is aiming to do some damage in the North American compact-car segment by reviving the Dart nameplate for its all-new -inspired replacement for the Dodge Caliber.
“Hopefully, they can ‘target’ the right demographic with their marketing,” jokes John Scott, general manager-SnethkampDodge Jeep in Redford, MI.
Chrysler announces today the vehicle it previously acknowledged only as the “Dodge Compact Car” will launch next year as the ’13 Dodge Dart. It will be unveiled next month at the Detroit auto show.
Based on a platform derived from the one that shoulders the Alfa Romeo Giulietta sport hatch, the Dart will feature a choice of three new engines: a 1.4L intercooled turbocharged I-4 with’s acclaimed MultiAir valve-actuation technology and two additional I-4s – 2.0L and 2.4L – derived from Chrysler’s World Engine family and dubbed Tigershark.
The larger of the two Tigershark engines, as reported by WardsAuto14 months ago, also features MultiAir technology.
The Dart name, last used by Chrysler in 1989, spanned three decades. Chuck Eddy, a senior member of Chrysler’s dealer council and owner of Bob and Chuck Eddy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Austintown, OH, welcomes its return.
“I knew about middle of last week that Dart was the front-runner,” Eddy tells WardsAutotoday during a break in meetings at Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI.
Aria was runner-up, WardsAutolearns. Hornet, which harkens back to Chrysler’s ownership of American Motors and, more recently, a B-segment concept car unveiled at the 2006 Geneva auto show, was third.
Says Eddy: “I’m a guy who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s (when the Dart was popular). I believe in the name.”
He also expects Dart to resonate with younger buyers who have no first-hand memory of its previous iterations.
Internet searches of the name turn up images of muscle cars, Eddy says. And young people, who are avid Internet users, are “all caught up in muscle-car nostalgia,” he adds, noting the popularity of the current-generation Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro.
Ironically, the Giulietta name was revived in 2010 after a 45-year absence from its home market in Italy. Alfa began selling the car this summer in Mexico.
“I just hope (Chrysler has) the capacity to produce what we need,” Scott says of the Dart.
The segment in which it will compete in the U.S. was outpacing the overall car market through November.
Sales of Upper Small cars, according to WardsAutosegmentation, were tracking 12.5% ahead of like-2010. Total car sales were up 8.2%.
Meanwhile, competition is expected to become fiercer in coming months asand overcome inventory woes suffered after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that disrupted production of their U.S.-market entries.
Chrysler’s assembly plant in Belvidere, IL – current site of Caliber production – will be home to Dart output. The auto maker is mum on timing, except to say construction of a new body shop and installation of new machinery, tooling and material-handling equipment at Belvidere will be complete before year’s end.
The expansion is the result of a $600 million investment to accommodate the ’13 Dodge Dart and other “future products,” Chrysler says today in a statement.
Currently, Belvidere also is home to the Jeep Patriot and Compass C-segment cross/utility vehicles. And a product plan disclosed by Chrysler in 2009 indicates the Dart has a core-brand platform-mate.
Dealers express little remorse at the demise of the Caliber nameplate. When a vehicle is all-new, such as the Dart, “it’s better to come with something fresh,” Scott says.
Adds Eddy: “When you have a good name from the past, pull it out.”
The Caliber launched in 2006. Sales peaked the following year at 101,079, according to WardsAutodata. Through November, Caliber deliveries totaled 33,632, lagging like-2010 21.2%.
– with David E. Zoia