DETROIT -- Chrysler Group has broadcast its first TV commercial for the 2013 Dodge Dart, but the big marketing push for its new compact sedan won't start until September, the director of the Dodge brand says.
And that's OK, because the additional time will give Chrysler a chance to get extra Darts -- including some with automatic transmissions -- onto dealer lots. The first vehicles to arrive all had stick shifts, and dealers say that's preventing some shoppers from taking test drives.
"With the number of models and trim levels that we're going out there with, there is a bit of a staggered launch," Richard Cox, director of the Dodge brand, said last week. "We're making sure that we ensure top quality in all of our vehicles."
Chrysler broadcast a 90-second commercial during Major League Baseball's All-Star game this month and will show 60-second versions in movie theaters this summer. But the big pitch to consumers won't start until there are more vehicles on dealer lots, Cox said.
"We're going a little bit quiet for the time being," Cox told Automotive News. "You're going to start seeing dedicated feature and benefit spots coming on later on, and that will really start ramping up in the month of September."
A third shift of about 1,100 workers started last week at Chrysler's Belvidere [Ill.] Assembly Plant, where the Dart is built alongside the Jeep Compass and Patriot. Chrysler delivered its first Darts to its 2,400 dealers at regional drive-away events in late June and early July, but those initial cars were all red Rallye editions with manual transmissions.
Some Chrysler dealers have told Automotive News that the manual transmission in the first Dodge Darts distributed to dealers has kept some potential customers from taking test drives because they don't know how to drive a stick. Those dealers were eager to get Darts with automatic transmissions to eliminate that obstacle.
A six-speed manual transmission comes standard on the Dart in all of its trim packages. A six-speed dual dry-clutch transmission will be optional with the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; production will begin in August. Dual-clutch transmissions offer better fuel efficiency and movement of vehicle power to the pavement than conventional automatics or manuals.
A six-speed automatic from Hyundai will be paired with other engines, and those models are being produced now.
Cox also confirmed that Chrysler has delayed introduction of the Dart's R/T performance trim level indefinitely. The Dart R/T, which was to be the first use of Chrysler's turbocharged 2.4-liter Tigershark engine, had been scheduled to arrive in dealerships in September.
Cox said the delay was to allow Chrysler to focus its energies on getting other trim levels of the Dart launched successfully, but he would not say whether the delay was because of any specific issue with the Dart R/T.