Skip to main content

The Dodge Caliber meets its demise

While most of the American public was preparing for Christmas last week, the folks who have built the Dodge Caliber for the past 5 years saw the last compact hatchback roll off of the line at the Belvidere Illinois Assembly Plant but sadly – few people other than those who built the Caliber shed a tear over the death of this low priced 5-door.

The Dodge Caliber was introduced in 2006 as a replacement for the popular Dodge Neon. Unlike the Neon, which was offered as a 4-door sedan (and the early generation 2-door coupes), the Caliber was only ever offered as a 5-door hatchback – one aspect which hurt sales compared to the Neon. The Caliber was heavier than the Neon - hurting both fuel economy and performance – and even though Dodge offered R/T and SRT4 versions of the Caliber, the 5-door struggled to maintain the fun to drive reputation of the Neon. Dodge went so far as to offer the R/T in an all wheel drive version but the AWD setup only served to offer more weight and it only came with an automatic transmission, which made the R/T AWD slower than the lower level Caliber front wheel drive models with a manual transmission. Figure, it is hard to market a performance package when it is slower than the base model. The Dodge Caliber SRT4 packed more horsepower than the outgoing Neon SRT4 (a car which dominated the sport compact segment in the US) but due to the increased weight of the Caliber and suspension issues that made them hard to launch, the SRT4 version of the Caliber never lived up to the Neon SRT4.

Performance issues aside, the Dodge Caliber was an entry level model designed and produced in an era where an entry level car with a low price meant that you didn’t get much. As foreign competition put more gadgets and quality into their models now known as the C Segment, the American automakers’ entry level models like the Caliber took a beating with both the media and consumers. The Chrysler Group has since moved away from that design theory with impressive features and quality appointments across the entire brand lineup but the Caliber was packed full of grey plastic on the doors and dash with questionable upholstery choices.

There were originally rumors that production of the Dodge Caliber would end in November but those were proved wrong, with production coming to an end just ahead of the 2011 Christmas holiday weekend. Workers at the Belvidere Illinois Assembly Plant will not have to lose much sleep with the production of the Caliber coming to an end as the sleek new Dodge Dart will join a handful of Jeep models at that build site.

In the long run, the Dodge Caliber did the job of allowing the Chrysler Group to offer a versatile compact 5-door but in comparison to the rest of the industry segment, the Caliber was quickly losing ground to the likes of the Chevy Cruze and the new Ford Focus. The Caliber will officially be replaced by the new 2013 Dodge Dart and based on the teases that we have seen thus far of the new Dart, having an entry level Dodge will no longer mean driving a stripped down econobox. The 2013 Dodge Dart will officially be unveiled next month at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit but for a look at the official company teasers, click here!

Other Chrysler Group News:
Allpar offers a new teaser of the 2013 Dodge Dart R/T
Two new interior teasers of the 2013 Dodge Dart appear online
Another 2013 Dodge Dart teaser surfaces on Facebook
Chrysler CEO: 2013 Dodge Dart will get 40mpg
Chrysler offers first official info and teaser images of the 2013 Dodge Dart