweezilSFV

          Agreed, Featherston. The headroom was excellent on that body.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          For what it’s worth, I was reasonably impressed with the amount of improvement that was done to the 200/Avenger when it first came out – that interior was a fantastic leap forward over the Sebring, it looked reasonably tasteful, and the Pentastar was an appealing upgrade. But then I got stuck with a 2.4 Avenger as a rental, and it quickly got on my nerves – the 2.4 is a mediocre, unmotivated, and thirsty engine (it also sounds like a dying animal), visibility wasn’t great (massive C-pillars), and there were a couple ergonomic quirks that got irritating on a long drive (especially the oddly shaped seats).

          What I’m saying is, I’m wondering what the balance is between shills being able to express their true feelings after the fact, and how many were initially blinded to the 200’s flaws because it wasn’t an ’08 Sebring.

      • 0 avatar
        mattwc1

        Agreed, the 2014 era 200 could be had with that decent engine (and 6 speed automatic). This was and is a very competent engine/tranny choice. I also came away mildly impressed on how FCA was able to update the old Sebring platform with better interior materials and clean up the exterior.

        In regards to the Dart, I really wanted to like this car. It is attractive (still IMO one of the best looking in the segment) and the interior is very well done. What killed it for me was the driving impressions, the engine choices(while on paper seemed competitive) left me wanting more.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Seeing how tight margins are getting with the reduction of mid sized vehicle volume, FCA may be smarter than they look. Even if the Dart/200 would have been perfect, FCA would still be following this path.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      You are correct. The Dart/200 doesn’t have the global volume to be successful with butt for sales in the US. Look at the difference between the Dart and the Golf, Corolla, and Focus worldwide.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes, this is really all about margins. The mediocre Dart is a convenient scapegoat, but the right one, as well as the 200.

      You can bet that the competitors are making MUCH better margins on trucks, SUVs, and CUVs than they are on passenger cars. And FCA is just doing what makes sense – killing off bumpkin products being sold at 30% discounts in favor of those that make money.

      Competitors don’t have to discount Corollas, Civics, or Elantras to the extent FCA does the Dart, so they remain tolerant of their existence in the lineup. But those cars are certainly not as profitable as RAV4s, CRVs, or Tuscons.

      What’s impressive to me is how quickly FCA thinks they can retool to produce Jeeps.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Also, the Dart/200 or CUSW or whatever they call the platform, is inherently expensive.

        The customer is getting a lot more procured bang for their buck. Multi-link suspension versus a Corolla pot metal twist beam rear axle. Better interior materials. Etc.

        Had the CUSW had a different brand and a better thought value stream, it would have been cost prohibitive to shut down the line. In the Dart/200’s case, it is likely more costly to keep the line going. That is absolutely incredible to me

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          This is what happens when you use an Alfa platform for a compact Dodge sedan in the US.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Generally speaking, how could it be cost prohibitive to shut down the line of a product which isn’t selling?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “pot metal twist beam rear axle”

          I assume Toyota uses perfectly good steel for their torsion bear rear end. I also put a lot more faith in said torsion beam rear axle in terms of long term durability vs any sort of Chrysler suspension component made in the last 2 decades, let alone an Alfa-derived multi-link rear, manufactured by Chrysler.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            I’m sure they do too. The cheapest metal to meet spec, just like any good manufacturer would.

          • 0 avatar
            theonlydt

            Tres – you’re absolutely right that it’ll be the cheapest material and process to meet the specification. There are two differences: 1. The specification itself, which from experience rates the longevity of a Toyota component over an FCA component. 2. The design-engineering that ensures the specification is correct due to no undue stresses on the material from poor design that reduces longevity.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I was mostly taking issue with adding “pot-metal” in the description of the Corolla suspension. I assume you’re comparing it to partial use of aluminum on the Dart? Almost all of the other compacts have suspensions mostly based on stamped sheet metal. And to the guy buying replacement components later on down the line, not dealing with pricey aluminum components is a good thing.

            I’m beyond glad that my old Maxima’s rear suspension is a torsion beam. There’s just so many fewer potential failure points in terms of number of bushings and individual arms to worry about. Shock replacement is quick and easy.

            Then again I always tend to look at automotive design from the perspective of DIY servicing and wrenching.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it might be the “right” decision in the short term, but The Great Sergio is going to be left holding his d!ck if people turn away from Jeeps and Rams.

      yes, I know his strategy is to unload the company before that happens, but he’s learning the hard way that being a deal-maker isn’t useful if nobody wants to deal with you.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I know his strategy is to unload the company before that happens”

        I don’t know why you believe that.

        The reality is that FCA is still in crisis mode, so short-term margins and cash flows matter more than long-term planning. (Without that cash flow, there will be no long term to worry about.)

