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Caliber production ends

by Bill Cawthon on

The Caliber has joined the Nitro and Dakota: production of the junior Dodge ended last week at the Belvidere Assembly Plant which will be switching over to the 2013 Dodge Dart.

The much-maligned Caliber had a very strong start and quickly became one of Chrysler’s best-selling passenger cars, reaching peak sales of 101,079 in 2007. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent the Caliber was a victim of Daimler’s increasing desire to be rid of Chrysler: poor, margin-driven, management decisions had produced an underpowered vehicle built with components that were all-to-obviously selected based only on price. By the end of 2010, Caliber sales had plunged 55.4 percent and Sergio Marchionne had designated replacement of the Caliber to be a priority.

The saddest part of the story is the “could-have-been.” In theory, the Caliber should have been a good vehicle: the concept was right; good ingredients were available and there was certainly no lack of engineering talent. But all of the corner-cutting and the incredible management arrogance in Stuttgart produced a vehicle they deemed to be “good enough” but really wasn’t. From the beginning, the Caliber was handicapped by a variety of issues, including Chrysler’s lackluster interiors and poor fit and finish.

Cerberus’ indifference built on Daimler’s neglect and the Caliber never got the upgrades that could have made it more successful so now it has driven off into the sunset to join the other “could-have-beens” in automotive history.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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