Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ first jointly designed vehicle, the Dodge Dart, isn’t doing as well as the group wanted to, with sales down 33 percent in the first two months of this year. Consequently, the Belvidere, Illinois plant where the compact sedan is built has sent 325 workers home for a week.
Built on the same architecture as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dodge Dart fell to ninth place among compact cars in the U.S. market this year, from eighth place last year, overtaken by the Kia Forte. The segment’s leader, the Toyota Corolla, saw 50,000 sales through February, compared to Dart’s 10,000.
Chrysler confirmed the temporary layoffs at Belvidere in a statement to Reuters, but did not give production cut figures. The company only said that the layoffs were meant “to balance vehicle supply with current sales demand.” The plant has approximately 4,500 employees.
Some automotive analysts believe Dart sales are slow because the lacks customer awareness for making small cars, while others believe the Dodge model is under-powered. The 2014 Dodge Dart is available with three engines: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 160hp, a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder with 160hp and a 2.4-liter MultiAir 2 TigerShark four-cylinder developing 184hp.
Adding to the sales problem, there are twice as many 2013 models on dealer lots as 2014 models because of a relatively late model year change. As a result, Dodge in February increased the average incentives discount by $400 from a year earlier, to $2,200 per vehicle.
By Dan Mihalascu
Story References: Reuters
Ed. Note: In the Reuters report, Dennis Virag, president of the Automotive Consulting Group in Michigan, mentioned that the Dart is underpowered, which doesn’t exactly hold true, as it only applies to sports versions like the 201hp Civic Si or the 210hp VW Jetta GLI. For example, the Corolla is offered with two 1.8-liter units delivering 132hp and 140hp, while the Civic is available with a 143hp 1.8L regular gasoline engine, an 110hp Hybrid and an 110hp Natural Gas edition.