        In any case, the market is moving toward crossovers. FCA has really no realistic hope of competing against Toyota and Honda in the compact car space, while it has no choice but to try to be competitive in the compact crossover space. If the company is smart, then that is where it will place its small vehicle bets.

        If the market calls for a Chrysler compact at some point down the road, then it won’t be tough to cobble one together from the parts bin.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “I don’t know why you believe that.”

          – 7 years in and they’re still in “crisis mode,” despite claims of constant Q-over-Q gains

          – their constantly changing product plans. Whatever happened to Lancia?

          – pretty much everything which has transpired since 2009.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The company was on the brink of failure and wasn’t exactly blessed with a stunning legacy. These problems could not have been fixed quickly.

            Let’s remember that Lee Iacocca essentially bet everything on one platform, because that’s all he could afford. The difference was that Iacocca placed his bet on four-cylinder cars during an era that was deeply affected by the oil cartels and the Japanese were still establishing themselves, so it wasn’t too risky to go all-in on that. Today, the transplants dominate that space and it is difficult for the domestics to compete against them head-on; Detroit has far more credibility as a seller of trucks and their cousins.

      • 0 avatar
        DweezilSFV

        LOL. Cadillac was the “Standard Of The World ” at one time. Once Jeep brings back the [Willys] Aero the momentum will be all downhill

  • avatar
    MBella

    Without anything in this segment, how are they going to deal with CAFE? Does captain sweater think the 500 will sell enough to make up for all the gas guzzlers? How much are the credits they’ll have to buy going to cost?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Light trucks have a lower requirement for fuel economy than cars, so this might help them at the end of the day. Does selling 350k Cherokees per year have a better net impact to CAFE than 100k Darts? If the Cherokee is closer to the light truck CAFE target than the Dart is to the passenger car CAFE target, that might be the case.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The Cherokee is not a light truck, they closed the loophole that Chrysler used to drive the PT Cruiser through a few years ago with the foot print system now in place. So the only way the loss of the Dart and 200 would impact CAFE is if they exceeded their goal based on their foot print. IF the ones they actually sell didn’t meet the standard for their footprint then jettisoning them could actually help their CAFE.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          The Ford Escape is listed as a light truck on some CAFE documents that I’ve seen floating around the web. The Jeep Cherokee surely is considered a truck as well. Apparently, if I’m reading this Edmunds article right, as long as AWD or 4WD are offered along with the previous conditions for a light truck, it can still be classified as a light truck. FWD only PT Cruiser would be excluded based on this, but Outback would still be OK.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “The Cherokee is not a light truck”

          4×4 models count as light trucks. It benefits OEMs to move customers from sedans into their similar AWD/4WD CUV counterparts because they can attain attain their targets much more easily.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Another reason why FCA needs Mazda…

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        87 Morgan,
        If you were Mazda would you like to be associated with Chrysler, let alone FCA?

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Um… FIAT 124 Spider?

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Bad move by Mazda. I know some of the auto journos like the Spider. I would think the Spider would be a great vehicle to drive.

            I would never let any product of mine be associated with FCA.

            Call it subjective bias.

            I like Sergio and I hope he moves forward with FCA. But FCA have a problem with their name. There must be a reason for this.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “I like Sergio ”

            you’re probably the last.

    • 0 avatar
      sutherland555

      MBella: That was my first thought. My second thought is what happens when gas prices inevitably go up again? With no compact/midsizes cars and engines, they’ll take a big hit on sales with their relatively gas guzzling models.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “With no compact/midsizes cars and engines, they’ll take a big hit on sales with their relatively gas guzzling models.”

        The drivetrains and platform are common to the company. They can always engineer another US-spec compact if necessary; the guts of it will be available in other cars.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Fact is they whipped up the current Dart in about 18 months. However in doing so they created a car that is outclassed by its competitors. So while they could probably whip up another small car if necessary it would probably be at the bottom of the class just like the Dart was. But then again many of the vehicles they make are bottom of the class even if they were fully baked, at least by FCA standards.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The development timeframe wasn’t the crux of the issue.

            Even if the product had been amazing, it would have probably still languished because the market leaders do a respectable job of serving the needs of the market. There is little demand, either pent up or otherwise, for a disruptive entrant. Without much emphasis on fleet sales, that leaves what is perhaps a 100k unit per year market in a good year.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The development time frame certainly wasn’t the only issue but it was one of the issues. They didn’t have time to fully engineer the body shell so it ended up heavier than it could have been if the engineers were given time to properly engineer it. Instead they were forced to follow the “if in doubt throw more material at it” methodology. Another 6 months to insure the car was fully baked would have made it more class competitive. Of course that doesn’t mean that it would have sold better because as has been mentioned they were fighting against the Chrysler small car legacy that will rule out certain potential buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Gas prices will never go up again, ever. There’s an oil glut that won’t go away soon, and as soon as prices inch up, shale oil will knock it down again. I read it online, so it must be true.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Mitsubishi Mirage G4, known as the Dodge Attitude in Mexico?

      http://www.dodge.com.mx/autos/attitude/

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      CAFE doesn’t work that way anymore. Smaller cars have to meet higher targets. Making the next gen Dart CAFE compliant is cost prohibitive when other options exist. Like shifting customers into CUVs with similar drive-trains that can step over a lower bar.

