Without fanfare and without ceremony, without so much as a whimper, let alone a bang, production of the Dodge Caliber has ended.
Probably the last US-designed compact car in production, it had come to symbolise all that was wrong with the American car industry, where Detroit automakers assumed that their entry-level products would be bought by ill-educated consumers who didn't know any better.
The Caliber, launched in 2006 to replaced the even-more-ghastly Chrysler Neon, got stuck halfway between a big hatchback and a small crossover, couldn't fulfil either role adequately and suffered throughout its life from lack of power and lack of development.
Analyst Jim Hall told the Detroit News: “It's the last of the American bottom-feeder compacts. That's what they were. It came from thinking, 'small cars, small profits.'“
“In the case of Chrysler, it started during the Mercedes mismanagement of the company. Then Cerberus got involved and had no idea what they were doing with this car.”
He said previous-generation US small cars such as the Caliber, Chevrolet Cobalt and Ford Focus were now all being replaced by so-called “world cars”, often with a European design accent. When Fiat stepped at Chrysler in 2009, the first thing they did was to start development of a replacement for the Caliber, based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform.
That car has now been named the Dodge Dart, amid rising expectations, and is expected to premiere in 2012.
“I would be surprised if the Dart doesn't come close to tripling Caliber sales in the first year,” Hall said.