This is the last week of production for the Dodge Dart, though dealers will, as planned, have supplies going into 2017.
Many people have already voiced their opinions on why the Dart failed to capture sales. Some said that it was too far from the image of the 1960s-1970s Darts — whether they were seen as muscle cars or reliable, unexciting workhorses. Others saw a failed attempt to redefine Dodge performance as handling, rather than brute force acceleration.
Some articles called the new Dodge too big, which hurt acceleration and mileage alike. Others pointed to the early cars’ quirky Fiat powertrain and transmissions of early cars; the GT came very late, and the SRT never did show up.
Some say the car’s should have been based on the smaller-car “S” platform, and others said the C-EVO dimensions should not have been changed for the US. Either path would have brought a lighter car.
Chrysler put a lot of money into making it handle quite well, but the market didn’t seem to value handling, at least not without better acceleration.
Most recaps agreed that the marketing was off the mark; to be fair, as neither the fastest, most economical, most comfortable, or most reliable car in its class, the Dart had no easy “hook.” But the “don’t touch my Dart” tagline didn’t seem to intrigue anyone.
The first cars were sticks, so dealers shoved them in the back, out of sight. The stick-first logic may have been to appeal to enthusiasts and import buyers, and garner the best numbers in reviews, but it seems to have backfired. Perhaps the press fleets should have been manual-only and the dealer lots filled with automatics? The quirky Fiat-powered engines and DDCTs turned off critics and potential buyers.
US compact car sales started dropping as Darts arrived. There’s little FCA could have done about that.
Many love their Darts and will mourn the passing of the nameplate and the opportunity. It may be the last US-engineered compact front-drive Dodge. The most likely replacement is the Mexican Dodge Neon, designed by Fiat, built in Turkey.
We will memorialize the Dart in our own way — with an updated long-term review, to run on Monday.
A supercharged Hemi-powered Dodge Challenger covered in mud, complete with off-road tires, has been making the rounds of social media. What’s the story behind it?
Allpar’s Patrick Rall dug deeper, and found that the “RallyCat” is indeed fitted with mud tires in back — and found that the owner hadn’t been pointlessly abusing a rare car. Patrick discovered the back story and the steps the owner has taken to keep the car safe while, yes, running it through the mud. Allpar has more photos and the full story on the supercharged Dodge Challenger “mud car” (click here).
According to the Melbourne, Australia-based Sunday Herald Sun, the legal battle between Jeep’s Australian unit and former executives has ended following a last-minute deal.
FCA Australia had filed a civil lawsuit against former CEO Clyde Campbell, his successor Veronica Johns, and Campbell’s wife Simone. The company said Campbell of spending millions in corporate funds on deals with friends and former colleagues, including a brand ambassador contract with former Miss Universe Australia Jesinta Campbell (in photo above).
The case had been set to open yesterday, but on Sunday, FCA said a settlement had been reached, with no admissions of liability on either side.
Jeep is growing in North America and Europe, but sales in Australia have tanked — dropping to 1,028 Jeep deliveries in August of this year, down 40% from August 2015 and down 71% from August 2014.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has awarded FCA US a $4.56 million performance-based grant to hire 700 new workers for the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.
The new hires will be added when FCA begins building the next-generation Ram pickup at Sterling Heights; current workers will also be recalled from layoffs, bringing employment at the plant from 1,846 to roughly 4,600.
FCA’s $1.5 billion plant investment also brought a 15-year tax break from the MEDC’s Michigan Strategic Fund, worth an estimated $11.3 million.
The MEDC is a partnership between the state of Michigan and the private sector dedicated to promoting job creation and tourism in the state.
GAC-Fiat, the joint venture company that will make the Jeep Compass in China, has released the first official pictures of the new generation today. Not surprisingly, it looks the same as the Brazilian version.
IndianAutosBlog, which sent the story to us, noted that there aren’t any market-specific changes they could see. They found the interior to resemble the Cherokee, with a dual-tone dashboard and gloss-black and silver trim. It has the 8.4 inch touch-screen stereo, seven-inch trip computer, keyless entry, and electric parking brake. Chinese engine details haven’t been released yet. IndianAutosBlog has more photos of the Chinese Compass, and Allpar has more photos (and videos) of the Brazilian version.