      Believe it or not, the shift away from cars is partly CAFE compliance driven.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Slow arrival of automatic transmission just like the 500 debut.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Small cars are like cordless drills. How many competing brands do there need to be and why wouldn’t you just go with whatever market leader CR likes best?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      What is the best cordless drill? Makita? Hitachi?

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Festool

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        The lightweight, 18v, black and white Makita. They are expensive but well worth the price.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        My first one was a Makita so I’m big on that brand and also liked DeWalt. But I’ve never transitioned to these mini-drills like Bosch & Makita pioneered 10/12 years ago, still have the old big & clunky DeWalts because seldom use anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I have never heard of Festool, and don’t think I’ve seen at a hardware store for sale – not that I look at drills much though.

          My dad always uses Dewalt for work purposes. I think he said they have a good battery warranty – something like that.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Festool supplies all the high-end woodworking equipment on This Old House. They have a distinctive green colorway. Their stuff is too expensive for most home use, but worth it for professional use.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My dad used to watch This Old House, but gave it up because “Naaahm gets on my nerves!”

            I think previously he had watched mostly to make fun of “Baahb Veela.”

            He always says their names with a fake Wisconsin-type accent.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            heavy handle is right. Festool has excellent products. They are mostly made in Germany and are super high end. I never bought any because I didn’t want to worry about getting concrete on a $700 circular saw.

        • 0 avatar

          The first time you have to go buy a new niCad battery for a DeWalt, you won’t like DeWalt anymore :-/

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Yup – Dewalt batteries are wicked expensive, AND their fast-chargers cook the batteries so they fail in short order (by design).

            Ryobi Model P108 4.0AH Li-Ion 18V One+ batteries are the best bang-for-the-buck out there, bar none.

            You can get two 4AH batteries at Home Depot for $99. Try that with Dewalt.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I swear 1,000 of them are being sold each month right here in NM. But then our market there were a significant number of Avengers and 200s and Patriots and Compasses sold. In an impoverished state you can expect that a significant number of people will buy on price and price alone.

    FWIW I saw a Caliber SRT in Albuquerque traffic a few days ago. Still looked sharp, obviously belonged to an enthusiast. But it is also the only Caliber SRT I have ever seen in the wild.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Honestly, they should just have imported it as the Fiat Tipo instead of the Dart. They could have certainly marketed it as a VW alternative. Bring the hatch and wagon too.

    Sure, the volume may be low, but it would sure help Fiat dealers. Plus I bet you would get more people willing to buy fully loaded Fiats than Dodge Darts.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    But no mention of what happens to the 200?

    The Dart is produced in other markets as a Fiat, so if they -really- wanted to they could make them wherever and ship them here. It’s called the Fiat Vaggio or something.

  • avatar
    threeer

    The launch certainly didn’t help. Nor does the fact that they aren’t Civics, Elantras or Corollas. Other than Jeeps and Rams, it isn’t like folks were beating down the doors of most FCA dealerships to begin with. The Dart had potential, but just got lost in a sea of better-known competitors.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “lacked the reputation of a competitive builder of small cars after 15 years of Neons and Calibers”

    I did sorta like the Neon. Had a little blue one running around for a few years as a kid HS trans and was enjoyable.

    IF I were to want to gamble on this small section of cars, I would likely offer raised hatchbacks and call them off roaders and crosstrek names. Truth is folks want a little bit ride height, butch and ute.

    So give it to them.

    Never drove a Caliper, but it did seem concept wise a good idea. But again, I never spent a second in one so I have no idea what went wrong. I seriously think they sold every single one here in the MO Ozarks! They are everywhere. But then again, so are the Avenger, Patriot and Compass.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The Caliber was awkward looking and the interior was ridiculously cheap at first; by the end there were some improvements but not enough on the inside to make it feel that much different. The high end trim was forced to take AWD with the 2.4L….but Chrysler never offered AWD on any other trim. (Same with the Avenger–you could get an R/T AWD model, but lower end trims didn’t get the option). The CVT used wasn’t that great either—-now Chrysler uses a Hyundai 6 speed auto in the Patriot and Compass (models without low range).

