Dodge Demon Looks to Liven Up Geneva
Geneva Concept Being Primed for Production
We’re not at the Geneva auto show this year, but that won’t stop us from bringing you some of the notable news, including a two-seat roadster concept from big, brawny, tough Dodge.
Dodge has the Viper to take care of its serious sports car image and the upcoming Challenger coupe (and likely convertible) to attract the mid-size Mustang-ready buyers, but they’re considering another relatively low-volume, high-image vehicle at the bottom end. Though this program may not see the light of day, industry rumors and speculation promises that it will be strongly considered and fought for.
Dodge Styling Exercise Demonizes a Roadster
The Demon concept in Geneva is the styling exploration for an answer, while the engineers, marketers, and bean counters try to find a business case and real platform. The concept also did not have a completed roof system, though Dodge said if it were built, it would stick to a conventional soft top.
The interior stayed true to the idea of a functional, clean interior. The mostly corporate parts bin controls were laid out attractively. It has a simple, easy-to-use layout, required for such a small space. Perhaps Dodge learned from Pontiac’s mistakes with the packaging and stayed focused on keeping it as easy to use everyday as is the Mazda. Based on the presentation and photos we’ve seen, the concept interior successfully manages the limited space that is the penalty for a small, two-seat cockpit.
The nose scales the Dodge crosshair grille down to size, but it’s plenty big enough to dominate the front of the vehicle and let you know it’s a Dodge. The Demon looks muscular, American, and Dodge. And if the bold Dodge grille isn’t enough to let you know this is serious, there are vents in the rear fenders for cooling the brakes and the hood dips into the area typically owned by front fenders and also has two centered air intake scoops. The taut, crisp look of the bodysides calls the BMW Z4 to mind. The nineteen-inch wheels fill out asymmetric wheel arches; the wheels have a solid, industrial look to them, but the shape of the arches is just odd.
Mazda’s Miata Still Inspires Dreams and Competition
At a background presentation ahead of the formal Geneva reveal, Chrysler Group design leader Trevor Creed was not shy about sharing that the Demon benchmarked the Mazda Miata in size, balance, and general approach. But MX-5’s base price has nudged to about $21,000, and Pontiac’s Solstice comes just above the MX-5. Ticking options gets you to $25,000 easily for either car, and some question whether or not these are affordable any longer.
So Dodge uses the Demon to ask: Can we do a small roadster that would start about $15,000? Is there enough interest out there to support it? Among the hurdles, even if the public loves it: Demon is on a purpose-built platform and there isn’t one in the back of the shop to use. Meeting the cost target will be very difficult.
Chrysler Group has not had a strong record for launching halo vehicles at the price promised, though the volume products of late present solid value, and $15,000 is an ambitious target. We’ve heard plenty of people say, “I’d buy a $15,000 roadster,” whether they mean it or not. It’s an idea you want to love. But it remains to be seen if Dodge could make the target. Dodge can ill afford to lose money on vehicles at this stage of the game.
Can Dodge Take on Miata 20 Years Later?
Assuming a 2009 calendar year sales start, Demon would be on sale nearly twenty years after the first-generation Miata. Miata’s success revived an American interest in top-down driving and in whole or in part sparked entries including the Audi TT, the BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK, Honda S2000, Porsche Boxster, the 2000-05MY Toyota MR2 Spyder, and more recently the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
There is always room in the automotive landscape for great products, and they can steal sales from established players. But sixteen years seems late to recognize that there is a niche market for small roadsters, much less to refer to that market as “relatively untapped,” as AutoWeek‘s February 26, 2007, issue quotes Trevor Creed as saying.