By Patrick Rall
Shortly after the Dodge Dart was first introduced at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, rumors surfaced regarding a hatchback version being introduced as the Chrysler 100. Over time, those rumors seemed to become more popular but there was never any real proof that the Chrysler Group planned to build a hatchback based on the architecture of the Dodge Dart – until now.
In Europe, the sedan that we know as the Dodge Dart is sold as the Fiat Viaggio and according to Autocar, Fiat will soon introduce a hatchback version of the Viaggio. The existence of the Fiat Viaggio hatchback shows that the Chrysler Group has indeed been working on a hatchback version of the CUSW platform on which the Dodge Dart is built and although there is no proof right now that a 5-door Dart will hit US shoes – the likelihood of the Chrysler 100 hatchback is far better than it was a during prior debates.
Even though the Chrysler Group has worked to remove redundancies within the brands, a Chrysler 100 hatchback based on the Dodge Dart sedan would differ in the basic design of the vehicle while also offering a unique exterior look and interior layout that would be very different than the Dart. The Dart is designed to be a compact sport sedan and the exterior design leaves no question as to the sporty nature of this C segment offering. Inside, even though the Dart is much nicer than previous low-cost compact vehicles from Dodge, the Chrysler 100 would likely offer a far more luxury themed interior where the Dart has a more sport minded design. The higher end Chrysler 100 would also likely demand a higher natural price point than would the Dart and that means more potential for profit.
There is no question that the Chrysler 100 and the Dodge Dart would cater to the tastes of very different buyers so there shouldn’t be any concern about the two battling for attention in the same showroom. The main sticking point right now could be the build location of the Fiat Viaggio hatchback. Fiat builds all of the Viaggio saloons (sedans) in a joint venture plant in China and the Fiat hatchback will also be built in China. On the other hand, the Dodge Dart is built in Belvidere, Illinois so Chrysler would either have to import the Chrysler 100 from China or rework the Belvidere assembly line to build the new Chrysler hatchback. Then again, there have long been rumors that Chrysler would eventually be selling Chinese-built Chrysler Group products here in the United States so the Chrysler 100 could be that vehicle. However, going that route would give the Chrysler 100 the stigma of being “built in China” – a title that many American products look to avoid.