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The Neon was a competitive small car. It was roomy, stylish, and could be had in budget form with steel wheels or in budget-racer form with 150 hp when many compacts barely broke into the triple digit hp ratings. And the even hotter versions were sought after those normally looking for a hotted up Civic.

      Bad head gaskets, 3 speed automatics, and paint that would bring shame to a 12 year old boy with a can of Krylon were its major problem areas. Any of those were easily fixed.

      Neon should have had had a third generation (NOT a Caliber named Neon) with updated trans (not a CVT) and what we know as the Dart should’ve be en its fourth generation. It damn-near looks like an evolved last-gen Neon.

      Keeping the same name, keeping it stylish and recognizable in a sea of penalty boxes, keeping its flair for performance and steady quality improvements along the way would have made a huge difference.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        Yup.
        Ws hoping it to become the modern “bug”.
        Was really cool looking, in a buggish kinda way.

        We never experience the head problems others did.

        Just thought it was fun and hoped for the next one.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Mazda3 Mazda3 Mazda3 Mazda3 Mazda3

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t think it’s just the Dart that is the problem.

    It’s a Chrysler. The many people I talk to in the US place Chrysler and it’s product quite low down their list of preferable motor vehicles.

    They talk of Toyota, Honda and even Chev and Nissan as much better vehicles. Hyundai and Kia have a far better name than Chrysler.

    FCA has a problem with smaller vehicles, it seems it can’t build competitively.

    FCA build cheap and nasty products. Even Jeeps which are the mainstay of FCA are prone to poor quality issues.

    I really think it’s a cultural problem. I also believe that FCA are trying on pricing and this is affecting quality.

    It takes 6-7 years to change culture in any large organisation, FCA has had enough time to tackle the underlying problems within.

    FCA will not be around in a decade, it will be broken down the good bits sold off. I wonder who will buy Jeep and Ram, the only two arms of FCA of any real value.

    FCA needs to urgently change the way in which it operates. I’d even bet VW is still a more preferred product than a Chrysler to many.

    • 0 avatar

      VW offers entry-level products at a premium price built with historically slipshod trim quality and inane service (DSG) and part ($250 ‘power door lock modules’ ???) pricing and does it through a beleagured dealer network with little to no support from HQ across the pond…oh, and the TDI thing…

      …and, yes, its still a far and away preferred brand over anything Dodge sells.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      I think a lot of that depends on the area. Where I am sitting (upper midwest) I see 3 Avengers and 4 Jeeps in a lot of 25 cars. There are a couple 200s as well with one a convertible that belongs to our HR director. There are also 3 Nissan Rogues and an older Saturn as well.

      That makes your anecdotal evidence no more pertinent than mine.

      Chrysler has always had good engineers and they have almost always had bad bean-counters.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “I really think it’s a cultural problem.”

      having sat in a certain building in Auburn Hills in the past, I can assure you that it is not. Nobody who worked on the dismal 2007 Avenger/Sebring, Caliber/Compass/Patriot, etc. was happy about the situation. It’s incredibly soul-crushing to be expected to dedicate yourself to a product you know is going to be uncompetitive.

      It’s a management problem. when your first response to lower margins is to visibly and indiscriminately take money out of the product, you get what you get.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Big Al,

      I think you are getting confused by a lot of the anti-FCA talk around these parts. All-in-all, they are at about the same level as Ford and GM.
      What you are seeing is “the Great Ford-Chevy Debate,” as argued by 9 year-old boys all over the Midwest. Chrysler, in all its incarnations, was always the third leg in that debate.

      I’m sure that you took part in the great Ford-Holden debate growing up, so you should know how it goes.

      What taints your perceptions even more is that Chrysler’s Australian importer was run by a crook up until recently.
      You are putting two and two together and getting five, or some multiple of five.
      …and then you add-in your prejudice that Americans should buy trucks that are optimized for Australian conditions (to the detriment of American conditions), and you get really confused.

      Fact is, Chrysler’s not so bad. I personally would rather deal with them than with GM or Ford. Reliability/resale is about the same, but at least Chrysler takes a few risks in terms of style and technology with their cars.

      I couldn’t care less on the truck side. I only ever rent trucks, and then I’m more interested in features than in brands.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        They aren’t on the same level as Ford or GM globally or domestically. FCA makes less money per vehicle and sells less vehicles here and abroad.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          I mean the same level in terms of product.

          I know some will argue until they are blue in the face that the Grand Cherokee isn’t as good as the XT-5 or MK-C, or vice versa, but it’s a personal choice. Like the Ford-Chevy debate we used to have as kids.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            They are level product wise in many segments. I think the F-Series and Silverado/Sierra are far superior to the RAM, but the RAM sells really well.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Ford and GM take “risks” with offering innovative technology in their cars.
        Who had something similar to OnStar before GM? Chrysler? Lol
        Who had something akin to SYNC before Ford? Again, not Chrysler.

