Chrysler’s decision to name its compact Dodge Dart drew plenty of interesting reactions

Article by Christian Andrei, on December 13, 2011

Chrysler Group's new compact will be named the Dodge Dart – a decision that drew plenty of interesting reactions. This name hasn’t been used on a new vehicle since the 1970s. This new sedan, which is set to arrive in showrooms in the spring, uses a Fiat platform. The Dart name was used on a production car that was assembled from the 1960 to 1976 model years. During that period, 3.3 million units were built.

The Dart name had been in use internationally for five more years at least. While many thought that the name still has value, others believed that it has too much baggage.

Wayne Cunningham, automotive reviewer, CNET.com, commented that the Dart name “retained its currency” due largely to hipsters. He thinks that Dodge must have come to the conclusion that the model “still has cachet." Paul Stenquist of The New York Times said that this new model won’t be the “plain vanilla scoop of the '60s that its namesake was.”

Jonathan Welsh, auto reviewer of The Wall Street Journal, said that the Dart had the reputation of being a “grocery getter,” the type that grandmothers, teachers, and the church choir drove in 1974. Dave Zatz, webmaster, Allpar.com, actually likes the Dart name. He said that he appreciates the Darts because their engines didn’t produce blue smoke and its transmissions continued to shift “just fine” even when they got old.

In coming up with the new 2013 Dart, the design team at Dodge made sure to focus on precise craftsmanship and put extra attention to detail to ensure that it would easily catch attention, no matter where it is viewed from. There are for instance the roof welds that are laser-braised, which is a standard feature. Projector headlamps are present as well including the Daylight Opening high-quality metal moldings that come in piano black.

These features are clearly well-crafted and generally seen on models that belong to more expensive segments. With the goal of having a silhouette similar to a coupe, Fiat Group-based Compact U.S. Wide utilized an architecture that had long dimensions and were wide and low. This also resulted in the wheels-out and body-in stance becoming more stable. Having the wheels pushed to as far as possible to its corners plus being able to highlight the formations of the fender resulted in this platform, giving the new Dart that stable appearance.

In addition, this also allowed the design team to get the chance to do what is seen as dramatic sculpturing. For the car’s skin, what the designers did was to visually stretch it over the framework similar to how one would stretch nylon on a normal surface. Head of Dodge Design at Chrysler Group LLC Joe Dehner revealed that being able to design the Dart was exciting. Dehner said that by using an architecture based on the Alfa Romeo, it enabled the team to come up with an exterior that shows excellent proportions as if to tell anyone looking at it that it is fun to drive in.

With the racetrack tail lamps clearly inspired by the Charger plus the smooth crosshair grille and the highlights in piano black, it gives a design that displays performance with the exact amount of attitude, he added. Dehner continued by saying that when the team designed the new Dart, the wonderfully designed and classic vehicles through history served as inspiration. This is because basing on the presence and surface work, each of the models were beautiful, he added, and thus the team knew that there was no need to include unneeded features like jewelry, cladding, or even lines that only confuse those who look at them.

In designing the new Dart, it started with having curves at each angle as well as dynamic lines. Once this was already in place, the design team then added in some of the Dodge attitude. Looking at its face for instance, one can immediately notice the split crosshair grille that is clearly from the Dodge. However for the Dart, it has a smooth and contemporary appearance as if it is floating in the front fascia.

This gives it that full-width face, making it a Dodge. Still on the front, it is not only about visuals but also on functionality as the design makes sure that the air flows smooth around the vehicle, be it above, below, and around, but not sacrificing any of the requirements to cool the engine or even the style. The close-out panel of its lower radiator was placed just under the front fascia and has two benefits.

First it gives the 2013 Dart’s front end a lower look with the second ensuring a curb clearance of 8 inches while still lowering drag. At its rear end, there is the full-width racetrack tail lamp that comes with indirect glow LEDs numbering 152 units. There is also the dual exhaust that has been mounted on its rear fascia, a feature that is exclusive to this segment.

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