Execs unfazed by Dart's slow start
DETROIT -- Top Chrysler Group executives took responsibility for the 2013 Dodge Dart's sluggish sales start but said they have "a lot of levers" available to boost sales.
The Dart compact sedan, developed jointly by Chrysler and Fiat, finished the year with 25,303 U.S. sales over seven months.
Dealers complained last year that the first Darts had only manual transmissions, reducing the number of early shoppers they could take on test drives.
Though a six-speed automatic transmission was available at dealerships weeks later, the optional European dual-dry clutch automatic gearbox in some Dart models did not meet American driving tastes.
Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, in an interview last week, took responsibility for the Dart's launch, saying the powertrain decisions were his.
Bigland: “A lot of levers”
A new nine-speed automatic will be unavailable in the Dart until later this year at the earliest, he said.
"I decided I was going to put a European transmission into the car because I was going to try to teach Americans how to get [better] fuel mileage," Marchionne said.
Dodge brand chief Reid Bigland said Dart sales could be better, but he's not worried.
"I'm OK where I'm at because there are a lot of levers that are available to me to jolt that volume," Bigland said. He said Dart average transaction prices are "just shy of $22,000," and that incentives have been "very conservative."
Bigland urged patience, especially as the newly announced Dart GT, with a more powerful 2.4-liter engine and more standard features, begins production in April.
Said Bigland: "This thing's headed in the right direction, but there are certainly some opportunities to continue that growth and a number of levers that have yet to be pulled."
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