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The Dodge Dart Marks Chrysler's Renaissance

Monday, 30 Apr 2012 | 12:07 PM ET

With a new car and new digs in downtown Detroit, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is engineering a spring renaissance for his company. There is both symbolism and real importance to the bottom line of Chrysler behind these two developments. Together they send a clear message that Chrysler is ready to take the next step from stabilizing its business to growing its presence.

New Dodge Dart:

Chrysler is about to start full production of the new Dodge Dart(26 MPG City/41 highway), which will be crucial to growing sales in the small car segment.

2013 Dodge Dart
Source: dodge.com
2013 Dodge Dart

The Dart will start at $15,995, slightly below Chevy Cruze ($16,800) Ford Focus ($16,500) and Toyota Corolla ($16,130). Pricing is important as the Dart is trying to elbow its way into a very competitive small car segment. A segment where the model its replacing, the Dodge Caliber, was a woeful player in the small car field. Look at the top selling small cars last year and where the Caliber finished.

# 1 Toyota Corolla: 240,259
# 2 Chevy Cruze: 231,732
# 3 Honda Civic: 221,235
#4 Hyundai Elantra: 186,361
# 9 Dodge Caliber: 35,049

Sergio Marchionne is optimistic the Dart will connect with buyers in a competitive small car segment. “The geometry on this car is the best I’ve ever seen,” says Marchionne. The early reviews from members of the automotive press are positive, with the Dart Turbo getting high marks for the power it provides a small car. The interior will compete well in a segment where the automakers realize small cars have to give drivers and passengers a more complete feeling.

Chrysler House

As the new Dodge Dart rolls into showrooms 70 Chrysler executives, including Mr. Marchionne, will be moving into new offices in downtown Detroit. The company will occupy the top two floors of the Dime Building in downtown Detroit and re-name the building Chrysler House. The symbolism behind this move cannot be overstated. While Marchionne will maintain an office at the Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, just outside Detroit, his presence downtown is a shot in the arm for a city struggling to rebuild its image.

Chrysler has embraced the Motor City’s gritty image with the tag line “Imported From Detroit” and Detroit residents have embraced the company. Adding the small presence downtown cements Chrysler’s bond with the city.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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