Dodge Dart and Fiat Viaggio. A flop?

Dodge Dart Fiat ViaggioIt 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.

Even if the Dart is the model with the highest growth (which is quite normal coming from an all-new model), it is still very far from its competitors, and even the VW Jetta, which is feeling the arrival of the Dart, sells twice. Source: Good Car Bad Car

Even if the Dart is the model with the highest growth (which is quite normal coming from an all-new model), it is still very far from its competitors, and even the VW Jetta, which is feeling the arrival of the Dart, sells twice. Source: Good Car Bad Car

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.

The Viaggio had a good start (which exceed analysts' forecast). Nevertheless its sales dropped in February (partly affected by the new year celebrations), to stabilize one month later around 3.000 units/month. It is very far from initial target. Source:

The Viaggio had a good start (which exceed analysts’ forecast). Nevertheless its sales dropped in February (partly affected by the new year celebrations), to stabilize one month later around 3.000 units/month. It is very far from initial target. Source:

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:


America: more 500, future SRT Dart/Jeep, and a RAM diesel?

RAM 1500. Is it coming a diesel version? Photo by

Some news are coming from America. The latest one is related to Fiat and its successful 500. After the good start of Abarth version with 160 hp, Fiat presents the 500 T version. They saw the lack of a mid size engine between the regular 500 with 105 hp and the Abarth one. That’s why the 500 T with 135 hp will become the option for those wanting more performance than ‘just’ 105 hp but can’t afford $22.000 dollars that costs the Abarth. The T version is expected to keep increasing sales as the car will cost $19.000 dollars $15.200 €, and offers a very nice engine with good especifications inside, though the car will not have Abarth logo. With this version, Fiat 500 family in America is now composed by the 500 Pop starting at $15.500 dollars ($12.350 €), the 500 Lounge, 500 Sport, 500C Pop, 500C Lounge, the 500 Abarth and finally the 500 T. Meanwhile the Electric version of the small car was confirmed to be on sale next year.

American Fiat 500 family. Though the Abarth version is the bestselling one, it’s just offers one body type

Another sporty to arrive, not yet though, is the Dodge Dart SRT version. According to Sergio Marchionne, what is only missing to complete the project is “how big is going to be the engine that will move the Dart to create the SRT version”. It means they are really considering a super powered version of the mid size sedan and maybe use a 4 cylinders turbo version with even more than the 235 hp that moves the Alfa Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde. But as people from Autoblog Spain say, the SRT Dart could be moved by 300 hp and 2.0 MultiAir engine. The problem is that there is no 4 cylinder engine turbo available at the moment.

Dodge Dart GTS 210 Tribute, showed in Chicago Auto Show 2012. Photo by

On the other hand future plans of Chrysler group include the elimination of double products. It means the car company does not want to offer anymore two brand options for the same model. That is why they will remove from Chrysler’s range, the Town & Country which is the same car of Dodge Gran Caravan. Instead they will project a lighter minivan to be shared with Lancia and leave the popular Dodge alone. The same destiny for the Jeep Compass as it is practically the same Jeep Patriot. The C-SUV-segment from Jeep will be removed from dealers by the year 2014 to be replaced by a global compact SUV that might share platform with other products of Fiat-Chrysler Group, such as the next generation of Fiat Bravo, which could be replaced by a Cross Over. Regarding this news, it is weird Chrysler wants to get rid of the Town & Country as it was its best seller in 2011 with more than 102.000 units. The MPV is an excellent product that could be even more differenciated from the Dodge version with more luxury interiors. A smaller successor could be also an interesting thing but taking into account that Americans prefer big version of these kind of cars. In the case of the Compass, it has not been certainly a big success and that’s why they should work on a global compact Cross Over to fit expectations of American and European clients and to become a product to expand into other markets.

A render of a possible future compact Jeep. Illustration by

Finally, based on a spy photo, people from Automotive News comment the possible arrival of RAM pickup with diesel engine. They suggest the black speckled stain seen just above the exhaust (a common sign of Diesel engines) could be the proof that Dodge is working on a RAM diesel. Good news that should be analyzed carefully as Americans are not really used to this kind of engines and big trucks had been always associated with big petrol engines. Although diesel cars have become less unpopular in the last months, their market share is still low. In 2011 only 101.624 cars out of 12.7 million of total passenger cars sold in America, had the diesel technique, and none of them was a pickup.

Full production starts for the Dodge Dart

The all new Dodge Dart. Photo by

The all new Dodge Dart. Photo by

On monday May 7th, Belvidere Plant in Illinois began full production of the all new Dodge Dart. The pretty C segment sedan will be available in showrooms from june this year and it is expected to be a success as it certainly offers a great mix of nice exterior design, high quality interiors, and great engines developed with Fiat. “We are probably bulding the best product not just in the country but in the world” for Dodge, said George Welitschinsky, president UAW Belvidere Assembly Plant. Customers will have a choice of 12 exterior colours, 14 interior colours, 3 fuel efficient engines, 3 transmission choices, and world class aerodynamics starting at US$16.000, just below its main competitors: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla.

Photo by

Photo by

The Dart is a product that was born after Fiat’s take over Chrysler in early 2009. By that time, economic crisis made American Government to search for solutions to the bankrupted automotive sector. Dart is the answer to one of main conditions for this take over: to produce a small fuel efficient car (26 MPG city/41 highway) in America. Fiat brought its fuel efficiency technology to Chrysler and then they added Alfa Romeo’s C-EVO platform to get this beauty mid size sedan that will serve as the base for Fiat Viaggio in China. Those characteristics plus the fact that C segment is becoming really popular in the US market (third largest one with 16% market share, after SUV and D segment*), are enough to think that this product will reach important numbers very far from the flop of Dodge Caliber.  

2011 USA Market, C segment**

(Model: Units sold 2011 (Variation) / Units sold Jan-Apr/12 (Variation)

1. Toyota Corolla: 240.259 (-10%) / 93.232 (-8%)

2. Chevrolet Cruze: 231.732 (+846%) / 75.288 (0%)

3. Honda Civic: 221.235 (-15%) / 101.592 (+11%)

4. Hyundai Elantra: 186.361 (+41%) / 61.237 (-3%)

5. VW Jetta: 177.360 (+44%) / 54.424 (-6%)

6. Ford Focus: 175.717 (+2%) / 85.468 (+57%)

7. Toyota Prius: 136.463 (-3%) / 86.027 (+56%)

8. Nissan Sentra: 114.991 (+22%) / 39.173 (-21%)

9. Mazda 3: 102.417 (-4%) / 42.218 (+25%)

10. Nissan Versa: 99.730 (0%) / 43.530 (+18%)

11. Chrysler 200: 87.033 (+125%) / 44.981 (+120%)

12. Kia Forte: 76.294 (+11%) / 25.557 (-4%)

13. Subaru Impreza: 41.196 (-7%) / 29.243 (+86%)

14. Dodge Caliber: 35.049 (-22%) / 6.646 (-51%)

Photo by

Photo by

From the numbers above it is possible to conclude that C segment is moving and giving importance to new models such as new generation of Ford Focus and Honda Civic, or successful facelifts like the Chrysler 200. According to it, the new Dart could reach about 120.000 units on its first year of sales. Important to mention the big market share gained by hybrid Toyota Prius, something to be considered for future hybrid technology models of the group in America.

*FGW data basis