Marchionne says Dart's slow start due to transmission availability
DETROIT -- Sales of the 2013 Dodge Dart have been slow because the car didn't launch with the transmission it should have, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said this morning.
Speaking to journalists at the Detroit auto show, Marchionne said Dart sales were hampered because only manual transmissions were available at first, with a six-speed automatic sourced from Hyundai serving as a stopgap until a promised nine-speed automatic is available.
Launched late last spring, the Dart was the first Chrysler Group vehicle to ride on a Fiat platform and the first to be jointly developed by the two partners. Chrysler originally intended the car to come with a high efficiency nine-speed automatic, but the transmission wasn't yet ready. Similarly, Marchionne said, a dual dry clutch automatic on some Dart models may be too European for American tastes.
Asked of his impressions of the Dart's first months on the market, Marchionne said it had gone "not as well as I wanted, and it's for the fact that I think that the powertrain solutions that were made available for that car are, in today's world and in hindsight, not the ideal solutions for that car and that segment."
"You're going to see our resolution of this issue when we launch the Liberty successor," which will come equipped with the nine-speed, the Chrysler chairman said. The nine-speed will come to the Dart, but only as Chrysler's production capacity for nine-speed transmissions grows.
Marchionne defended the Dart, which finished the year with 25,303 sales over a seven month period, saying that the car offered more high-end options and standard features than its segment competitors, but at a lower cost. The Dart's pricing and margins were acceptable, he said.
Marchionne also discussed other products in Chrysler's lineup during the hour-long press conference. He said a coming small Jeep that will be made in Europe and share a platform with the Fiat Punto will be available in the United States, but not in numbers to justify making it domestically.
He also said that the five-year product plan that Chrysler laid out in November 2009 has been amended to allow the automaker to focus resources on products that are more likely to deliver more profits, such as the re-engineering of the Jeep Grand Cherokee for the 2014 model year.
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