Once a mainstay on American highways, Chrysler is now driving toward an uncertain future. Its partnership with Daimler-Benz has been replaced by one with Fiat, and while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has kept its head above water (thanks to America’s obsession with pickup trucks and the unyielding power of Jeep brand loyalty), the rest of the business raises more than a few questions. What is Fiat’s true future in the U.S. market? Will Alfa Romeo and its Giulia succeed today after a reputation for unreliability sunk them in 1995? And with only a midsize sedan with a questionable future, a full-size stalwart in a shrinking segment, and the 2017 Pacifica in a crossover-crazy era, can Chrysler stay afloat?
Of course not. Those are core models for the brands and it would be complete insanity to cancel them without an improved replacement ready to go.
Chrysler, now FCA, spent years fine-tuning its core sedans. The Chrysler 200 began life as the Sebring and has since become a respectable entry in the compact sedan market. The Dodge Dart resurrected a cherished name from the past and is the FIAT-based sedan that Americans hoped would arrive when the Italians bought out Chrysler.
The cars aren’t record-setting sales superstars, but they do fill an important hole in the company’s lineup. Not having an entry in the compact sedan segment is akin to suicide in the mainstream auto industry.
Yet FCA is doing the unthinkable: Canceling the 200 and the Dart, without any concrete plans to replace them.
Why is this happening?
No matter what the application, technology always advances. In the 1980s, Casio was famous for its Databank watch. It included enough storage memory for some addresses and phone numbers, and it had a handy calculator, just in case you decided to tip 18.7%. In April, 2015, Apple released its own smart watch. It’s roughly the same shape as Casio’s Databank, but the technology now allows for 8 gigabytes of storage, a touchscreen, haptic feedback, and a range of apps that cover everything from the weather to the Red Sox score to what Jeremy Clarkson’s been tweeting this week. Cars are no different.
LeBron James recently made some big news by promoting the Kia K900, not because he was being paid, but because he’s a big fan of the car. He has since partnered with Kia to promote its luxury brand. LeBron is not a small man, but the K900 seems to be a good fit for him. But that got us thinking: Is the K900 really the best fit for LeBron? We looked at our data to determine which vehicles can best fit someone of LeBron’s stature. These cars are truly fit for a “King,” or at least a very big and/or tall individual.
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 the category of things that are long overdue, let’s place this:
While speaking at the Chrysler Belvidere Assembly Plant, Marchionne said the Compass will continue to be built at the facility through August 2014, at which point it will be replaced by a new model. He also said the Grand Caravan will be the automaker’s only minivan moving forward. Marchionne also let slip his company’s intent on the development of a Dodge Dart SRT model, saying the performance-oriented vehicle is coming just as soon as they figure out how big an engine to put in it.
The Nissan Juke, in its stock form as a small crossover, defines the word “distinctive.”
Nothing else on the road looks like it. It’s small and bulbous but efficient and sure-footed. Its headlights poke out above the hood like a crocodile’s eyes breaking the surface of the water. Some might call it a playful look, others regard it as downright ugly. Its 1.6-liter direct-injected inline-4 turbo puts out 188-hp. Paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, some might even say the Juke is a fun, spirited drive. With the standard CVT transmission, though, it’s like piloting a car propelled by rubber bands.
As I always like to say, 188-hp is OK. But 485 is better.
Introducing the Nissan Juke-R: a vehicle all automakers should imitate at least once.
We hope this car will add to the company’s recent success (sales are up 24 percent this year), just two years after it looked like roadkill.
We told you something about this car in September, but new details have emerged. It will be called the Dart, not Hornet. The original Dart embodied one of Chrysler’s better (though very staid) longstanding production runs, from 1960 to 1976. Like many Chrysler-haters, some of us used to convert its name to begin with “F.”
The new Dart “will offer three 16-valve four-cylinder engine choices: A pair of new 2.0 and 2.4-liter engines codenamed Tigershark or a FIAT-developed 1.4-liter turbocharged MultiAir four-cylinder.” Some teaser images, which you see here, are popping up on the Web.