You can now price out the 2018 Jeep Compass, including the inevitable-under-Fiat “Opening Edition” (it’s in English even on the Portuguese-language Brazilian site), on Jeep’s Brazilian web site (thanks, Karl).
With today marking the first official day of production in Brazil, buyers within that country can already order their Compasses — and the build-and-price system is fully laid out, with numerous photos of each model, shots of the interior and engines, and more information than Jeep or FCA released anywhere else in the world.
Allpar’s 2018 Jeep Compass page has been updated with videos, more photos, and comparisons to the 2014-17 Compass.
The new Jeep Compass will have better off-road clearances, except, ironically, in Trailhawk form, where the two will be similar:
What remains to be seen is whether the suspension articulation for the new Compass will be better than in the old one — and whether the 2018 Jeep Compass is a match for the Rubicon Trail.
See our 2018 Jeep Compass page for more specs, information, and (new) videos.
Jeep today released photos of what it calls the 2017 Jeep Compass, without any details except that it will have a variety of engines, be sold around the world, and be shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The new Jeep should be available in the United States in the first quarter of 2017. We had expected the next Compass to carry a 2018 model year, and suspect that the 2017 Compass label is incorrect, since there is already a 2017 model-year for the current model.
There are few surprises after a recent reveal; the next Compass will sit on the same basic chassis as the Renegade, but may be larger. The engine choices may be the same in North America (1.4 turbo without AWD, 2.4 four with AWD); or it might use the new Hurricane four-cylinder, though this seems unlikely at the moment. A ZF nine-speed is likely to be the only transmission in North America.
For more information and photos, including a picture of the hatch, see our 2018 Jeep Compass page. Update: we now have videos, new photos, and some specs.
As Allpar reported earlier, Unifor, the Canadian counterpart to the UAW, has chosen FCA for the next round of bargaining. Reuters has now said that the union has set a tentative strike deadline of midnight on Monday, October 10.
The union also said that talks would begin immediately since the new contract with General Motors has been ratified. The GM agreement includes a 2% wage increase this year and a second 2% bump in September, 2019. Workers will also get a $6,000 signing bonus, and most employees will also receive annual lump-sum bonuses of $2,000 for the next three years; most importantly, product has been guaranteed for the Oshawa plant. Unifor will be looking for a similar deal with FCA, but will probably have to settle for smaller bonuses.
Today, we look at FCA Musical Factories, focusing on the cars.
Cherokee, Compass, Patriot, and new Chrysler: The new Compass will be made in Mexico, while the Patriot is being replaced by the Italian-made Renegade. This lets the Cherokee can move to the Belvidere plant (which also made the Dart). It may eventually be joined by a Chrysler crossover — longer and lighter than the Cherokee.
C300, Challenger, Charger, new Chrysler, and Pacifica will all stay where they are, in Canada, likely joined in calendar-year 2018 by a Chrysler crossover based on the Pacifica.
C200 and Ram pickups: The 200 was dropped to let Ram pickups can move from Warren to Sterling Heights (and continue in Saltillo, which also does ProMaster vans; ProMaster City is an import). If FCA can’t find a partner to make (and help design) the 200, it may add it back into the mix in Belvidere.
C100, Neon, Freemont, Journey, and Renegade: The projected Chrysler 100 small car would be made in Toluca, Mexico, which now makes the Fiat 500 and Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont. If the Mexican Neon is to be adapted to US sale, its factory is a mystery, but Brazil, Europe, and Toluca are all candidates depending on expected volume. The Renegade (now made in Italy) might join the Compass in Toluca, but its low U.S. sales don’t encourage that now. Once the Patriot leaves, the story may change. The Journey will stay in Toluca through 2018.
Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer, Durango: To stay at Detroit’s Jefferson Avenue plant with Wagoneers and overflow going to Warren, after the trucks move out. Warren isn’t expected to be available until 2018-19.