        Chrysler comes up with cooled cup holders and giant RAM logos. They play catch-up to the rest of the industry in actual innovative technology.
        Hell, the forthcoming Pacifica Hybrid will be their first Hybrid. Ford has been selling Hybrids for, what? 15 years?
        Do they offer something like the Chevy Volt, or even a milder version like C-MAX or Fusion Energi? No.
        A full-on BEV like the Focus Electric?

        The only “risks” they take are putting terrible things in their cars like the 2.7L V-6 or the more-recently, the zillion-speed automatics. The “risk” being that they’ll totally crap out before the warranty expires.

      • 0 avatar
        DweezilSFV

        A lot of those engineers were laid off in the period leading up to the first crash in the 70s. Most of Chrysler’s talent left in the DCX period or were forced out.

        In the book “Going For Broke” one Big Two executive said that GM and Ford never considered Chrysler as competition.

        Chrysler had a long time reputation for engineering till the fifties. VW built it’s quality reputation on the Beetle. Yet the “common knowledge” still appears long after they cease to have those attributes.

        Think AMC and it’s post 1967 reputation for quality and economy. It may have been true in the 50s and 60s, but the late 60s and 70s provided anything but.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        heavy handle,
        I did own a XJ 4 door Cherokee Sport with one of those fantastic 4 litre sixes. I bought it in 95. It was the biggest disappointing vehicle purchase I have ever made. During the 15 months I had it, it spent 6 months in the shop. When it was working it was fantasic and brilliant off road with live axles front and rear with great articulation. Even on the road it would of been the best riding and handling live axle vehicle I have driven.

        From what I’m reading and hearing in Australia is similar with the Grand Cherokee. I spoken to some who love it, but a surprising number, like myself who have been burnt and cost unnecessary money owning a Chrysler based product. My sister has a Grand Cherokee and she loves it, but she also stated she was surprised by the number of people who ask her what problems she’s encountered with it. Here previous vehicle was a Prado.

        I think image FCA has must change. It is evident in the US as well to a degree. Here they are known for cheap and nasty vehicles.

        FCA has a lot of potential, but they never seem to hit the mark completely.

  • avatar

    To echo what others have said…

    1) Botched, manual-intensive launch
    2) Confusing trim layout
    3) Why buy a Dart SE when you can drive home an Avenger R/T?
    3)a) Remember that Chrysler buyers are by and large PRICE and VALUE buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Remember that Chrysler buyers are by and large PRICE and VALUE buyers.”

      “Chrysler” and “value” in the same sentence? Somethings wrong here.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      In the closing room we are all “price and value” buyers. Snob much ?

      • 0 avatar

        People are more than ready to spend more for less when they buy stuff like an Odyssey, CLA Mercedes, or 320 BMW.

        I actually really like the 200/Avenger for what they are – modern Cutlass Cieras, i.e. old tech, durable, roomy, and cheap as hell. If you want to buy a car by the pound, your best deal right now is a 200 Limited V6. I can get a 2014 with miles in the teens wholesale for like $12-12,8 (a grand or two back of that with ‘structural damage’). That’s what a ’14 Dart SXT with similar mileage brings.

        I know I can drive the 200 relatively trouble-free with some rattles and loose trim for 150k miles. With the Dart, I have a Fiat chassis with a Fiat motor and – most likely – a Fiat gearbox. No. Thanks. At All.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I thought the 200 shared the same chassis as Dart and Cherokee (CUSW)?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            He’s talking about the 2011-14 models, the old Chrysler Sebring version of the pre-merger cloud car platform updated by FCA. The 2015 and up are the lengthened and widened Alfa platform.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    at this point, if we were standing outside and Sergio Marchionne said the sun was shining, I’d look up at it just to verify.

    it’s clear that all of those “five year plans” of his have all been nothing but smoke and mirrors, bread and circuses horsesh*t. He only ever planned to flip the automotive business once its balance sheet looked good, and now that he’s been unable to find a sucker willing to buy it, he’s getting desperate.

    at first it seemed like things were going to be ok; there was meaningful parts/tech sharing across FCA. Unlike Daimler, who would never have done something so uncouth as use Chrysler engine blocks in Maseratis. But it didn’t take long to become clear that the guy’s only skill is in deal-making. At anything else he’s a charlatan at best.

    the sad thing is I know plenty of people in Auburn Hills who are going to take it in the shorts over this, through no fault of their own.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      I think we are going to find out sooner than later if Chrysler would have been better off on their own.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I don’t think so. Chrysler has historically been too reliant on North America. even Bob Lutz will admit that Chrysler was destined to need an alliance or merger(s) to survive. The problem was that their first dance partner (Daimler) was probably the worst they could have chosen. FCA initially seemed to be working well, but the obsession with resurrecting Alfa and the seeming financial shenanigans make it look like the wheels are coming off of that boat too.

        the problem is there’s very few companies out there which merging into would make sense. Ford and GM don’t need them, they both already have global scale and reach. They’d basically be buying them just to eliminate competition. Renault-Nissan sounds like they’d be a s**tty partner, plus there’s tons of product overlap. Toyota and Honda don’t need anybody.

