LOS ANGELES –is increasing production of its 2.0L and 2.4L Tigershark engines that will migrate from the Dodge Dart to other vehicles, Dodge President and CEO Reid Bigland says.
Citing company policy, Bigland tells WardsAuto at the auto show here that he cannot disclose
which vehicles will receive the all-new engine now used only in the Dart, which went on sale in June.
CEO Sergio Marchionne announced in November a new flex line at the auto maker’s Trenton, MI, engine plant that will build both the Pentastar V-6 and the Tigershark. He suggested at the time the Tigershark could be used in applications beyond the Dart.
“It’s definitely (got) good power, good fuel economy,” Bigland says.
In the Chrysler-universe, the Dart is most closely related to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta compact sold in Europe. At least one Alfa Romeo vehicle will be sold in North America next year, though executives do not identify it.
Jeep plans to launch a midsize SUV to replace the current Liberty; a Tigershark powerplant would follow the industry trend toward increasingly smaller engine displacements in SUVs and crossovers. And a forthcoming Chrysler-branded Dart-based car slotting below the 200 midsize sedan is part of Marchionne’s 4-year plan to turn around the auto maker.
Speculation aside, Bigland is pleased by Dodge’s rebound in North America, with sales up 24% this year.
“In many respects the 24% is somewhat repressed because we lost two products, the Caliber and the Nitro. Now the Dart is coming back onstream to replace the Caliber,” he says. “We expect December by far to be the strongest sales month of the year, now that we’re starting to get all the right inventory on the ground.”
Bigland notes the Dart has been lucrative for Chrysler, with an average transaction price of $22,000 compared with the Caliber’s $17,000.
“That’s $2,800 higher than the average compact car. We like the spot we’re in on the Dart. People are optioning them up and people are taking advantage of the class-exclusive features.
“I think the Caliber, when it was launched back in 2006, was a pretty good car and it did fairly well,” he adds. “By the time 2012 rolled around, it was just getting a bit long in the tooth, whereas now the Dart really brings in all of the state-of-the-art technology and can go toe-to-toe with the segment’s best.”
Sales of all Dodge-branded vehicles are up this year except for the consistently underperforming Durango SUV. Bigland attributes the underwhelming numbers to capacity issues and short supplies.
“The Durango has been fighting for production capacity with that of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s really living in the shadow of the Jeep Grand Cherokee,” he says. “Now that we’ve added the third shift to our Jefferson Assembly Plant, we can get some additional production for the Durango and continue to increase sales.”
There are no plans to discontinue the SUV, he adds. “It’s one of the key products and one of the most profitable products in the Dodge portfolio.”