Wrangler, Scrambler: Moving to the Cherokee’s Toledo plant, with the current Wrangler plant (also in Toledo) possibly doing variants like pickups (let’s say Scramblers) and solid roof Jeeps.
Journey: Moving to Italy when it goes to rear wheel drive around 2018, to the same line as Alfa Romeo Stelvio; its FWD-crossover place will presumably go to a Chrysler.
Jack Beckman took the Funny Wally and advanced four spots in the 2016 Countdown to the Championship this afternoon in St. Louis, Missouri. The Dodge Charger R/T tripped the lights 0.2767 seconds (about 94 feet) ahead of Tommy Johnson Jr., also in a Dodge.
Beckman’s second win of the season was enough to jump him from seventh to third, while Johnson’s second Countdown final-round appearance propelled him up to second, 48 point behind Ron Capps. Dodge drivers are now 1-2-3 in the Funny Car point totals.
Ron Capps, who remains the leader in the standings, got a free pass in the opening round when John Bojec’s Solara had to be pushed away from the starting line. Capps got a second easy win when Courtney Force went up in smoke at the 660-foot mark.
Matt Hagan dropped from fifth to sixth in points when he lost the quarterfinal round to Wilkerson by .0022 seconds, or roughly 13 inches. Hagan shut down Cruz Pedregon in the opening round.
John Hale went up in smoke in the first race of the day, losing to Robert Hight.
In Pro Stock, it was three up, three down as Allen Jonson, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders lost the day’s first three races to Drew Skillman, Chris McGaha and Jason Line. Alan Prusiensky lost to Greg Anderson in the fifth race.
Allen Johnson, the top-ranked Dodge Pro Stock driver, dropped from fourth to seventh in the standings. Coughlin and Enders swapped the ninth and tenth spots.
In a Mopar-Mopar Top Fuel matchup, Tony Schumacher beat Leah Pritchett in the first race of the quarterfinals. Schumacher made it all the way to the Top Fuel final round, where he lost to Shawn Langdon.
Next weekend is the inaugural Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania.
The Mack Avenue Engine and Toledo Machining Plants have gained bronze status in World Class Manufacturing (WCM), bringing the North American bronze total to 19.
Mack Avenue, which makes the Pentastar V6, had been slated for closure when its original engine reached the end of its life. Under Fiat, it was pressed back into active duty.
Brian Harlow, head of North American manufacturing, said that under WCM, and with help from the UAW, “our employees are suggesting process improvements to help eliminate waste, increase productivity and improve quality and safety, which are ultimately making our facilities more efficient.”
Similar programs were launched by Chrysler Corporation in the 1990s, with great success including billions of dollars in savings. WCM was first used by Fiat in 2006 and was brought to Chrysler in 2009. Windsor Assembly, Dundee Engine, and Toledo Assembly have all gone on to reach the silver level.
Ram’s display at an auto show in Germany is testing the waters to see if there is more than a small niche market for full-size pickups.
There’s no doubt the pickup market is growing in the European-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region. Last November, when FCA was launching the Mitsubishi L200-based Fiat Fullback in Dubai, the company told Automotive News Europe that mid-size pickups make up 23% of the industry’s total 675,000 sales in the EMEA region. The Middle East and Africa are the major pickup markets with 58% of the segment’s sales.
Can a case be made for FCA to get directly involved, selling Rams through franchised dealers?
The ProMaster vans would just duplicate the Fiat Professional line, leaving Ram with just pickups and chassis cabs, and some significant handicaps.
In Saudi Arabia, where a Ram 1500 sells for about $32,000 and gas is 90¢ a gallon, a reviewer praised the Ram’s comfort and off-road capabilities, but criticized the fuel economy and said the truck was “way too big.”
Size and mileage limit the appeal of the big trucks in Europe, partly because of smaller street widths and parking spaces. The chart below shows the cost of feeding a big pickup’s appetite for gasoline or diesel in three major European markets.
Even in the most pickup-friendly nations, mid-size or compact pickups are the rule. Ram doesn’t have a mid-size pickup, and with the new Fullback and Strada sold, there’s little incentive to develop one. That’s not even including the upcoming Wrangler pickup, with its more appealing brand recognition, size, and capability.