        Mazda would be a useful partner, but they’re pretty small so it wouldn’t increase FCA’s scale or reach very much.

        Honestly, the one which makes the most sense is VW. There’s the least product overlap, and VW has huge scale and reach outside of North America. The problems there are

        1) VW would insist on running the whole thing, and given even with Dieselgate they’d have the upper hand (“you need us more zen we need you, ja?”)

        2) there’d probably be a mass exodus from Auburn Hills from being under German control again.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    In theory, a rival automaker has incentive to snatch up FCA for the Jeep line and Chrysler trucks (including minivans) alone. The problem is that the Fiat operations (and to a lesser extent the Chrysler cars) create real practical problems to doing that. Any maker capable of swallowing Chrysler would have severe political problems in shutting down Fiat. It might be possible to repurpose Chrysler’s limited US car plants to avoid political fall-out. With CAFE, it seems difficult to run a company that just produces trucks, CUVs and large cars; but unfortunately, that’s what FCA is good at producing. Maybe the Jeep line and other strategic assets can be spun off to a subsidiary and, say 50% of that subsidiary would be sold to a rival automaker which would take over marketing the Jeep brand. Of the larger automakers, Nissan seems to have the most holes in its product portfolio that can be filled by what Jeep and Chrysler have to offer. Hyundai or Kia would be interesting partners as well. =

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Hyundai/Jeep would be an interesting move.

      • 0 avatar
        seanx37

        And logical. Hyundai/Kia/Jeep/Ram. Dodge and Chrysler is being starved to death anyway. Fiat could go back to selling awful cars in Europe and what is left of the middle eastern markets

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Forget the Koreans, no one will overpay for an established brand like the Chinese, who are still looking for a foothold in the U.S. market.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Daimler shopped around the Chrysler and Dodge car lines for years. The would be suitors usually countered with we want Jeep. They then shopped around everything but Jeep, and the potential suitors responded with yeah the truck thing isn’t bad but we want Jeep. It wasn’t until they put Jeep on the block with the stipulation that you had to take the entire company formerly known as Chrysler if you want Jeep. Of course by that time Ford had drained the cash of many of those would be suitors by selling the JLR and Volvo, and the stuff was starting to hit the fan and close off funding sources. Daimler had to carry a lot of paper to make the Cerebus deal fly.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Jeep and the minivans are what a buyer like GM would keep. Fiat/Alfa would be one spinoff, Ram trucks another and the old Chrysler/Dodge would be the third. There’s a lot of debt, and some would have to be paid off and the rest split three ways to make the spinoffs palatable. Honda might go for Ram trucks, Fiat/Alfa to VW, and Chrysler/Dodge to Hyundai or a Chinese maker.

      Without that buyer, Sergio would have to spin off Ram and Jeep separately in a way that enriches the Agnellis, dump Chrysler on somebody, and leave Fiat, holding the accumulated debt, to go bankrupt, wiping out the debt and the stock and bond holders. All that’s hard to do without somebody going to jail.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Wait…you can option a Cherokee to be over $40K? Wow.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    Thought process of “a friend” from in Atlantic Canada (because I won’t admit it’s me):

    “Hmmmm, I wonder if they’re offering a good deal now the production end is confirmed. They must want to dump their stock. Always had a soft-spot for the idea of a 1.4 turbo with the 6 speed manual. Car’s a little overweight, but structurally very solid. Imagine if you could get $6k off and good financing. Could be a fantastic deal for 3 years.

    Let’s go check out the Dodge website on my lunch break.

    Ugh, I hate this website. Why can’t I see before I pick a model to build what engine options there are?

    Okay, so the SE is the 2.horrible only.

    Oh, the SXT is now only the 2.alsohorrible.

    The 1.4T is only available as the Aero, well, I don’t like the exterior treatment, but it comes with the big screen.

    Errr, I hope that that $25,000 MSRP (no options added) comes down at the payment options screen when they add the “You’re buying an FCA vehicle” discount, then even further for the “discontinued model” discount.

    What the ****ing ****? No discounts for the Dodge Dart in Canada? Are you ****ing kidding me? $25k for that POS????!!!!!”

