2014 Dart: evidence of a new Dodge?

Dodge bee logoWeeks ago, when pundits were amusing themselves by predicting the death of Dodge, we suggested that perhaps Dodge was actually changing its products to match its strategy and image, in a first for the storied brand.

From 1925 onwards, Chrysler was pushed by cost and production needs to merge cars together, until the only differences were sheet metal and trim.  Yes, today, Dodge is seen as the performance brand, based in equal measure on:

These were the factors that built Dodge’s aura of muscle, before executives told the media that they would retrain Americans to see Dodge as having a “more modern” version of sportiness — Euro-style, with lighter engines but stronger cornering — starting with the new Dart. That was the stated reason for rebranding Ram trucks, which remain the epitome of American auto stereotypes, big and heavy, with large V8 engines.

It didn’t work; Americans resist to the idea of sports cars can have low power but excellent cornering (like the 273-powered Barracuda Formula S. How many GTOs and Mustangs were sold for each Formula S?)

Faced with rumors about Chrysler getting the only minivan, and no replacement for the Avenger (ignoring the upcoming rear drive car shared with Alfa Romeo), and slow Dart sales, and whatever else comes to the reporters‘ minds, we saw headlines screaming,

It’s the death of Dodge!

A better question is, “Are we looking at the first properly focused Dodge lineup since 1930?

The rejiggering of the Dodge Dart lineup is further evidence that Auburn Hills has seen the light.  The base car still has the 2.0 (responsive, but not particularly quick) and the Aero has the Fiat 1.4 (for that 41 mpg highway number), but every other Dart has the 2.4 liter engine standard. That’s the biggest engine you can get in the Dart, and it gets much lower mileage than the 2.0 or 1.4, so you know they didn’t make that decision lightly. It costs much more to build than the 2.0 because of the MultiAir system, too.

There are no optional engines. Maybe the factory did this so they’d have fewer variations, since they have to build all those Cherokees now, but maybe they did it to make sure just about every Dart had the most muscular feel they could give it without a major redesign.

Repositioning Dodge performance as “handling focused” would have immunized Dodge from gas crises, but American gas crises are usually brief. Fiat and Chrysler can pick up the slack when gas prices rise, too.

racing Dodge Challengers in Canadian Tire NASCAR series

As for the rest of the lineup, the main issues at Dodge are Journey and Caravan (Durango fits the image well enough, especially with the Hemi). In the US, retail buyers have gone to the Town & Country, for the most part; so losing Caravan in the US might not be a major loss, especially if it was replaced by another car named Dodge Caravan, based on the minivan platform, but in a sportier crossover format and with an emphasis on performance. Chrysler Canada may have to keep the Caravan, but they’ve done interesting things with front clips and nameplates before.

Journey will be put onto a new platform with the de rigeur nine-speed, AWD, and V6, and might even end up in the Chrysler camp (perhaps they can even “dual” Journey, with a sporty version for Dodge — V6 only, thank you — and a mainstream for Chrysler).

Avenger will be replaced when Dodge has a rear wheel drive mid-size platform — that’s 2016 or 2017. Supposedly the SRT version will have the 6.2 HellCat supercharged Hemi, but that might not happen now — that was part of the plan when a Barracuda was to be based on Challenger. With a completely new platform, I’d expect a twin-turbo V6 before a supercharged Hemi, just because designing a mainstream car to fit a 6.2 V8 that only 1.6% of buyers will get is rather wasteful. Everyone else will have to suffer from lower gas mileage and greater weight for that 1.6%… and that includes the Alfa buyers, presumably. Alfa is much more likely to top out with their twin-turbo six.

So if we look at Dodge of calendar-year 2017, I think we’ll see a nine-speed Dart with the 2.4 on all but Aero, a Caravan crossover, and a new, sporty Journey. That would be three front-wheel-drive cars, each available with optional AWD. Then, in the rear drive column, we’d have Avenger, Charger, Challenger, and Durango.

Long term, and assuming gas prices don’t rise too quickly, I’d be tempted to move Dart over to Chrysler and let Dodge have the “big muscle” rep, or create a Chrysler compact car just a little smaller and lighter than the Dart (perhaps the Chrysler Valiant). Likewise, I’d think about moving Journey over to Chrysler, perhaps keeping the same name.

Perhaps, instead of looking at the death of Dodge, we’re looking at a new life for Horace and John’s baby.

AMP version.

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The Chrysler Journey

The current Dodge Journey form-factor is bound to move to Chrysler, according to Allpar sources, as Dodge moves to a rear wheel drive crossover — like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

A relatively inexpensive people-moving crossover will still be needed, and most likely, that will be Chrysler’s job. It won’t be based on the current Journey, whose design dates back quite a few years now.

Given current styling trends,

Read the full story: The Chrysler Journey  »

Hellcat Charger-Challenger production soared in ’16


Final production numbers for the 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and the 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat have been posted on the enthusiast website Hellcat.org. Assuming they are accurate, the production of the 707-horsepower Dodge cars nearly doubled from the 2015 model year.

FCA rocked the world when they introduced not one, but two 707-horsepower production cars with the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Read the full story: Hellcat Charger-Challenger production soared in ’16  »

Allen Johnson re-ups with Marathon


Longtime Pro Stock Dodge driver Allen Johnson, cut off by Mopar at the end of the last season, has renewed his sponsorship deal with Marathon Oil for the 2017 NHRA drag racing season. It’s a natural fit: Johnson owns Greenville Oil and Petroleum, which has 37 Marathon-branded Quick Stop Markets.

The champion in 2012 and runner-up to Jeg Coughlin Jr. in 2013, Johnson is the only Dodge driver to have made it to a final round in the past two years.

Read the full story: Allen Johnson re-ups with Marathon  »

Challenger GT (AWD) hits the EPA

We may not know much about the upcoming all-wheel-drive Dodge Challenger GT, but we do know this: it will get 18 mpg city, 27 highway. The car is now listed in the fueleconomy.gov database.

Those economy figures indicate that the AWD Challenger GT will have the Pentastar V6, since they’re the same on the V6 Charger. All wheel drive cuts about 1 mpg off city mileage and,

Read the full story: Challenger GT (AWD) hits the EPA  »

Behind the rumors of “22 minute diesels”

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag claimed back in May that the German transport department, KBA, had discovered FCA was shutting off their diesel emissions controls after 22 minutes. That accusation was reportedly widely in worldwide media, but was never confirmed.

FCA’s chief technical officer, Harald Wester repeatedly denied the  “22 minute” charge in statements to the EU Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS):

Contrary to allegations,

Read the full story: Behind the rumors of “22 minute diesels”  »

The Chrysler Journey
Hellcat Charger-Challenger production soared in ’16
Allen Johnson re-ups with Marathon

Challenger GT (AWD) hits the EPA

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