Here's Why Dodge Discontinued The Dart...Twice

Dodge built its first car in 1914 and soon expanded its offerings to include a light truck line, including the nation's first 4WD pickup in 1946. Through the 1960s and '70s came V8-powered road-chompers like the Charger, Challenger, and Demon. But Dodge also has a reputation for retiring badges only to bring them back years later in a different form. The Challenger's second and third generations were separated by a quarter-century, and the Charger nameplate was dormant from 1988 until 2005. Another Dodge model that lived two separate lives was the Dart, which was introduced in 1960 as a full-sized model with the buyer's choice of two V8 engines or the 225 cubic inch version of the bulletproof slant six

Dodge shrank the Dart along with its other full-sized cars in 1962, keeping the original version alive through the 1976 model year, when it was replaced by the Aspen after a one-year overlap. By that point, the oil crisis had begun to push American buyers into smaller cars, and the product line offered by Dodge's parent company, Chrysler, was suffering from redundancy in both form and function.  Dart sales dropped sharply in the mid-'70s, and the badge stayed on the shelf through 2012, when the newly formed Fiat Chrysler built a new Dart on a 'compact wide' platform shared with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Its resurrection failed to keep the Dart off our list of models Dodge should have kept alive, a point reinforced by the Dart's disappointing second life.

The new Dart was a dud

The 21st Century Dart's available powerplants were much smaller than their 1960s and '70s counterparts; Dodge initially offered 1.6 and 2.0 liter four cylinder engines before adding a 2.4 liter 'Tigershark' option. The new Dart couldn't distinguish itself in a crowded compact car segment and failed to crack 90,000 units sold in its best year, 2015. Dodge permanently put the brakes on the Dart that September and repurposed the Belvidere, Illinois, factory used to make Darts to build the Jeep Cherokee. At the time, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that falling gas prices had shifted FCA's focus to Jeep SUVs and Ram pickups.

"I can tell you right now that both the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart were the least financially rewarding enterprises that we've carried out inside FCA in the last eight years," Marchionne said (via Autoblog). "I don't know one investment that was as bad as these two were."

"The Dart was the wrong car, at the wrong time, from the wrong brand," USA Today wrote. "It launched into headwinds that would slow a great car, and the Dart was far from great. It was not the clear leader in any area that drives customer demand."

Considering Dodge's willingness to bring back muscle car models from yesteryear in even more potent forms, perhaps that customer demand could lead to a third life for the Dart in hemi-powered SRT trim, a la the very fast and aptly named Challenger SRT Hellcat.