The Dodge Dart made an unexpected comeback earlier this month at the Detroit Auto Show. From the first magazine advertisements to the live roll-out in Detroit this year, see for yourself how the Dart has changed over the years and then take a moment to tell us if you think the new version of the car will find favor with American car buyers.
Market Watch: Old Favorite, New Design
Automotive reporters and bloggers from Fox Business News
to The Wall Street Journal
weren’t the only ones scratching their heads this month when Dodge unveiled the seemingly forgotten Dart at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.
“The early-1960s convertibles were kind of cute and I’ve always loved the speedy 1968 Dart GTS with its screaming 340-cubic-inch V8,” wrote WSJ “Driver’s Seat” columnist Jonathan Welsh. “But for the most part Darts were known as the conveyance of chatty aunts, elementary-school teachers, librarians and nuns.”
The 2013 Dodge Dart
is billed on the company’s website as “The Ultimate Combination of Power, Efficiency, Technology, and Style”. Instead of resurrecting a new-styled design version of this recognizable classic — think of the “newstalgic” versions of old favorites such as the Shelby Mustang, Camaro, and Charger — the Chrysler-Fiat marriage has produced a technologically advanced, fuel-efficient compact car that bears no resemblance to its former self.
Why some flagship American car models endure and others fail is anyone’s guess. Remember Pontiac’s 2004 failed attempt to bring back the GTO? How these vehicles are marketed to the public is arguably as important as how they perform. Take a look at the many faces of the Dart over the years and then tell us what you think.
Head on over to the Historic Vehicle Association’s Facebook page
and weigh-in on your opinion of this new “classic.” Do you think Dodge is on the right track? Does this new version of an old American favorite resonate or fall flat? And for those of you who do not use Facebook, please take a moment to log your opinion in the comment section below.
1960: America’s Fabulous New Economy Car
Upon its initial release in 1960, the Dart was marketed as a family-friendly, economy vehicle — a wholesome hold-over from the preceding decade, one that would soon fade with the advance of more male focused, Mad Men-style marketing that gained traction as the 60s wore on.
1962: A New Breed
Two years old and already a shift in marketing tack, the Dart began moving away from the family-friendly wholesome image displayed in its initial launch and into a more aggressive, male-directed approach, replete with excessive exclamation points and enhanced photography giving the feel of extreme forward motion.
1963: A Fresh New Compact
Retreating a bit from the rather aggressive approach taken in 1962, Dodge once more marketed the Dart to American families in 1963, albeit a much more modern incarnation that embodied a lifestyle more so than an ideal as used in the original 1960 promotional materials.
1967: Revolt Against Kiddy Compacts
Tapping into the cultural zeitgeist (“revolt” and “rebellion”) and courting the burgeoning youth market in its target demographic approach, the marketing pendulum again swung away from family in 1967 with a much more hyper-stylized and sexualized promotional effort for the Dart.
1970: Swing Time
With the end of the 60s and the “me-decade” dawning, all pretenses were dropped and the Dart was marketed to its target demographic — men interested in speed, performance, cool, and an idealized lifestyle that continues to resonate among collectors and enthusiasts today.
1971: Strictly For the Young
Once more pulling back from the slightly aggressive branding of 1970, 1971 saw the Dart’s advertising focus shift again to a more sporting and active social — namely a growing demographic of singles and young couples into having a good time.
1973: The Car With Everything
With its target demographic slowly maturing into adulthood, marketing for the Dart began a slight return to family — an approach similar to that of the 1963 model, yet updated ever-so-slightly to reflect the new, cool family of the 70s.
1976: Just A Car
Finally abandoning the family and the single male in 1976 — the last production year for the Dart — the marketing approach seemed to suggest the vehicle was only a means to an end. We’ll get you where you want to go, but that’s about it. The life of the Dart had seemingly come to an end with advertising that lacked spark, as if the car were saying to anyone still around to listen, “My days of fun are over. I’m getting too old for this. You kids go run along and play without me, I’ll just wait here for you until you get back.”
2012: Shattering Misconceptions
The new Dodge Dart makes it live debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. With an aggressive new approach, the 2013 Dodge Dart has taken a page from its marketing playbook of nearly 50 years ago to try and win back the followers it attracted during its halcyon days. Will this new, revamped version of the Dart hold up over time and be seen as a worthy legacy? Or will it simply fade away, a relic of an age in which nostalgia was king and permanence and longevity non-existent?