Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has already laid down some harsh news about the fate of Dodge’s Viper, but the fallout from the brand’s halo car appears to be minimal.
His latest announcement, however, has far greater impact: Dodge’s Dart and Chrysler’s 200 — compact sedans based on the same platform — are on their way out. Marchionne explained that FCA will be shifting focus from sedans to trucks and crossovers, something the consuming public is obviously on-board with, based on how crossovers have been selling.
Though the industry is trending towards fewer sedans, it’s still big news when a major automotive group cancels two core models. “The Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 … will run their course,” said Marchionne, further indicating that they will do so in the next 18 months. For those who were gearing up for the Dodge Dart SRT that would feature all-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine, best to put your hopes in Mazda’s Speed3, Ford’s Focus RS, or Subaru’s WRX STI.
FCA is on record as stating that consumer demand for crossovers is a “permanent shift,” and that low gas prices are equally determined. While it’s possible consumers will be satisfied with crossovers of all shapes and sizes for a good long while, though, there’s no guarantee that gas prices won’t surge as long as the majority of vehicles on the road use that as their primary fuel source.
The good news for FCA brand loyalists is that given Marchionne’s announcement, it’s almost a guarantee that Dodge’s Dakota small truck will make a market re-entry. Also, more hot SUVs and crossovers like Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT Hellcat/Trackhawk will likely be on the way. The uncertain bit is how Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep will retain differentiation if all brands are making trucks, crossovers, and SUVs.
While the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart are assuredly being axed, their places may be filled eventually, as the company has mentioned that it is exploring partnership opportunities to “address compact and midsize car segments.”