January 10, 2012
Car reveals at auto shows invariably involve lots of bells and whistles — and hype. There are huge expectations that some auto makers easily meet or even exceed, but for others, their new product just falls flat. That was the case with two highly-anticipated new offerings unveiled during the press days of the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which began Monday.
Related: Detroit Auto Show: Small Cars Are Sexy Again
2013 Dodge Dart
The Dart is the first significant offspring of the merger between Chrysler and Fiat. Dodge CEO and President Reid Bigland acknowledged that the division has lagged in the compact car segment, which he says represents 15 percent of new retail vehicle sales in the U.S. Calling the 2013 Dodge Dart "groundbreaking," Bigland says it will get 41 miles per gallon and is packed with plenty of high-performance attributes that will start at just $15,995. But instead of a revolutionary design, it looks very much like a retread of former Chrysler sedans – not the best strategy when there’s tough competition from small, more enticing imports. Fiat scored with its perky Fiat 500, and since the Dart was based on a Fiat platform, it's surprising that the company couldn't turn up something more exciting.
Ford 2013 Fusion
After Ford's bold and captivating design in the Fiesta, I was expecting a similarly exciting approach in the "fresh face" it promised for the Fusion, which will be available with either an advanced Ecoboost engine, as a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. But the innovative power train offerings don't compensate for its rather staid look, which is similar to older versions of the Focus. It's hardly the sort of new vehicle you would expect from Ford — which is clearly at a high point — these days. You would walk right by it, unnoticed, in a parking lot. While companies like Honda, with a reputation of quality and durability, might be able to get away with dull designs, Ford needs to step it up in this category.