    Seriously. Think of all the great compact cars I could buy for $25k where they’re also putting money on the table. And none of them are discontinued. I’d take the Cruze over the Dart in a heartbeat for that deal.

    (note, only $2500 on a Chrysler 200. Not enough).

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I had to laugh. A few days ago I saw a Dart Areo (built only to satisfy the terms of the bailout) and the young man had installed a giant fartcan muffler on it. Not only was that extra obnoxious on a model built for maximum fuel economy, but the new muffler was almost scrapping the road.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Here in the States you can scoop up a “GT” with the 6spd, “big” 2.4L NA motor, and heated leather seats for about $16k as advertised on cars.com and such. The massive discount would in theory soften the blow of ludicrous depreciation.

      Speaking of heavily discounted lower end cars, you can buy a brand new 5spd Versa S sedan for $7,500 if you’re willing to drive to Virginia. If I hadn’t just bought my beater Maxima I’d strongly consider this option. Drive for 3 years then sell for $5500ish, talk about low TCO!

      • 0 avatar
        theonlydt

        Yeah, I’m not sure why they’re screwing Canadian buyers so hard.

        That is the 2.alsohorrible though – not as bad as the 2.0. And the GT is a decent trim level.

        The Versa sedan is no longer sold north of the border, however we do get the Micra which is a nicer car (though the base trim has no air conditioning, because loss-leader)

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        I can drive to VA. I’m already there!

        Is this $7500 Versa one of the semi-mythical base base base models with no floor mats or AC that only exist to lure internet and newspaper shoppers who can stack mutually exclusive rebates?

        I’d rather have a Note, though, and I suspect Nissan knows that.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          bumpy the Versa S in its most basic configuration these days has A/C and a stereo with auxiliary input (how it may sound is another question). There’s even steering wheel volume controls on the steering wheel! Manual roll ’em up windows and manual locks from what I understand. Manual transmission, 1.6L DOHC 4cyl. After seeing the price at three different dealerships, I think it’s legit.

          http://www.cars.com/for-sale/searchresults.action?zc=46201&rd=500&stkTypId=
          28880&mdId=22274&mkId=20077&sf1Nm
          =price&sf1Dir=ASC&sf2Nm=location&
          sf2Dir=ASC&page=1&perPage=50&searchSource=SORT

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Well,so they are. Nissan must be having a lot-clearance special.

            Lol at the dealer pic: https://www.cars.com/dealers/2317/cowles-nissan/

            It’s like a Before-They-Were-Junkyard-Finds flashback.

    • 0 avatar
      stodge

      Buy a used one. You can get a used 200c V6 for just over CAN$20k so I’m sure it’s the same for the Dart.

  • avatar
    Loser

    If THEY had LISTENED to ME….. HELLCAT…. And so on.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “The market for passenger cars began to shrink even as the overall auto industry expanded.”

    This is the key point. There’s only going to be so much room in this space. You can’t make more pie here; everyone is going to be fighting over the customers who are left, which necessarily gives the advantage to Toyota and Honda.

    Forgetting the Dart’s various faults (including the lousy name), you can blame some of this on Daimler. The Caliber torpedoed Chrysler’s presence in the compact car market, which made this an uphill battle from the start.

  • avatar
    markf

    The Caliber had to one of the worst cars ever made. Every time I got one as a rental (I am guessing that was the bulk of the sales)I would think “who would actually buy one of these” It was terrible. Same when I rode on friends Neons. I would get in my 10 year old Acura Integra and it was light years ahead in build quality, ride, performance, pretty much everything.

    I guess people who never drove a Neon, PT Cruiser or Caliber thought the Dart would be good idea……

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Foolish and shortsighted. The reason given for the Fiat-Chrysler match up was that Fiat was going to bring small car expertise to the operation. Does he now think gas will remain cheap forever? Does Sergio have plans for a small CUV for Dodge? If not, what will keep that brand afloat?

  • avatar
    Freddie

    Great concept, poor execution. Alfa Romero platform with a stick shift, the budget driver’s car of our dreams! Oh well.

  • avatar
    TheDward

    I think FCA abandoning the compact and mid size segments goes beyond the justification that it’s cost effective to focus on cuv’s instead.

    Ford uses the same platform for the Focus, Escape, and MKC, et al.
    Same with the CD4 platform. Maybe the margins on a Fusion ain’t what it used to be, but there’s the MKZ, MKX, Edge, and Continental to pick up the slack.

    To me this is more a tacit admission by Sergio that FCA cannot build decent cars, and won’t invest in the capital to do so, even if they could scale the architecture to fit cuv’s.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    About 5 years ago, travelling on business, my brother call me to tell me his rental was the absolute worst car he had ever driven.

