Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said today that the Dodge Dart's disappointing-to-him performance in the U.S. should be improved once Dodge gives the compact sedan more powertrain options, and that may include a nine-speed transmission the automaker is developing.
Marchionne said that the automaker used "powertrain solutions that, in today’s world and in hindsight, were not and are not the ideal solution." Dodge started sales with a manual transmission, which few American buyers choose, and then followed that with a double-clutch automatic, which Marchionne described as an approach that is more appealing to European drivers, not U.S. shoppers. The solution, he said, is for Dodge to expand the Dart’s powertrain offerings.
Not that those problems have got Marchionne down on the Dart. "The car is a perfect car," Marchionne said, citing its quality build and high level of content, especially compared to its competitors. "It's the best car we've built, other than the Grand Cherokee."
The successor to the Jeep Liberty will be the first Chrysler vehicle to get that nine-speed transmission in the second quarter, he said.
In other news from Marchionne:
"Alfa Romeo is coming" back to the U.S., he said, but the automaker does not have a U.S.-ready model just yet. "We need to be ready. We're not ready… The car is not where it needs to be before it comes to the U.S."
As for the Chrysler minivan, changes will be coming. Only one brand, Dodge or Chrysler will have a minivan with sliding doors, and the automaker is looking at shorter wheelbase options for a minivan, but that will depend in part on its reception in the European market.