Dodge Dart will have a complex life

The return of the old Dodge Dart nameplate for the 2013 model year will be a big deal for the Chrysler-Fiat partnership.

It gives Dodge a serious compact-segment product beside big-volume contenders like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

But it also represents a modern-era challenge for Chrysler, the manufacturer, and Dodge, the brand.

Dodge says that with the Dart's three engines, three transmissions, 12 exterior colors and 14 interior colors, there will be more than 113,000 different build configurations on the car.

That's a lot of potential complexity, and it is not the direction the industry has been moving of late.

By comparison, Volkswagen planners worked hard to limit their new Passat to just 15 possible equipment configurations. When paint variations are multiplied in, the Passat increases to around 150 configurations, give or take.

People like choices, up to a point. But a telephone directory worth of choices can also confound production planners and confuse customers.

A wide array of packages can mean a wide array of prices -- which can also confuse customers.

And puzzled customers often show up in brand satisfaction surveys.

All this aside, Dodge has a stylish new car to sell. But the network will have to retail it with care.



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