A Blast From The Past
At the North American International Auto Show, Dodge unveiled the 2013 Dodge Dart. This is not the first time Dodge has returned to a historic nameplate rather than introduce a new name. A few years ago Dodge reintroduced the muscle car, Challenger.
The new Dodge Dart sounds like a great car. It reflects its Fiat connection by using the mechanical platform of a vehicle by Alfa Romeo, a Fiat-owned brand in Europe. This is the first Chrysler vehicle to be built using Fiat architecture under an arrangement that had been expected to yield such benefits when Fiat accepted what was left of Chrysler from the U.S. government in 2009. This Dart is loaded with technology and attention to detail that is not normally found in a compact car.
So why didn’t Dodge use that same level of detail in selecting a name?
I am a huge fan of leveraging brand equity in historic brand names, but why didn’t Chrysler/Fiat use the “first ever car from the Chrysler/Fiat partnership” to pick a new name? Recycling is huge these days, but not when you are breaking out a new venture.
Furthermore, did Chrysler actually do any research to establish the current brand equity of Dart as a name? Or did they just decide to recycle Dart because it had a lot of residual equity?
Consider what they might have learned by conducting some research. In fact, you can do this yourself! Ask a few friends 3 important things they recall about Dart and ask the same questions about Challenger:
Who owned it? What was their ownership experience like? What is their lasting memory of the car?
The answers you are likely to get are as follows:
Who owned it?
Dart = my grandmother; Challenger = my crazy, risk-taking uncle
Dart = she drove it to church on Sunday; Challenger = he drag raced it
Dart = car rusted away in the driveway; Challenger = coolest car ever
Yes, you will see why Chrysler recycled Challenger as a muscle-car name. But you will be shaking your head over why Dart is the name for the new Chrysler/Fiat.
Many who owned an original Challenger still regret the day they sold it. Many who owned an original Dart still regret the day they bought it.
Far better to create a new name rather than to use an old one with baggage like that!