As Chrysler released its first images of the new 2013 Dodge Dart subcompact, CEO Sergio Marchionne indicated that the automaker believes the car's fuel efficiency will be certified at 40 mpg or more by the end of the month.
Speaking to Reuters in New York on Tuesday, Marchionne indicated that Fiat SpA could soon receive its final 5 percent ownership chunk of stock, bringing the Italian automaker's share of Chrysler Group to 58.5 percent. The remainder of the company is held by the UAW's retiree health care trust.
Fiat's ownership stake in Chrysler Group would increase "after the last dilution event, which will happen hopefully this month," Marchionne said in the interview.
Under the agreement that allowed it to emerge from bankruptcy protection in 2009, Fiat will receive the final 5 percent of stock when it has certified a vehicle that will be built in the United States and that has achieved an unadjusted fuel economy rating of at least 40 mpg.
The 2013 Dart, which will be assembled in the first half of 2012 at Chrysler's Belvidere, Ill., plant, will have a variety of four-cylinder engine options, including a new, improved version of the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter World Gas Engine known as Tigershark. It also will be available with a smaller, more fuel efficient 1.4-liter turbocharged FIRE engine that also powers versions of the subcompact Fiat 500.
The Dart will debut with a Fiat-derived 6-speed dual-clutch front-wheel-drive transmission but will be available in 2013 with a new 9-speed transmission coming from ZF Group. The latter will be built in South Carolina.
According to ZF officials at a recent event near the plant, the 9-speed transmission could increase the Dart's fuel efficiency by an additional 10 percent to 16 percent over a similar 6-speed dual clutch transmission.
The Dart debuted in 1960 as a small car for the brand, and more than 622,000 units were sold in its first three years of production, according to the Chrysler-centric site Allpar.com. Available with a variety of engines, including Chrysler's popular "slant six," the car sold well throughout its 16-year run and was one of Chrysler's first unibody vehicles.
Dodge last used the name "Dart" in the 1976 model year in the United States, though sales of international versions of the Dart continued until 1981.
The historic Dart came in a wide variety of configurations, from an economy version to high-performance versions called "Swinger" and "Demon" in the early 1970s that featured a 340-cubic-inch V-8.
The 2013 Dart is the first of at least eight upcoming Chrysler Group vehicles that will be built on Fiat's CUSW platform, including the replacement for the Jeep Liberty. The Dart will make its official debut at the 2012 Detroit auto show in January.
The 2013 Dart will compete against such fuel-efficient vehicles as the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus.