It all began with big expectations. The Dodge Dart was the first all-new product developed under Fiat era. It was one of the points of the agreement between Fiat and American government, in which the Italians committed to transfer their fuel efficiency knowhow to Chrysler and saved it. Based on the platform of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and powered by efficient engines, Dodge launched the Dart after years of no-presence in lower segments. The pass away of the popular Chrysler/Dodge Neon, back in 2006, left the company without an offer in C-Segment. Chrysler pointed at the big SUV, MPV and Pickups, while its sedan range wasn’t particularly boosted by its marketing department. This is, in my opinion, one of the reasons of the current results of the Dodge Dart. The truth is that this interesting sedan, which received very good comments from specialized press, doesn’t work as Chrysler wants, and its sales registrations are far away from initial forecasts. In mid 2012, when the car was launched, the company said that its plant in Belvedere had a monthly capacity of 12.000 units per month*, so sales target would be around 120.000 – 130.000 units during its first full year in the market. My own forecast, published in february 2013, was based on these estimates and the fact that the car has everything to be a top seller. YTD results indicate that the Dart will barely surpass the 80.000 units sold barrier this year.
That number is not bad for a car that just landed. But Chrysler’s expectations and the car itself deserve much more. If monthly records don’t change in the coming months, the Dodge Dart will become a flop in the marriage Fiat-Chrysler. And this would be the result of a lack of interest of the group in sedan segments and the lack of consistency with its nameplates. Honda made of the Civic an institutions for decades. The same case with the Toyota Corolla, and lately Chevrolet with the Cruze, and Ford with the Focus. Hyundai has made the same with the Elantra. These brands have given the right importance to their compact sedans, despite the fact the market clearly prefers larger cars. It is not the case of Chrysler. Yes, they invested a lot in this new car, and certainly, based on its features and characteristics, the Dart is an excellent car with a very interesting engine offer. But it has had to deal with competitors in its own house, as Dodge keeps promoting the Avenger with attractive prices, making use of its old age to make big rebates that sometimes affect the new Dart.
In the other side of the Pacific ocean, the Fiat Viaggio, the Chinese version of the Dart, struggles to have a position in the sales ranking and give some visibility to Fiat brand. After years of fails with its Chinese partners, Fiat’s image and awareness are quite bad in the world’s largest car market. They finally agreed with Guangzhou to start the production of a world-class sedan to compete in China’s largest segment by sales volume. The Viaggio was presented in April 2012 and introduced 5 months later. Initial sales indicated that it was a complete success. Analysts and specialized press was shocked with its registrations during its 3 first months. But things changed from February 2013, when sales dropped from 4.000 units/month to 3.000. Fiat will sell around 40.000 units of the Viaggio in a segment in which almost 6 million units were sold in 2012. However I wouldn’t declare the Viaggio’s numbers as a flop. Most of the Chinese buyers don’t even know about Fiat. Despite the brand’s efforts to increase its awareness levels by opening more dealerships, and new fidelity campaigns, Fiat’s offer is very limited with only one product produced locally. The plant they have with Guangzhou can build 140.000 units/year, but the Viaggio’s results forced them to consider the coming production of Jeep models to use the plenty of the capacity. Actually the Jeep Compass, imported from USA (it pays a lot of taxes and is priced at 27.000 euros for the basic version), outsells the local Viaggio, and is the best-selling product of the group in APAC region.
In the case of the Dart I would consider it a flop, considering the position of Dogde brand playing as a local, and the features of the car. I don’t think it is the same case of the Viaggio in China, as I think it is quite normal to have those numbers when no one knows about Fiat, and the offer is quite limited. From both cases, Fiat-Chrysler should pay attention and learn from the mistakes in order to avoid them in future launches.
* Source: www.carsitaly.net