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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Behind the Wheel: Dodge Dart's Not Selling
While I see many new cars in my daily errands, I've yet to see a Dodge Dart. There are plenty stacked up at the Dodge-Jeep Dealership on Highway 35 in Port Lavaca TX.
From a website: http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2013/02/why-the-dodge-dart-has-a-long-way-to-go.html:
"Dodge sold just 7,154 Dart sedans in January — better than December 2012, but a shabby performance when you consider that Honda moved 21,881 Civics, Ford sold 16,161 Focuses and Toyota moved 23,822 Corollas and Matrixes. Dodge dealers opened January with a glut of Darts — 141 days' worth, to be exact. That's more than double the days' supply for the Chevrolet Cruze and more than triple the supply of the Civic and Focus.
"January marks the seventh full month of Dart sales, and it's been a slow start for the compact sedan. The Wall Street Journal reports Dodge parent Chrysler cut a factory shift at its facility in Dundee, Mich., which makes one of the Dart's engines, due to slow sales. At January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionneadmitted that the Dart's dual-clutch automatic transmission and high mix of stick-shift cars at launch reflected "powertrain solutions that, in today's world and in hindsight, were not and are not the ideal solution."
"The drivetrains don't help, but there may be another factor in play: Dodge's compact sedan is only that — a sedan. Compact cars offer the most diverse body styles. The Corolla has a Matrix offshoot, the Civic comes as a sedan or coupe, the Focus and Mazda3 include a hatchback and sedan, and the Hyundai Elantra scores a trifecta: sedan, coupe and hatch.
In fact, the lack of a hatchback -- like my Caiiber -- was one of my complaints of this redesigned-for-the-American-market Alfa Romeo. Link to my behind the wheel review last summer: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/40574,
Given Chrysler's lack of small cars, the Dart should have been positioned as a complete line, with a coupe, a hatchback and maybe even a convertible. Too, Chrysler's reputation for reliability -- or the absence of one -- may have hindered sales. Many people still remember the predecessor of the Caliber, the Neon, with less than affection. The Fiat connection didn't exactly help (Fiat owns Alfa Romeo and owns Chrysler). "Feeble Italian Attempt at Transportation" and "Fix It Again, Tony" are humorous references to the Fiat name.
Websites are also saying that the slightly bigger Dodge Avenger, due to be discontinued this year, is also grabbing sales from the similarly priced Dart.
I hope Chrysler succeeds with the Dart, but they'll have to work a lot harder to convince buyers.