Just as General Motors is looking for a midsize sedan turnaround with its new Chevy Malibu, Fiat-Chrysler is looking to take its sole midsizer behind the barn.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne created waves last week when he announced the slow-selling Dodge Dart compact and Chrysler 200 midsize would have their futures cut short, as the company pursues a new truck-intensive sales strategy.
Apparently, the RAM and Jeep divisions are working overtime to get SUVs and trucks to a hungry public, while the Chrysler and Dodge divisions aren’t seeing anywhere near that demand. Pulling the plug on these two models will open up assembly line capacity that can be dedicated to more popular vehicles.
It seems the pragmatic thing for a company to do. I mean, buyers are increasingly choosing crossovers and SUVs over sedans, and you gotta go where the money is, but I can’t help but think…. huh?
The great, expansive (former) Chrysler Corporation – the creator of the (original) Dart, Valiant, Reliant, Aries and Neon – won’t have a compact car anywhere in its lineup? Or even a midsize?
The bottom end of Chrysler’s lineup has thinned in the past, but not to this degree.
After the death of the Dodge/Chrysler Neon (Dodge SX 2.0 in Canada) in 2005, the company’s compact shelf was left bare until the Fiat-based Dart appeared in 2013. The small and forgettable 5-door Dodge Caliber wagon/crossover entered the scene in 2007, so this gap could theoretically be narrowed to a single model year.
Following the end of the Dodge Stratus in 2006, the brand went the next two years without a midsize car before the Avenger name was resurrected in 2008. During that time, however, the midsize Chrysler Sebring was also being sold, along with the compact PT Cruiser retro wagon.
Weren’t the mid-to-late 2000s great?!
When the Dart and 200 stop rolling off the line, the only true passenger cars made by Chrysler will be the venerable 300, Charger and Challenger.
It’s hard to compete in the compact and midsize sedan categories, but GM and Ford manage reasonably well with models like the Cruze and Fushion. Sure, the Dart and 200 set few hearts on fire, but is the answer to pull out of the market altogether? Does anyone really expect gas prices to stay low forever?
According to the Detroit Free Press, the vanishing act might not be permanent – assuming FCA can line up a deal to have another automaker provide the vehicles. Yup, we could eventually see rebadged models filling in those gaps, not unlike the Mitsubishi-based Dodge Colt of the 1970s and 80s, or more recently, the Mazda 2-based Scion iM/Toyota Yaris.
The current Dart doesn’t hide its Fiat architecture very well, so it already feels like a rebadged import, albeit one that’s all in the family. If it returns with a different parent, things could get interesting. I never expected Mazda and Toyota to pair up for a swap job, so who knows what partner FCA might bring to the dance.
The big positive I’ve failed to mention is that we get a Jeep Wrangler pickup out of FCA’s new plan. I’ve been drooling over the possibility ever since the concept was shown a few years back, and now it’s a go.
Not only will the Wrangler get a pickup, but along with it will come a host of new drivetrains – diesel and hybrid included. A range-topping Grand Wagoneer is also part of the short-term plan.
Clearly it’s a great time to be Jeep. Not so much Chrysler or Dodge.