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Lamenting the Dodge Demon ...

DodgeDemon1 Submitted by Dale Chang

Since the Dodge Demon hasn't hit the production floor, let alone the showroom floor, lamenting its demise might seem a bit odd. However, there was so much promise in the Demon's design concept, and it seemed so perfect a candidate totransition into a production vehicle, I couldn't help but keep an eye on its development. Its clean, muscular lines, light weight, rear-wheel-drive chassis, and a surprisingly understated interior made this little roadster less a concept vehicle than a pre-production mock-up. Or so it was assumed by everyone at the time.

According to Autoweek, last year Tom Lasorda of Chrysler indicated that in order to "broaden its global appeal" and meet stricter emission standards all in one fell swoop, Chrysler would base the Demon production vehicle on a Chinese front-wheel-drive platform designed by Chery.

Someone please explain to me the logic in this.

DodgeDemon2 Most American automakers already suffer from the stigma of poor build quality when compared to the more prominent European and Japanese brands. Over the past decade or two, most of them have put in effort in their engineering and advertising to dispel the notion. Why, then, would Chrysler decide to base a high-profile car on a hinese FF platform plagued by similar quality control issues? And why shift it to a front-wheel-drive platform?

After all, this is a segment that would put the Demon in direct or indirect competition with cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Toyota MR Spyder, the Honda S2000, the Porsche Boxster/Cayman, the Audi TT, and the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. Not all of these fall into what would have been the Demon's price segment, but the MX-5 Miata, in particular, is praised not simply for being affordable, but fun and well-built.

Remember when the Chrysler Crossfire was first marketed to the public? It was well-received, if not universally adored, and I seem to recall a few automotive journalists comment on the similarities between it and the Merceds-Benz SLK with which it shared many parts. It was a quality vehicle with a solid build and presented itself as a slightly less expensive, American-badged alternative to the German counterpart. Let that be the guide here--inexpensive is a worthy goal, but cheap is not the way! Why ruin a promising concept with cheap execution?

--Dale Chang


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Full disclosure - Dale sent this in some time ago, and its posting was delayed by a faulty memory unit on the part of this blog's administrator.

I agree with Dale that this appears to be a classic missed opportunity. Why come out with a car like this and then make it uncompetitive?

I'll disagree on the Crossfire front, though. I never cared much for the original M-B SLK, and while the Crossfire was an interesting exercise in Machine Age detailing on a modern car, it was hard to love.

We almost need a database to collect all the ideas gone wrong. Chrysler - OMG - what's wrong with those guys. I really thought that when Benz took them under it's wing that they would turn around. You know get a bunch of smart totalitarian germanic types running the show and it has to get better. Their collective IQ must invariably go up. But it seems like dumbness and stupidity at Chrysler are completely virulent, and fully resistant to smart-IQ-antibodies injected into to the system. I'd go on about drooling knuckle-draggers who run the show, but what would be the point. I guess all we can say is that innocent people's jobs are on the line and i guess that's the narrowest justification for a bailout.

I'm with you Chris on the Crossfire, for me it was a misfire. A tarted up retro-mobile for a very specific income and demographic. (that's just my prejudice speaking, cars should have roll cages not cup holders, imho).

That said the Demon shown here looks pretty good - especially from planet Chrysler. To my eye it is taking cues from the Nissan Z (back) and some of the BMW roadsters (front). The virus must have rejected it. There are people who will only date people who are bad for them or ruin their lives. These same people often reject those who would actually be good for them. It's often based on a neurotic or dysfunctional view of themselves and their self-worth. Poor self-esteem drives them into horrible relationships. I have to assume that aside from having too many morons running the show, selecting a platform like a Chinese front-wheel-drive platform for this car must be something like a neurotic episode in bad self-esteem. Chrysler needs more than a bail out, they need therapy and some meds - really strong meds.

I'm sad that this car didn't make it to production. Maybe a "Baby Viper" was just not meant to be. But this car looked like something that could have put some cash into Chrysler's pockets. And that's something they could sure use about now.

Dear Chrysler:

The strategy of making a "cheap" small car has been tried before. Please click on and read our article on the Kaiser Henry J. We ran it during "Epic Fail Week." That should be a hint as to how the story turned out.


Cookie the Dog's Owner

Related issue: the BEST concept that Chrysler never built:

$14,500. Turbo 4 banger. RWD. No stereo. 250hp.

Man, I wanted one so bad.

@Cookie - IIRC, the K cars were also pretty cheap, and they saved the company. Of course, Lee Iococca came up through the engineering ranks at Ford; he wasn't one of these marketing geniuses who know nothing about how cars are supposed to work. Maybe the way to save the auto industry is to put the engineers in charge.

@SP: The K-cars were inexpensive, and efficient, but the build quality and the engineering were good enough. Not the greatest, but as good as they needed to be. The Henry J was cheap, as in "not as good as it needed to be." I don't know a whole lot about the Chery platform, but it sounds to me like something more toward the Henry J end of the scale.

A great body and snazzy interior may hide a weak platform... for a while.

While I basically agree with Cookie the Dog's Owner, I'm not sure Crysler has much to lose.
A stylish, fun, sporty less expensive small car could be a winner.
Think of it as a "Hail Mary"...
It doesn't often work (see Studebaker's Avanti...), but sometimes it does.

