Why the New Dodge Dart Isn’t Selling… Yet

January 23rd, 2013

2013 Dodge Dart

Dodge executives seem to like their levers.

Imagine a small room where the man who heads Dodge sits. He’s surrounded by buttons, knobs and levers. He knows he can pull certain levers and sales will increase on recently introduced cars. It’s quite an amazing setup, and when a car like the new Dodge Dart hits the market, but fails to sell in numbers he had hoped, all he has to do is pull some levers and everything will be okay.

The question is, why weren’t the right levers pulled in the first place?

In its first seven months on the market, Chrysler, Dodge’s parent, sold 25,303 new Darts. The compact car entered a vicious fight for market share between the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla and many more. For some perspective on how poorly the Dart has sold, check this out: The much-derided 2012 Civic sold over 27,000 units… in February alone of last year.

According to Automotive News, the problem is the result of some poor choices. First, in its first few weeks on the market, only a manual transmission was offered in the Dart. Not only would that have turned off the vast majority of potential buyers, it prevented most of them from even taking a test drive. Ouch.

When an automatic did hit the market, it included a European-style dual clutch as an option, which turned off even more folks.

On top of that, a less-than-stellar marketing campaign (in my humble opinion) didn’t do much to introduce the Dart as a worthy competitor to the big sellers in the market.

Talk about a botched launch.

That’s unfortunate, because the Dart *is* a good car! Thanks to FIAT’s ownership of Chrysler, the Dart is based on FIAT architecture and powered by a choice of three engines, with more on the way. It offers plenty of flexibility, good looks and a build quality that’s many steps above some of Chrysler’s past compact-car efforts. There are even rumors that a new 9-speed automatic tranny will enter the fray soon, which should be exactly what Americans are looking for.

Which brings us to those levers. About the low sales volume, Dodge head Reid Bigland said,

I’m OK where I’m at because there are a lot of levers that are available to me to jolt that volume.

Then he said,

This thing’s headed in the right direction, but there are certainly some opportunities to continue that growth and a number of levers that have yet to be pulled.

This is a man who loves his levers. They are coming in the form of that new transmission, a new GT trim with a more powerful 2.4-liter engine, and, I hope, some new marketing to convince the nation that the Dart isn’t just for drivers of sticks.

Or pullers of levers.

Would a new 9-speed transmission be enough to get you to test drive a new Dodge Dart?

-tgriffith

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  1. Randy
    January 25th, 2013 at 06:51 | #1

    Remember, these good old boy Chrysler managers are mostly the same folks who orchestrated Chrysler’s crash, burn and bankruptcy largely through their inept choices. This one sounds just as clueless, as indicated by the initial offering of only manual transmission. Face it, the first year of a new model is very important, and a large percentage of potential customers who look at it and walk away will never look at it again. The Dart has one big problem– Fairly dull Chrysler styling. It just doesn’t stand out. Another problem is the Detroit first year curse. Experienced American car buyers know not to buy a new model until the kinks get worked out. And last, in this area, Chrysler spends all their ad money advertising trucks with deals only available to Chrysler employees, while Dart competitors Honda, Kia, Hyundia, Toyota, Mazda and others pitch deals that anyone can buy.

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