Fiat Chrysler repositions ailing Dodge Dart

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is shifting gears on the Dodge Dart by dropping two models and cutting prices for 2016.

The automaker announced the changes on Monday as a way to “simplify” ordering of the compact sedan. Sales of the Dart are down by about a third through the end of March compared to the same time period in 2015.

“We are repositioning the Dart lineup to better align production and dealer inventory with consumer demand and preference,” said Tim Kuniskis, Fiat Chrysler’s head of passenger car brands for North America.

The automaker is cutting models at both ends of the Dodge Dart Lineup. The entry-level SE starting at $16,995 and the top-end $24,395-plus Limited are both getting the ax.

The “new” lineup includes Dart SXT Sport, starting at $17,995; Dart Turbo at $19,495; and $20,995 for Dart GT Sport. That compares to the Dart SXT at $19,395, Dart Aero at $21,095 and Dart GT at $22,095. All starting prices exclude $995 destination charge, taxes, title and registration fees.

The vehicle’s styling remains unchanged. Chrome, Rallye and Blacktop packages are available on the SXT Sport with special exterior and interior cues.

“The simplification of Dart models, coupled with the availability of popular Rallye, Blacktop and Chrome appearance packages across more of the lineup, makes it easier for dealers to order and stock vehicles that customers are looking for,” Kuniskis said.

The changes to the compact sedan come more than two months after Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that the company plans to stop producing the Dart and Chrysler 200 midsize sedan in the coming years to concentrate on production of pickups, crossovers and SUVs.

The Dart debuted at the North American International Auto Show in January 2012 amid high expectations. It was the first all-new vehicle to be collaboratively developed between then-Chrysler Group LLC and its former parent company, Fiat SpA.

The sedan, despite clever marketing campaigns, has failed to make a substantial impact in the compact sedan segment.

The Dart is built at the automaker’s assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

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