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Most Unlikely Comeback Car of 2012: the Dodge Dart

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If you were in the market for a Dodge Dart any time over the last few decades, chances are you were either trolling junk yards or the front lawns of fans of the Blue Collar Comedy tour. But in just a few months’ time, the Dart be back behind the shiny glass and under the spotlight in Chrysler showrooms across the country.  

Once part of a much-mocked breed of 1960s and ‘70s-era American jalopies alongside the Gremlin, the Ford (F) Pinto, the Pacer and the Chevette (GM), the Dodge Dart has inexplicably been dug out of its grave. Not only has the Dart been taken out of retirement, the old boxy-bodied beater has been given a makeover, rendering it unrecognizable from its former self.

In other words, this ain’t your dad’s -- or Al Bundy’s -- Dodge Dart.

Unveiled at the Detroit auto show Monday, the reinvented 2013 Dart has graduated from the clunker class and should prove a real force to be reckoned with in the compact car market. This brand new Dart is a byproduct of the global alliance between Chrysler LLC and Fiat SpA with sleek lines, flared fenders, roomy interior and the chassis originally built for the high performance Alfa Romeo.

Initially holding only a 20% stake, Fiat SpA became the majority owner of formerly bankrupt Chrysler Group when the Italian automaker acquired 58.5% of the company last July. Of the decision to rescue Chrysler, Fiat (and now Chrysler) CEO Sergio Marchionne said he didn’t have “a single doubt.” In fact, Marchionne claims the partnership is mutually beneficial to both companies.

“Fiat needs Chrysler as much as Chrysler needs Fiat,” he added.

The stated goal of the alliance is to sell six million vehicles, from all its fleets, in 2014.

In terms of a public share offering for Chrysler, Marchionne said Fiat SpA would consider bringing in a third party, possibly Peugeot, before crossing that bridge in 2013.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.