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Can Chrysler Match Japanese Quality?

Taking “Yes” for an answer.

by on Apr.30, 2012

A pair of Dodge Dart bodies roll down the Belvidere assembly line.

It’s one of the industry’s older plants and one that has not had an especially distinguished history.  Not until now, anyway.  But going forward, Chrysler officials are determined to transform their Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant into one of the best in the business.

That can be measured in a variety of ways, of course, and Chrysler clearly hopes to turn the facility, two hours outside of Chicago, into one of the industry’s most productive.  But volume alone won’t matter, cautions Senior Vice President Doug Betts, if the new Dodge Darts starting to roll off the Belvidere line can’t match the quality of the best competitors like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

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“We have to be substantially better” than ever before, says Betts, who built his reputation during lengthy stints for both Toyota and Nissan before joining Chrysler in 2007.  That’s especially difficult he says, as he begins a tour of the Illinois plant, for a company that has long lingered “at the bottom” of the quality charts.

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First Drive: 2013 Dodge Dart

Shifting the balance of power in the compact class.

by on Apr.30, 2012

Coming at you - Dodge redefines the American compact car with the help of its partner, Fiat.

With its unexpectedly strong first-quarter earnings it’s no wonder Chrysler officials have been crowing about the turnaround of a company that was bankrupt just three short years ago.  Those profits have largely been driven by a surge in demand for models ranging from the midsize 200 sedan to the big Jeep Grand Cherokee.  But there’s a gaping hole in the Chrysler corporate line-up that the maker must fill if it hopes to keep that momentum going.

To plug that gap the Dodge division is getting an all-new compact sedan for which the maker curiously decided to revive an old nameplate, the launch of the 2013 Dodge Dart brings back a once-formidable badge last used in 1976.

That means there are perhaps two generations of American motorists who have, at most, vague memories of that nameplate.  As for older Baby Boomers, well, the original Dart was popular enough in its heyday but, like so many American models of the 1970s, it had serious issues by the time Dodge dropped it from the line-up.  So, gaining traction for an all-new Dart will clearly be a challenge, especially with Dodge aiming at two distinctive audiences: young buyers starting up a family and older empty nesters.

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But spending a couple days with several late pre-production models convinced TheDetroitBureau.com that Dodge has nailed the needs of compact customers – enough to pose serious challenges to the segment’s traditional Japanese leaders. That’s especially true when you consider that Dodge will offer five different versions of the new Dart, with six powertrain combinations – including one bumping up to “41-plus” mpg – 14 color and trim packages, three different wheels and 100s of customizable options.

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Dodge Dart Gets First Factory Wireless Charging System

Chevy, other makers plan to follow.

by on Apr.10, 2012

The new wireless charging system that will be offered on the 2013 Dodge Dart sedan.

This story was revised to correct details about the wireless charging system used in the Dart and by other manufacturers.

If you’ve ever tried to charge up your iPhone or MP3 player only to discover the wire is missing, Dodge has a neat solution it plans to introduce with the upcoming launch of the compact Dart sedan: a wireless charge pad.

The system is similar to devices such as the popular Powermat now available for home use.  And several aftermarket suppliers have been offering similar systems.  But Dodge will be the first to offer a factory wireless charging system – with several other makers, such as Chevrolet, ready to follow.

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Technically, the charging system isn’t exactly a factory system.  It’s being offered by Chrysler’s parts and service division, Mopar, and can be installed at the dealership or at home, note our friends at Autoblog.  But as it’s designed specifically for use in the new Dart, that’s a minor quibble.

“At Mopar, we look for every single opportunity to make our customers’ lives easier,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “Our industry-first in-vehicle wireless charging system is the perfect solution for those connected customers who are always on the go.”

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Dodge Darts Into Global RallyCross Series with Travis Pastrana

600 hp, 70-ft jumps and 1.9 sec. 0 to 60.

by on Mar.26, 2012

A rendering of the 600-hp Dodge RallyCross Dart.

