Disappointing sales of the Dodge Dart led to a weeklong layoff for 325 employees at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Northern Illinois last week. Chrysler Group confirmed the layoffs on March 3 shortly after releasing depressed February sales figures showing an 11% decline of all Dodge deliveries, and an even worse 37% decrease for the Dart.
Officials at Chrysler used the weeklong layoff to balance lofty vehicle supply with slowing demand. Through the first two months of the year Dart deliveries were down by 33% compared to 2013, and days’ supply has averaged 127 days. These are discouraging figures considering the high expectations Dodge initially had for the all-new Dart when it was introduced in June 2012.
In terms of February inventory, the Dart’s days’ supply declined by four days to land at an egregious 125, a figure more than twice that of the consensus average 60 days considered ideal for cars. As presented in the chart above, the Dart has maintained inventory levels of greater than 117 days for the past five months. Officials at Chrysler used the weeklong lull in Dart production as a tool to balance current levels of supply and low sales demand, because as seen in the chart below, other mechanisms like incentive offers have done little to stimulate sales.
When Dart inventory spiked to 140 days in October, Dodge reacted and increased incentive spending in an effort to goose sales. In November, Dodge grew the Dart’s incentive spending by $942 bringing the month’s average to $2,542 per unit sold. Since this period, Dart incentive spending has averaged $2,260 per month, $505 more than the compact segment’s average of $1,756.
The 2013 Dodge Dart is presently retaining 65.3% of its original typically equipped MSRP, a figure 1.2 points below the competitive set average of 66.5%; this is especially disappointing given that the 2013 Dart was an all-new model. The Dart currently ranks third from the bottom of the pack, only beating out the Jetta’s and Lancer’s segment-worst scores of 63.4% and 60.5%, respectively. The Toyota Corolla with its ancient design and more modern Hyundai Elantra currently rank at the top of the set claiming the number one and two slots with respective scores of 72.3% and 71.5%, or roughly seven points higher than the Dart.
Despite the high levels of purchaser concessions on the Dart over the last four months, sales have not improved and inventory has remained high prompting the weeklong Belvidere Assembly Plant layoffs. While layoffs are never good from an employee standpoint, in this case Chrysler Group acted responsibly. By making the decision to stall production instead of plowing ahead and building cars that they knew would sit on dealer lots, Dodge should be able to pull back on incentives and as such better preserve used price retention. While it’s still too early to know if the halt worked or not, hopefully March’s figures show the Dart’s days’ supply moving in a more positive direction.