The trouble with the Demon, at least from ChryCo's perspective, was that there was no other platform that it could get parts from. Basically, they'd be implementing and building the Demon from scratch, which would completely nuke their ability to achieve any economies of scale. To understand why that's bad, read this:

So, the idea would be to take an existing platform - ANY platform - and make a decent "fast" small car out of it. Now, on paper, that doesn't sound so bad; in fact, I'd argue that such an approach would be a perfect replacement for the Neon, for many of the same reasons that made the Neon popular among the tuner crowd. Unfortunately, a Chinese-built Chery FF platform is about as far away from this direction as you can possibly get.

Perhaps Fiat can show ChryCo a thing or two about building small cars...

Rob the SVX guy posted the link to the Razor, which looks like an american TT that may have arguable perfomred as well given the SRT-4 powerplant. Too bad it was never made.

What is strange about the Demon is why, after previewing it as a RWD roadster to compete with the others, would then be produced as a FWD econo-roadster. I mean, why bother with it at all? It changes the entire demographic. Kind of reminds me of the Aussie Mercury Capri drop top. What a waste of good ideas.

Good body + great interior + crappy platform = 1984 Fiero. I had an '86.

But we've been told over and over again, ad nauseum, that what The American People Really Want is tiny little fuel-efficient cars. Seems like just the thing that will bring an American automaker back from the brink!

The Crossfire as a guide? Chrysler sold only 12,500 units in the middle of it's model run, and only with huge giveaways. You could not give them away, in 2007 only 2000 were sold.

How about Chrysler not delivering the Dodge Venom concept, which frankly was far more attractive than this Demon. The backend of the Demon looks like the same fugly design as the Crossfire, which in my mind was what killed that car. Crossfire was beautiful from the front, and then you saw it from the side and rear and realized it was designed by committee... and the no-talent son-in-laws of management had been tasked with the rear-end.

Ah yes, another in the long, long line of, "The Best American Sports Cars Never Made."

Geez, if it's gotta be front wheel drive and gotta be on an existing platform, put it on the Neon's platform. Those things handled pretty good. I'm sure the drawings and tooling are still around somewhere.

And while they're at it, bring the danged Neon back. The last few years of its run, it was a pretty decent little car. They'd probably sell more Neons than Calibers....'course that might make some marketing guru look bad.

Iacocca was not by any stretch an engineer -- he was, in fact, a salesman. He had an engineering degree but quickly punched out of the engineering ranks to join Ford's sales force. All his promotions at Ford came in the sales line of business.

He had a knack for selling cars, but he also had horrible taste -- think vinyl roofs and opera windows -- and was, like most Detroit executives of his era, and like line workers to this very day, completely uninterested in build quality.

The cars that most aligned with Iacocca's personal style were, at Ford, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, and at Chrysler, the equally gaudy but much more cheaply constructed Cordoba.

On the subject at hand -- Chrysler's problem is that it can't sell its bread-and-butter cars. Another entry in its on-again off-again enthusiast car field isn't going to solve that problem. You need to sell a lot of Ram pickups, minivans and ordinary sedans to be able to sell Vipers and Challengers. And the sedans, especially the small ones, are horrible. Try renting a Dodge Caliber some time and you'll see why Chrysler's in trouble. Their mainstream products stink!

I was going to mention the Dodge Razor as another classic Chrysler misstep, but see I was beaten to it.

Also, why did Chrysler never produce the CCV concept - a cheap plastic car for developing nations? Given the rapid expanse of car sales in India, China, ect, it would have been perfect, and would have beaten a number of other cars to the punch.

heh fallous, I like the Crossfire rear end much more than the front end. I love boat tails and that was the only modern car I'd seen that did it right. Maybe the real issue is that the front and back didn't really match.

As for Benz supposing to "right" the Chrysler ship...I think it was the other way around. Mercedes build quality was tanking at the time, and their designs were getting fuglier. The Neon died under the Germans...and that was one of the most foolish choices ever made. I remember the original cab forward LH cars being absolutely stunning compared to others. Build quality wasn't quite there (I forget if they were lower even than lowly Volkswagen...), but the handling and styling, wow.

Hmm. The above are among the few "hate the Crossfire" comments that I've seen. Most folks don't know the name, but they'll say something like "hey, that's a great looking car" if you point one out. (The convertible, like almost all convertibles, does look considerably better with the top down.)

It's often used as a "cool car" in marketing campaigns. (It is still featured in the costco sign for their car buying program.)

However, Chrysler never seemed to have any interest in selling them. A dealer told me that "the factory forgot to run any ads" one year and I can't recall ever seeing an ad.

It wasn't inexpensive car and it was one platform update behind its Mercedes sibling, but it's far from a "bad" or "ugly" car. And, the supercharged SRT version was a performance steal even before dealers started dumping them.

Cool thing about the Crossfire is they're starting to depreciate. I'll probably try to snag one in a few years.. I've seen them as low as 11 grand. Once they hit 5-7ish, I'm definitely game. Very classic, art deco styling. LOVE it.

I really like the way Crossfires look, but in truth, I'd never seen an advertisement for it. I just saw them, thought they looked great, and then tried to find out what it was.

Hey Rob, I never thought of it as Deco though, and I'm a Deco fanatic. I like that. Maybe it'll be my next one. If I ever get a next one. Stupid Mustang. . . . .

Please lemme know if that Mustang II comes up for grabs.

looks like a s2000 that got hit in the face with a 370z

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