    A Dodge Caliber….

  • avatar
    seanx37

    I stopped in at the local Dodge dealer the other day. There was a purple Hellcat Charger I wanted to drool over. They were attempted to clear out Darts. Brand new, well optioned Darts for $14k. And they couldn’t move them at that price.

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    “If you’re a serious carmaker and you can’t make it in this segment, you’re doomed.”
    — Sergio Marchionne, September 2012

    “There’s nothing wrong with the car.”
    — Sergio Marchionne, January 2013

    “We have decided to de-focus, from the manufacturing standpoint, to de-focus on the passenger car market.”
    — Sergio Marchionne, January 2016

    Sergio Marchionne (@the_big_sweater)…CEO of FCA, sweater connoisseur, terrible at darts.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Curiously there are several Dodge dealers in my area, but within a 25 mile radius there are exactly five new Darts available.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    I thought this was just part of a slow wind down of the Dodge brand.

    – Viper: Dead
    – Dart: Dead
    – Grand Caravan: Dead
    – Durango: Probably replaced by Jeep Grand Wagoneer (better profit margin)?
    – Challenger: Would anyone notice if it went out of production tomorrow?
    – Journey: Would live on (for now) on the existing JC/Avenger platform.

    I’m assuming Journey lives only because it’s already paid off and sells in decent quantity to the “cheapest 7-seater available” crowd. I can’t imagine FCA spending the money for a new version, and probably would be killed once it becomes too difficult to adhere to a newer crash standard.

    This leaves Charger as the sole relevant Dodge, mainly as a police/fleet special. A modern US equivalent of the Crown Vic or the Holden Commodore.

    It wouldn’t be too hard to just rename it as a “Chrysler” Charger, or just keep “Dodge” Charger around as a one model brand to separate fleets from retail.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Dodge is the performance brand.

      Dodges are typically sold at the same stores as Chrysler, Jeep and Ram.

      There is really no reason to get rid of Dodge. The family cars get branded as Chryslers, the semi-sporty ones as Dodges.

      • 0 avatar
        Varezhka

        How many cars currently in the Dodge line-up is really a performance car though? Dodge just seem to be in a similar position Pontiac was in before it was cut as far as sporty image goes.

        More importantly, it currently looks like at least 3 models will be cut with no replacement in sight out of 7 total. The remaining 4 models are now on a fairly old platform, and FCA seems to be focusing more on the higher margin Jeep and Alfa.

        I just think FCA will slowly continue to shrink its Dodge models to an increasingly smaller niche in the coming future.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Dodge’s problem is that the whole industry has shifted to premium brands. Nobody wants a Dodge (or Chevy or Kia or Mitsubishi) when they can get a more prestigious marque for the same money.

          The way out of that rut is for Dodge to get rid of all it’s poverty-spec cars. Those are the ones that people only buy on price: Avenger, Dart, Caravan, Journey.

          That means Dodge sales will be low for a few years, but it’s worth it. Dealers won’t hurt because they still have Jeep and Ram and Chrysler.

          The next step is to grow the brand again. That will start with the Challenger/Charger replacement (2018?), a smaller sports sedan based on the Giulia, and a new Durango.

          It’s short-term pain for long-term gain. Dodge couldn’t keep going down the same road of huge incentives and tiny margins. FCA isn’t a charity. They also can’t change their brand image overnight.
          The one thing that’s saved Dodge is the appeal of the Challenger and Charger. Those sell for real money, and they appeal to a different crowd than the 300. If not for that, they would be gone like Plymouth.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Dodge does have a similar branding concept to what Pontiac had. But Dodge does not offer badge engineered cars that compete against other Mopar brands at separate dealerships, as did GM when it sold Pontiacs that competed directly against other General Motors products.

          General Motors’ primary marketing problem prior to the BK was having too many distinct retail distribution channels that placed GM cars in competition with other GM cars; in many cases, GM’s greatest rival was itself. FCA does not have this problem.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Chrysler Death Watch?

  • avatar
    Zoom

    A co-worker just won a lemon case for her Dart. Took a year.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I see a decent number of Dart’s on the road. Many are Limited and Rallye versions that are more attractive than base models. I always had hope for these and expected Alfa brio with American practicality. Plus Sergio did do a decent job upgrading the interiors, a far cry better than the previous Sebring/Caliber with plastics that were not worthy of inexpensive Chinese toys.

    I thought we were getting some version of the Alfa MiTo which would have been great for us folks who need something a bit larger than a 500 and wanted a Italian GTI.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    But everybody wants premium, who are all these people buying the Journey and Grand Caravan? FCA can’t figure out what direction they want to go in.

  • avatar
    TopJimmy5150

    They are crappy, ill-conceived cars. This was a mercy killing.

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