DETROIT – It’s uplifting to see a good guy get a second chance.
I was thinking this as I observed’s Matt Liddane bask , albeit discreetly, in the glow of his latest project. Liddane is vehicle line executive for the ’13 Dodge Dart.
He watched from a distance as journalists lingered around the all-new C-segment sedan some two hours after it was unveiled here at the North American International Auto Show. And I recalled a question I put to him a month ago.
“What does this car mean to you?” I asked.
“Redemption,” he said.
Liddane was chief engineer of the much-maligned Dodge Caliber, which the Dart is meant to replace.
I remember his presentation during a media preview of the Caliber in 2007. He performed the proverbial walk-around, pointing out features that would make any engineer proud:
- First North American-market use of hydroformed front closures and upper cross-members in a high-volume compact car.
- First application of hot-stamped steel in B-pillar construction.
- First Chrysler compact car to offer side-curtain airbags as standard equipment.
These elements contributed to the Caliber’s 5-star rating according to NHTSA’s pre-2011 crash-test protocol. But sales eventually were sideswiped by an interior rendered hostile by hard plastic surfaces, and a powertrain so lame it has been essentially junked just four years after launch.
Instead of the World Engine family that powered the Caliber, two new Tigershark engines and a turbochargedmill will hurry the Dart.
The Tigershark family is loosely based on the World Engine. No more than 12% of their parts are common.
But Liddane is not alone in regarding the Dart as a second chance. The car represents a second chance for his 56,000 fellow Chrysler employees.
Whether or not they make good should be known in the coming months.