CARS.COM — In January, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief Sergio Marchionne said the company would “withdraw” the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans from the market “over a prolonged period of time” as FCA shifts focus to more popular trucks and SUVs. Now we know that “prolonged” means dead by September for the Dart.
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FCA says it will stop Dart production that month at its Belvidere, Ill., plant and spend about $350 million to retool the plant for expanded production of the popular Jeep Cherokee SUV.
The plant also now makes the Jeep Compass and Patriot sibling SUVs. Their production will end in December; a single, Fiat-based replacement model will be built in Mexico.
Deals likely will get better for the Fiat-based Dart through the summer. FCA already trimmed the lineup and cut prices for the 2016 model year and sales incentives are as high as $3,500. Also, there is an offer through Aug. 1 of zero-percent financing for an extra-long 84 months on the 2016 Dart GT model ($23,090 to start with a destination fee). There are plenty of Darts out there, with more than 11,600 showing in Cars.com’s national inventory.
The Dart was unveiled at the 2012 Detroit auto show and generated buzz for its design and interior style. But it stumbled out of the gate as a 2013 model, with production issues that left only manual transmission cars initially available for sale and limited configurations. It never really gained traction in the highly competitive market for compact sedans against sales leaders such as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic or even Detroit rival Chevrolet Cruze. Meanwhile, the popularity of compact cars has declined in the U.S. versus small SUVs. Just 29,079 Darts have been sold this year through June, according to Autodata Corp., down about 41 percent from the same period a year ago.