Chrysler on a Roll, Betting on the New Dart

New Dodge Dart, front

Hallelujah, Chrysler reported sales for April up 20 percent. It was the company’s best April since 2008 and the eleventh consecutive month of 20 percent or better sales increases. GM, Ford and Toyota were all down.

Hey, if you can’t sell cars in April, when can you sell ’em?

Sales leaders were of course the Ram, but also the Chrysler 200 and its midsize sedan cousins. Even the FIAT 500 showed good gains.

The big money, however, is riding on the new Dodge Dart which, unlike the refashioned Avenger and other Chrysler holdover products, is an entirely new car. As you should know by now, it’s built on a much-modified Alfa Romeo platform and has more than a little of the Italian flair of that marque.

The big question is how this bastard child will compete against cars like the Focus and Cruze, among others, in the hotly contended compact segment.

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Chrysler Plans, Chrysler Fumbles

I saw at least five news stories about how Sergio Marchionne’s joke about not releasing the new Dart on April Fool’s Day “fell flat.” April 2, a Monday, was always the scheduled date, so the boss was just trying to be cute. Most writers did not pick up on the joke, a fine testament to their lack of humor if not sense.

More significant is the release of Chrysler’s annual report (10-K), from which Car and Driver extracted some interesting highlights. Here are a few:

1. The Alfa-Dodge Dart platform (called CUSW) will underpin several Chrysler products, among them the Chrysler 200 and Jeep Liberty.

2. Upgrades are due for the Ram 1500 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

3. New transmissions (the ZF 8-speed and the Fiat dual-clutch) are coming, with a 9-speed arriving in 2013. Where will this gearheadedness end?

4. What C&D didn’t say is that Chrysler Group’s 2011 net income was finally in the black at $183 million (after a $652 million loss in 2010). Net revenue for the year was $55 billion, up 31 percent over 2010. It’s the company’s first profitable year since 1997.

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Dodge Dart: New or Used?

2013 Dodge Dart

Dodge has finally revealed its new compact sedan, the Dodge Dart, at the Detroit Auto Show.

While the name follows the same retro trend as the new Challenger and Charger, the new Dart is not a new version of the original. Still, though, by resurrecting the old name, Chrysler is just asking for comparisons to be made between then and now.

The specs for the modern version are as impressive as the design, both of which come to us thanks to Dodge’s new Italian cousin, Alfa Romeo. The 2013 Dart, based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, isn’t anything close to a sports car, though. It’s a compact sedan aimed at the likes of the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.

Let’s compare new with old and let you decide: Which would you want?

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Seven Cars We Think Will Do Well in 2012

2013 Ford Fusion

The New Year is a time for resolutions (which usually fail) and for predictions (ditto). So, in the following piece, we will hedge our bets by naming vehicles that have already shown promise, or the hope of promise. That, of course, is the trick behind making predictions—stack the deck a little bit.

There are no guarantees in the auto business, and while everyone looks forward to a banner year, some of the following cars are brand-new and as yet untested. All are reportedly good, and it will be interesting to see how the public responds. Let us know if we are off-base, out of line, or on the money.

Ford moves to a global platform and complete redesign with the 2013 Fusion and, except for some spy photos, its appearance is a secret. Above is a fair rendering of what the car may look like. It will go live at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The new car has lots of tech-y stuff and will be Ford’s big play in the midsize game, with a wide choice of powertrains.

The company should sell some 240,000 Fusions in 2011 and now has about 12 percent of the midsize segment. It is looking for a 50 percent sales increase.

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