Could Dodge’s Death Be Only a Matter of Time?
When you look at what Dodge has coming up for 2020 and onward, it doesn’t look like FCA plans to invest heavily in reviving the brand. By 2023, there’s a decent chance that Dodge will be no more. Dodge could be the walking dead.
Since FCA broke Ram trucks away from the Dodge brand in 2009, it’s eliminated Dodge models one by one. What’s left doesn’t appear in product forecasts indicating future manufacturing obligations for assembly plants, as Automotive News reports.
Dodge Doesn’t Make These Anymore
Dart, Caliber, Magnum, Caravan, Viper, Avenger? They’re all gone. Nothing has come forward to replace them except for the Chrysler Pacifica, which handles the Caravan’s former role. So, what is left?
Charger, Challenger, Durango, Journey. Let’s look at what’s planned for these last of the Dodges before it’s dead.
Based on the old Avenger platform from the early-2000s it has been cut down to two models in anticipation of being dropped completely after 2020. So, drop another model from Dodge’s portfolio.
According to product cadence charts, there is a “refreshed” Durango hitting some time in 2023. With Jeep and Ram able to fill any gap left by the demise of Durango, we’re not sure there’s a reason for development capital to make a similar Durango when “Jeep” or “Ram” badging means a sure sale.
A “refreshed” Charger is listed for 2023, but Dodge has also updated the Charger many times since it went on sale back in 2005. As for a full redesign? We haven’t heard anything.
Like the Charger, a “refreshed” Challenger is listed for 2023. Visually, the Challenger has changed even less over the years than the Charger has.
Only a “full-size Dodge crossover” is listed in the company’s future plans for 2022. If both the Chrysler and Dodge brands slowly fade from memory with the absence of a full portfolio and lack of new car buzz this seems like a waste of development money when again, FCA could funnel those funds into a similar Jeep or Ram.
Is Dodge Really Dead?
Do you get the feeling that by pushing off refreshed models further down the road FCA buys time to slowly envigorate Ram and Jeep. That way, by the time it announces the discontinuation of Chrysler and Dodge dealers will be less likely to care. After all, most all of FCA’s dealers sell Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, and Jeep together. If you sold all four would you care about an overlap of Chrysler or Dodge models?
One of the biggest challenges to dropping a marque is dealer contracts with the manufacturers. These contracts vary from state to state. Essentially, it makes things extremely difficult for manufacturers to drop a marque without violating the terms of these contracts.
When GM announced in late-2000 it was dropping Oldsmobile in 2002, there were still lawsuits pending 10 years later. By “dualing” the FCA brands together over the years as it has done it largely avoids the Oldsmobile debacle.
In 2009, in the aftermath of its bankruptcy, FCA closed over 2,500 dealerships. This left gaps in the geographical coverage of the popular Jeep and Ram brands. So, in late-2016 FCA offered more Jeep allocations to dealers who invested in “stand-alone” Jeep stores. It was an incentive to break away from the three other brands but also to give more coverage for Jeep sales.
This was also when Ram broke off as a stand-alone brand. It was a smart way to slowly ramp up Jeep and Ram products while getting time for FCA to eyeball Chrysler and Dodge to see how they fared in this post-bankruptcy aftermath.
This was also when Fiat and Alfa were going to be part of the mix. As can be seen, both Jeep and Ram have succeeded and continued to grow while Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat, and Alfa continue to lose sales year-over-year. Not only does Dodge look dead but so do Fiat, Alfa, and Chrysler in the US.
If You’re Not Ferrari or Maseratti Niche…
If you don’t think Dodge is dead think about this; Dodge has continually lost market share over the last decade, averaging 2.5% now. In 2008 its share was almost 6%. Dodge and Chrysler are slowly becoming niche brands, and for a company as large as FCA, if you’re not Ferrari or Maseratti niche, are you worth keeping?