Most big American pickups sold abroad are either gray market or are imported by distributors not affiliated with the manufacturer. FCA works with these distributors; helping, for example, American Special Vehicles to convert the Ram 2500 and 3500 Laramie to right-hand drive and to get it certified for sale in Australia and New Zealand. This model makes the most sense for the foreseeable future.
Ram is already an international brand: the display in Hannover is best thought of as a promotional event to attract new distributors and new markets.
Unifor, the inheritor of the Canadian Auto Workers, announced today that FCA would be its next bargaining target, with negotiations beginning once its deal with General Motors is ratified.
The union’s chief goal is future investment. Windsor is unlikely to be an issue, but the Brampton plant, where large cars are made, could be. FCA is likely to commit to further investing in the Etobicoke casting plant near Toronto.
The deal with GM involved a half billion dollars of investments, including commitments for the Oshawa plant. Oshawa will get Silverado bodies, with no loss of jobs when the Impala/XTS line stops. In addition, there are promises for the St. Catharines powertrain plant. In addition to jobs, GM agreed to wage increases and a defined-contribution pension plan for new hires.
Until recently, automakers seemed to work harder on boosting highway mileage than city mileage, using aero tricks and gearing. Now, they are spending big money on weight loss and hybrids to gain city mileage. Why?
Aero and gearing work wonders on the highway, but city mileage is far more important to most people in actually using less fuel. While most consumers are attracted by highway economy numbers, e.g. “Up to 41 mpg!,” that doesn’t help much in meeting fuel economy rules.
Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) requirements, which recently began to climb, are based on combined city-highway mileage. The quoted 50-mpg number is a bit of a game, given the huge number of loopholes in the law and outdated, optimistic test methods; but getting to a real combined 30 mpg (which is roughly what “50 mpg” translates to) will still take a good deal of work.
As an example, let’s say you have 35 mpg on the highway; going to 36 mpg sounds good but, for the average driver, that’s around ten gallons of fuel saved per year (which does adds up across a nation). Suppose you add that same 1 mpg to the city rating of, say, 20 mpg; — now we’re talking 29 gallons per year, or three times as much.
This is the reason why every automaker is coming out with hybrid cars, stop-start systems, lightweight materials, turbochargers, and other tricks to help economy. The irony is that investment in these same technologies are likely to boost performance; just as automakers turned to advanced fuel injection, computerization, computer models, and metallurgy years ago to boost mileage and ended up with Spirit R/Ts (and finally Hellcats), these technologies can cut both ways. Cutting weight increases acceleration, all else being equal; advances in turbochargers and superchargers lead to quicker power boosts; and hybrids and electric cars may well be the next step in instant-on performance. It does all come at a price, but that price will likely come down in time, just as multi-port fuel injection is no longer an exotic, expensive add-on.
Ram will have its first-ever display at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Exhibition, a trade fair for commercial vehicles and logistics. The September 21-29 event in Germany marks Ram’s first-ever official presence at a show outside of North America, and is, according to FCA, a harbinger of a greater international presence — as predicted by Allpar. In the past, Ram trucks have been shown in Europe, by importers.
Ram will feature a Hemi-powered Ram 1500 Quad Cab Sport, with an eight-speed automatic transmission and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) setup. LPG is popular in Europe, for increased economy and range, and allows the driver to switch between fuels. Mopar accessories chosen as “commercial-appropriate” include black side steps and a black heavy-duty toolbox; the truck will also have a European-type tow hook and a black under rail box bedliner.
Ram International chief Bob Hegbloom said, “We are using this important show to gather customer and media feedback, and to let them know that the Ram Truck brand is expanding to markets for commercial vehicles outside of North America. This is just the beginning; we’ll continue to unfold the Ram Truck brand plan on a regional basis.”
Rams are being distributed in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa by AK Leasing GmbH and Auto Export Corporation “for the moment.”
Photos are of Ram and Dodge pickups at European auto shows; they were displayed by importers, not FCA.
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