Wednesday, 3 May 2017

They called it the Dart


With production ending almost a year ago, this latest compact car from Chrysler is still fresh in people's minds, good or bad.

The new Dodge Dart debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit, Michigan. Designed to replace the DaimlerChrysler Dodge Caliber, first introduced in 2007, this Fiat Chrysler Automobiles offering was built upon widened and lengthened....


....Alfa Romeo Giulietta chassis.

Over the course of it's short lifespan, the Dart was marketed as four door sedan in no less than six trim levels, starting with the SE, SXT, Rallye (later made available as a package for the SXT), Aero, Limited and finally GT (originally marketed as the R/T, but changed at literally the last minute). Engines would be a 1.4-liter MultiAir® Intercooled Turbo, shared with the Fiat Abarth 500, a 2.0-liter Tigershark® and 2.4-liter shared with the Jeep Cherokee and Chrysler 200 (among others). Transmissions ranged from the Hyundai Powertech 6F24 6 speed manual/automatic and the Fiat Powertrain Technologies C635 Dual Dry Clutch Auto Transmission. All of this was stylishly packaged by Joe Dehner, head of exterior design for Dodge and Ram.

A short list of features includes: back up camera and the large display, a larger interior than outside of the car would suggest, comfortable ride qualities, heated seats and steering wheel options, the list goes on for a bit more.

So, with all of that going for it, why such a short production life?

For one thing, the compact car class is a very crowded market for a new vehicle to try and compete in. Name plates such as Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla have dominated this segment for years so the Dodge Dart needed something to make out stand out from it's peers. It had style that wasn't enough to draw people into the showrooms in droves. It had the largest interior in it's class, but nobody really seemed to notice. It touted excellent handling that only a few appreciated. The Dodge Dart had a lot going for it, just wasn't going anywhere.

It has been reported from June 2012 through June 2016, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold 311,256 Dodge Darts to American customers. By comparison, Honda sold 325,981 Civics in 2014 alone.

One of the issues was The Dart didn't have built-in customer base. If some people had a less-than-positive-experience in the preceding Dodge Caliber or the Neon lineup before that, it was very likely they wouldn't give the Dart a second look. However, some would take a chance and one early complaint was about the transmission, later described by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne as "too European for U.S. drivers." Another turn off was the "Don't Touch My Dart" advertising campaign, where the humor of the moment was lost in very short order. Then, there was the auto journalists and their publications, always looking for the car the Dart wasn't and bashing the product that it was.

Not to gloss over some real complaints from owners, here is a short list that have been recorded thus far. Engine problems, ranging from the engine light coming on for no apparent reason, sudden stalling, faulty sensors, premature ignition coil replacement, poor wiring and a faulty gas cap. Weak suspension system, Uconnect infotainment issues and a brake recall to briefly round things out.

Before I sound like I am defending Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and/or The Dodge Dart, a lot of new vehicles go through a "teething process," especially first year models of a redesign or brand new launch, so The Dart didn't experience anything other marques didn't suffer once or twice during their existence (Ford made a forgettable then, highly collectable now brand called Edsel, just as an example). The Dart also received a stablemate in the 2015 model year, put on a new front clip, revise the tail lights and touch up the interior, you now have the Chrysler 200, discontinued in 2017.


So, the was the short and rather sad story of the Dodge Dart. Only the future will turn these cars in to collector's items or just another faded footnote of automotive history.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Breaking a very old habit


I have reached a point in my life where, well, "enough is enough."

Throughout my driving life, it's mostly been worn out, second hand vehicles with some having pretty serious and/or expensive issues. I had never been in a position to walk into a dealer and say, "I'll take that one," and leave the lot in something more modern and under a warranty of some kind.


Nope, usually I read a classified ad about a cheap vehicle that has been previously loved/hated/flat out tortured and I get that fantastic idea that it will become my new "ideal" vehicle. Time and again, I go check it out, perhaps drive it around the block, ignore some of the issues it may exhibit and buy it, with grand ideas about fixing the minor problems or more ambitious plans about restoring it.

One such recent example was a 1994 Chrysler LeBaron GTC convertible, the day I bought it, the issues and letting it go


Sometimes, I get lucky, like when I drove my well used 2001 Chevrolet Impala for six years of nearly trouble free motoring. I wrote about my experience with this former police car here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3.

Now, I am very tired of this way of thinking and doing things. Fantasies of finding a "diamond in the rough" and not only getting a fantastic deal buying it and having it brought back to showroom condition is nothing more than a pipe dream. I don't have a big shop and all the tools, nor time to do the work myself. The big, fluffy bank account to pay somebody else make a dream become a reality, doesn't and will never exist.

So, it's time to come to terms with my age, time available, financial considerations and the stark realization that sometimes dreams are nothing more than frustrations and limitations, disguised as a good deal waiting for me to come along.


Then again, I could be doing it all over, fooled by a new and shiny package.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Stopping in to say Hi


For those of you who have been following this blog and just happened to notice I stopped posting, sorry about that. Starting a few months ago, my automotive passion decided to take an extended vacation and I wandered off to do other things, mostly unrelated to this particular topic, in the real and virtual worlds.


Game titles like, The Crew, Need for Speed World and others have been put on the backburner, mostly due to real world events that have taken place. The only driving/racing game that has seen any decent amount of action has been Real Racing 3. However, there isn't much to tell, other than collecting the Pagani Zonda R during the 4th Anniversary back in Feburary and still progressing my way through the events.

I have pretty much given up making Real Racing 3 gameplay videos, since they don't quite turn out nearly as good as I hoped (I record them Live on my phone, unlike others who use an emulator on a computer). Still, it's my go-to-mobile game, even after all these years.


In the real world, my family said good bye to an old and faithful friend. After nearly 10 years, we came to the conclusion that it was time to let our 2004 Ford Freestar Sport go. Despite falling out of favor with the public in general, our minivan had proven it's worth by moving us from house to house, city to city and all around the countryside. Doctor's visits, shopping excursions, you name it, our reliable chariot through everyday life.

But, that did come at a cost. To fill up at the gas station was over a $100 touch (Canadian of course), tires would be $200 a piece (should something go wrong and not covered by a store warranty) and it's was losing some of it's spirit, racking up 230,000 kilometers (142915 miles for you other folks) on the odometer.

So, while it still had some life left in it, we made the hard choice to put it up for sale. Less than a week later, I watched the new family drive it away and out of sight, hopefully starting new and happy adventures together. Although I didn't get nearly as emotional as other vehicles that have left in the past, I do feel the van's absence on the inside.


As for the 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E I bought last October, it's still around. However, there have been some not-so-positive findings yet to be disclosed here.