There's no two ways about it: the Dodge Dart isn't selling.
Just a year after its debut -- a debut heralded loudly throughout the automotive world -- the Dart's sales were pretty dismal. Many of you vented about the compact model, complaining about things as varied as its so-so looks to its iffy ancestor.
Yesterday, Chrysler released sales stats for March, and on the whole, they looked great. Fiat and Jeep had their best months ever*, and Chrysler hadn't seen a March that strong since 2007, before the Great Recession.
But tucked away at the end of the announcement were figures for each Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, and Ram model. Unfortunately, the Dodge Dart was almost at the very bottom of the barrel -- in fact, the only thing that saved it from the lowest rung was the recently discontinued Dodge Avenger, which sold more units than the Dart but lost ground compared to 2012.
All told, Chrysler sold 6,135 Dodge Darts in March, 24 percent below March of 2013. In the first three months of the year, customers bought 16,074 Darts, 30 percent fewer than they'd bought by March 31, 2013. A few weeks ago, Chrysler laid off 325 employees who assembled the Dart, due to the model's slumping sales.
But then, the Dart isn't Chrysler's only problem child. In fact, nearly every car in the company's lineup was down for March and for the year. For example:
Fiat 500: 13 percent below March 2013, 12 percent below Q1 of 2013
Chrysler 300: 6 percent below March 2013, 19 percent below Q1 of 2013
Dodge Challenger: 20 percent below March 2013, 24 percent below Q1 of 2013
By the end of March 2014, Chrysler had sold 20 percent fewer cars than it did in the first three months of 2013. The only car to come out ahead was the Dodge Charger, which had sales 15 percent above March of last year -- though looking at the entire first quarter, even the Charger was off four percent.
Trucks and SUVs were a different story. On that front, sales were up 30 percent for the year, and March rang in a whopping 34 percent above March 2013, thanks in part to strong performances by the Ram pickup, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Dodge Caravan.
All of which raises a very important question: can Chrysler truly compete in the car business? Or should it can cars altogether and focus on what customers seem to want: pickups, SUVs, and vans? Share your own thoughts/feelings/hopes/dreams in the comments below.
* Though sales for the 500 were off, in raw numbers, Fiat sold more vehicles in March than it had in other months, thanks to the Fiat 500L.