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:


Bad pre-start for Fiat Viaggio in China

Photo by China Car Times

It is nothing related to sales figures. The new sedan based on the Dodge Dart that Fiat will sell from September had a terrible accident when it was part of a high speed test in Taicang, near to Shanghai. The model under test was a 1.4T which hit a motorcycle rider who died instantly. The two passengers inside the Viaggio were not injured but the car was severely damaged especially in the side. The 4.67 m long sedan will be on sale starting around 120.000 yuan (US$18.900) and is expected to hit the market in the C-segment sedans to compete with VW Jetta and Sagitar or others like the Buick Excelle, Hyundai Elantra or the Citroen C-Quattre. Last week Fiat showed the first pictures of the interior, which did not change from the Dodge Dart version in the US.

Unlike what happened in the exterior, the Viaggio kept its interior exactly as the American version

China: the countdown has finished

Today is a special day for Fiat-Chrysler Group. After some years dealing with unsuccessful joint ventures, the group has finally began its new age in China. Sergio Marchionne, Olivier Francois, and Mike Manley, among several others, have inaugurated the plant with their Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group in Changsha in central China. It is the place where from today the ‘Fei Xiang’ model (aka Viaggio) will be produced reaching in the first year 140.000 units  in a plant that can produce 400.000. Fiat has a lot of expectations about this product because it will be the last opportunity to finally sell a competitive car and get  an important part of Chinese sales. Last year the brand sold only 991 cars while GM or VW sold more than 2 million units. Although the group has arrived late in this important market there is a good mood about Italian cars and therefore they expect interesting results to reach 200.000 units by the year 2014, not bad, but very far from its European competitors. The Viaggio (aka Dodge Dart) is part of a new model that will be sold globally and is expected to arrive in Europe in 2013 with other body type to replace the bad sales figures of Fiat Bravo. Therefore it belongs to Chinese C-segment, the country’s largest: almost 5 million units sold that represent 20% of the market.

A Jeep Ad in China

But it is not the only news coming from China. Today they also began official sales of Chrysler 300 imported from America. That’s why the car will have a very high price in a unique version at 486.900 yuan or $76.000. The price will certainly affect its sales to become a car only for real fans as all its competitors from Europe (Audi-BMW-Mercedes) offer cheaper versions of their E-Segment cars. It means the official comeback of Chrysler but if they want to get an interesting piece of this important segment (6% of Chinese market) they must consider building it in China. Meanwhile Jeep is considered the brand with highest potential in China and that’s why Fiat may be considering building them in the same plant of Changsha (close to Hong Kong). In the other hand there is also Alfa Romeo, that according to Dunne & Co, a specialized company in Asian car markets, Chinese consumers love Italian fashion and Alfa could benefit from that feeling only if they offer the best products. A lot of opportunities that only confirm what Marchionne said: “We have a lot of work to do.”

The new Fiat Viaggio to come to Europe?

First they surprised us with presentation of Dodge Dart in Detroit. And then they went even further when they showed its cousin, the new Fiat Viaggio in Beijing. Most of comments online, both specialized media and common readers, were positive and crearly nice when watching the first images. Certainly it is a nice C segment sedan for a market that really likes big sedans with a lot of accesories. Fiat was one of the last car automakers not to have a full presence in China and therefore they needed urgently to come again (after 2 tries) offering the best of the best.

Fiat will build the Viaggio from July/12 to be on sale this year in the world’s largest market. The challenge will not be easy, as segment C is really crowded of options and represented almost 40% of total passenger cars market in 2011. Though some analyst have said that Fiat has arrived late in this important market, other sources indicate that what is really important is the fact they will offer a local product, with the latest technology, good shape and with the size most chinese people like. In other words, I believe the Viaggio can reach 60000 units sold during its first year with important growth in coming years as brand image begins to be recognized.

Nevertheless its possible results at home, by reading some comments in Spanish, Italian, and French sites, most of people have claimed the possibility of offering the Viaggio in Europe. C segment is Europe’s second largest car segment (the first in Germany), and the competition is really tough as its type of client is someone conservative who does not want to change the model, and who does not want to risk with unknown brands. It explains why VW Golf has been ruling Europe from so many years, others like Koreans have gained some market share thanks to their warranty offer, while others such as Fiat have had a bit of the cake and continue to decrease their market share.

Fiat Group needs to increase its market share in C segment in Europe. They have reached some important numbers with Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but as its demand begins to slow down, while Fiat Bravo and Lancia Delta are not at all popular, the situation must be changed as soon as possible. Is it the Viaggio a solution? personally I don’t think so, as this model is really big, does not offer a hatcback version (the largest part of C segment) and Fiat’s image as large car maker is not well known in Europe. For me, the best thing Fiat could do would be to offer it, after a deep make up, as the larger version of Alfa Giulietta offering also a SW version (very popular in Italy). It could increase not only C segment offers but Alfas’ range of models. So it seems this beauty sedan will take a long viaggio before coming to Europe.