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Dodge defines itself

by David Zatz on

After one hundred years, the Dodge brand has issued a definitive vision of its future, and it’s about as far from its origins as it can be.

A recent press release stated, “With the purification of the brand and consolidation with SRT, Dodge is getting back to its performance roots with every single model it offers.”

When Dodge gained its “performance roots” is a matter of opinion; the early Dodges were slow, even by the standards of the day, but sturdy and relatively safe. The first “fast” Dodges came with the Hemi engines, but they were kept below Chrysler levels. In reality, Dodge’s “performance roots” probably began with the 1956 Dodge D-500 package.

The press release continued, “Dodge is the ‘mainstream performance’  brand … SRT is positioned as the “ultimate performance” halo…”

This slots Dodge right in the position John DeLorean put Pontiac into — a position Pontiac had never been in before. Under Mr. DeLorean, the “old folks’” brand became GM’s performance brand, and sales skyrocketed. Pontiac was finally shut down after years of cars whose main differentiator was extra body cladding, followed by a relatively brief “clean look” period.

When Fiat first took over, leaders said they intended for Dodge to be a modern sports-car brand, emphasizing handling; this approach, used by the Dart, did not work, but the 707-horsepower Hellcat Hemi has garnered a great deal of attention and interest from potential buyers. As a result, it appears that Dodge will be aiming at traditional American views of sporty cars.

The strategy could backfire in years when gas prices zoom upwards, but not if Dodge is counterbalanced with Chrysler on the economy side, and resists the temptation to buy sales with economy cars. Over ten to twenty years, if the company sticks to the strategy, Dodge may find itself with a clear reputation among buyers, and a larger hard core of return customers.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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