Dodge Dart at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show
One of the designers of the Dart was Ryan Nagode, responsible for interiors of the Dodge and Ram Fiat brands (Klaus Busse is in charge of styling interiors for all Chrysler brands, and Ralph Gilles is in charge of Chrysler Group styling). He said that on the Dart, because it was all new, they were able to focus on fluid styling and sculpting the interior. They started with sketches and clay molds for 3-4 months, a step which some companies have dropped, to get the design they wanted. Ryan said, “We had good building blocks,” including Fiat’s climate control system, which, being vertical (Chrysler’s is horizontal) made for a more efficient use of space — allowing the very deep glove compartment.
Ryan said they worked hard on color and materials usage, being expressive in the color schemes; they brought back some grays, but unlike earlier cars, they used gray with bright highlights. With all the various option and styling packages, Ryan said the Dart could hit a wide range, from people looking for something fun and sporty to people down-sizing from a larger car, who might be happier with “more of a tan environment” like the cutaway.
The ambient lighting comes with the 8.4 inch touch screen, which will be optional on SXT (including Rallye) and standard on Limited and R/T. The 7 inch reconfigurable cluster is on the Limited and R/T. Still, even the base SE model has soft touch instrument panel, console lid, and door panels, using 10-12 mm of foam. “That was key — we didn’t want to make the base model feel like a base vehicle.”
As to cost, Ryan said that the key was to lay out what they wanted up front and work on hitting those zones, then spreading the rest of the money as needed. Where they fell short before, he said, was not having a good plan, then wanting to add later. In this case, they had a plan of the things they knew they needed, no matter what.
Reid Bigland said, “There has always been a performance element and always a value element throughout the entire line. I think that Dart epitomizes those two attributes of value and performance. The Dart has 184 horsepower, the power to weight ratio on that car is going to make it very peppy and very sporty, and yet the value of what we put in in the form of interior features, technology, class exclusive integrated dual exhaust, very aggressive aero, all at an entry level price point $15,995, the value is tremendous with respect to the Dart but the performance look and the actual performance feel of the car is certainly there as well. And that’s Dodge. I think that value and performance is what makes Dodge unique.’
“But there are 3 transmission choices, so the manual if you really want that manual feel of the car, the DDCT if you want that connected feel to the car and that is the only transmission that will be made into the 1.4 liter MultiAir turbo. So that’s really the alpha, the European feel, the European transmission with the European engine. And then the standard automatic transmission will be [used in] the 2.0 and 2.4 liter. The manual stick-shift will be available across the entire engine line.”
“We did a lot of research on the name Dart. Interestingly enough anyone that we spoke to that was under the age of 35, we showed them pictures of the 2013 Dart with the aggressive aero, the look, the sportiness and asked them which names they thought fit best. Dart was the overwhelming bulls-eye. These people weren’t very familiar with the 1960-1976 Dart. They were just looking at Dart for matching the design and the aero of the current car. Then on a demographic of 45 and older, there was a lot affiliation with name Dart.
“The affiliation with the name Dart, the original, was very positive. The vehicle had a great run. 1960-1976 sold almost 4 million Darts. If I can get halfway there with this car I would be pretty happy.”
“Dart to this day lives quite large on drag strips throughout North America. A lot of people have a very strong affinity for Dart today, so they too were quite keen on the reentry of the name Dart back into the Dodge portfolio.
“I think the third reason is that we knew when we came out with Dart it would get incremental notoriety for the new compact car and that is one of the reasons why we released the name in December with the first bunch of teaser photos. We didn’t want this car to be all about the name, but we wanted to get that out there and try to create some incremental buzz. I [don’t] think if called the car the Dodge ABC, would it have picked up the same amount of cache as “We are bringing back Dart.” There were 4 million people that had a Dart back in the day and it’s still living on drag strips, it certainly helped to increase the awareness of our new compact car. I am very happy with how it’s played out.
“One thing about the original Dart is that Mopar played a pretty big role. Mopar will play a pretty big role in this Dart too. There will be over 150 accessories in addition to the already OEM original factory customization. I think the possibilities are certainly there to add some Mopar features and content as it gets down the road a bit. Because as you know that history there is rich, there is a lot to deal with.”
Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier added, “The Dart is going to be our perfect canvas with more than 150 accessories. We believe that it is going to be the most accessorizable car in the compact sector, by far. We start developing accessories when the first sketch of the car is available. You need to start at the very early stages. We have an engineering team, a designer for the planners that are working with the product development team since the beginning to make sure that we exploit all the possibilities. On top of that we have intensive benchmark to see what is available in the market; exploring markets that are not typical for a car company.
“For instance, on the Dart we are going to offer what we think is going to be the first wireless phone charger for the car. You just drop your phone onto a mat and you are there. We are expanding the business beyond the traditional accessory business.”
“We start at the very early stages of the development of the cars with a team that is called the serviceability team. The serviceability team is a little sort of a squad that is working with engineering at the very early stages of the development of the car to be sure that every maintenance and repair operation can be performed and executed flawlessly. Little things, like how long does it take to take out the filter, how you access the battery, this kind of stuff. There are occasions where you have to change a bit of metal a couple of millimeters to be sure that the flow of oil can come out of the car flawlessly, this kind of stuff. ”