Chrysler has officially ended production of the Dodge Caliber, the company said last week, ending the line's rocky run and paving the way for the Fiat SpA-designed Dodge Dart.
It's a good, probably overdue decision on their end, said Ivan Drury, an analyst for Edmunds.com, in a phone interview with the International Business Times on Tuesday.
Chrysler put to end a vehicle that had existed only five years. In 2006, the company introduced the Caliber to take over the spot of the discontinued Dodge Neon, and it quickly became an object of almost universal panning by automotive critics.
They compared it to...well, what could they compare it to?
It really defied segments, Drury said. It makes it difficult for the consumer to compare with something else. And that makes it easy to skip for a lot of people.
In the end, it will only be compared to other failed experiments by the Big Three United States automakers in Detroit -- Ford and General Motors along with Chrysler.
The list includes such failed lines as the Chevrolet Cobalt, a compact car for which GM ended production in 2010 to make way for the Chevrolet Cruze. It also includes, in Drury's opinion, the Ford Flex, which is being refreshed and redesigned for its 2013 version. The Ford Flex is another that has never quite fit perfectly along segment lines, as something of a cross between car, truck and SUV.
Drury said he thinks that in the Caliber's case, Chrysler made the right move in discontinuation instead of attempting to redesign and remodel.
Instead of continuing the life cycle or trying to redesign, sometimes the best thing is to remove it from your lineup, Drury said. The vehicle hasn't been too competitive in its segment and it really defied segments.
In its place, Chrysler will produce the Dodge Dart, the heavily anticipated compact that will debut next month at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 9. Chrysler built nearly 3.3. million Darts in the U.S. from 1960 to 1976, but it was discontinued.
This Dart isn't a retro version, though. It is largely designed by Italian company Fiat SpA, which owns Chrysler. The compact car features a sleek design, digital displays, and an aggressive exterior somewhat reminiscent of the Dodge Charger.
Chrysler is looking to build on what has arguably been its best year since 2007. In November, the company posted sales of about 107,000 vehicles, according to Edmunds.com. That marked a near 45 percent increase from the prior year.
Chrysler has recovered quite well since hitting near-rock bottom in 2009. The test on whether they can build on that recovery and be a player in the future, said IHS Automotive analyst Aaron Bragman, is whether Fiat-inspired products like the Dart can succeed.
That'll be a real test to see where they can go, Bragman said in a phone interview with IBTimes. They've recovered. They've survived. They're doing well. Now we're starting to see products that will determine whether Chrysler has a future.