Why Marchionne is all smiles about Dart's start

Chrysler's plant in Belvidere, Ill., is building about 60 percent of the Darts with automatic transmissions. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

During a Q&A session with reporters on Tuesday, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne fielded questions about the economic problems in Europe, the struggle to meet the new U.S. fuel economy standards and other topics he half-jokingly said would raise his blood pressure.

But when the conversation turned to sales of the new Dodge Dart, Marchionne was all smiles.

And why not?

After selling 202 in June and 772 in July, the company expects to sell 3,000 in August and substantially more in September.

Marchionne got into a little good-natured dialogue with Dodge Brand CEO Reid Bigland, who noted -- not immodestly -- that the company is posting month-to-month gains of more than 300 percent.

Bigland: I'm not promising that until perpetuity.

Marchionne: What a wonderful idea!

Bigland: We'll need another plant.

Marchionne: I'll build you a plant!

Yeah, right. That remains to be seen.

By the way, Bigland said Dodge dealerships have about 7,000 Darts in inventory, and the average turn is just eight days. He also said the one and only factory in Belvidere, Ill., is building about 60 percent of the Darts with automatic transmissions.

No wonder Marchionne was smiling.

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