Dodge is entering the Global RallyCross Series with a custom-built, 600-horsepower version of its new Dart sedan piloted by X Games legend Travis Pastrana.

The project underscores the increasing emphasis on motor sports at Chrysler, which recently unveiled its 2013 NASCAR entry – although the maker now has to sign up a replacement for the Roger Penske team, which is jumping to Ford for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The entry into RallyCross suggests Chrysler and its Dodge and SRT Motorsports arms are aiming for a more global profile, rallying generally far more popular outside the U.S. – even while adding a distinctly American twist.

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“At Dodge, racing is an integral part of our heritage and embodies our competitive spirit, so we’re very excited to announce the next chapter in racing for Dodge with our all-new Dodge Dart,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO of the Dodge Brand. “The new Dart Global RallyCross Championship car with 600 horsepower and driver Travis Pastrana takes our passion for performance to all new heights.”

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First Look: Dodge Dart

Automaker resurrects an old name for new compact with Italian bones.

by on Jan.09, 2012

The Dodge Dart is the brand's critical new entry in the compact segment.

Two thousand eleven was a huge year for Chrysler, but the automaker knows that it has to fill a huge hole in its lineup to succeed.

With that in mind, the automaker’s Dodge brand resurrected the Dart nameplate, putting it on a new compact which replaces the unloved Caliber in its lineup.

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Dodge President and CEO Reid Bigland said Chrysler increased sales by 43 percent in 2011, the largest increase for any automaker and far above the 11 percent recorded by the industry as a whole.

Dodge leaned on Italian partner Fiat for the the Dart’s platform which comes from Alfa Romeo.

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Dodge Dart Inside-Out

Maker offers an additional peek at new Fiat-based compact.

by on Dec.13, 2011

Dodge plans to give a decidedly upscale look to the new Dart - which will feature a high-tech reconfigurable TFT display.

Preparing for what could be the company’s most important launch since its 2008 tie-up with Italy’s Fiat, Chrysler is continuing to dole out small sugar cubes of images and information about the new Dodge Dart it plans to introduce at the Detroit Auto Show next month.

Those who count themselves part of the Baby Boom generation will undoubtedly recall the original Dart as one of the more popular of Detroit’s compact offerings in the 1960s and 1970s.  The model that will join the automaker’s line-up for 2013 likely won’t ever come close to that model’s popularity but will nonetheless be essential if Chrysler plans to maintain its recent momentum.

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The 2013 Dodge Dart notably will be the first product developed jointly by Chrysler and Fiat off what they have dubbed the new Compact U.S. Wide, or CUSW, architecture.  It will replace the largely forgettable Dodge Caliber, the result of a misbegotten triangle that paired former partners Chrysler, Daimler AG (once known as DaimlerChrysler) and Japan’s Mitsubishi.

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Dodge Bringing the Dart Back

Once-familiar nameplate returns at Detroit Auto Show.

by on Dec.06, 2011

Dodge revives a once-familiar nameplate with the rebirth of the Dart.

A name once familiar to Baby Boomers will be making its return in time for the new crop of Millennial motorists, the Dodge Dart staging its revival at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.

A fixture of the ‘60s, the Dart was one of the more popular small cars in the domestic line-up but steadily lost traction as imports came to dominate the market for compacts.  It was last produced in 1976.  But the Dodge Dart nameplate will be revived for the 2013 model-year as the replacement for the largely unloved Dodge Caliber hatchback.

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The name may harken back to an era of peace, love and 30-cent gasoline but Dodge insists this is anything but a retro-mobile, describing it as “a thoroughly modern vehicle that’s fuel-efficient, beautifully designed and crafted.”

It’s also the first vehicle in the Chrysler line-up to get an injection of partner Fiat’s DNA, or more precisely, the automaker’s upscale brand Alfa Romeo.  The new 2013 Dodge Dart will be based on a Fiat platform “adapted from the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta,” explains an advance release.

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