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2013 Dart heads for dealers

Plant's output of Jeep Patriot, Compass to halt in '14


An assembly line worker attaches the taillights on a 2013 Dodge Dart at Chrysler’s Belvidere assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill. The five-seat sedan is key to the automaker’s future, its CEO says.

Rockford (Ill.) Register Star/Scott Morgan Enlarge

BELVIDERE, Ill. — Even as the first Dodge Darts to come out of a revitalized Chrysler plant in northern Illinois were shipped off to dealers this week, the company said it would discontinue two familiar models.

Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive officer of Chrysler Group LLC, said the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot will go out of production in August, 2014.

Like the Dart, the Compass and the Patriot are built at the Belvidere assembly plant.

Production of both the Compass and the Patriot began in 2006, with 2007 being the first model year. Both were built only in Belvidere.

But the focus is on the Dart, and its delivery to dealers set the stage for what Mr. Marchionne called the automaker's "real battle" in the compact market.

The 2013 Dart five-seat sedan has received good reviews from automotive analysts so far and will now be judged by consumers.

"Our future hangs on how well we do here," Mr. Marchionne told reporters Thursday after meeting with the plant's workers.

"I've been public on this before. I can probably get one car wrong. Of all the cars I can get wrong, it ain't this one," he asserted.

"This one is too visible, it's too large, it's got too much embedded into it to go wrong."

Mr. Marchionne leads Italy's Fiat SpA and took over Chrysler in 2009 after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

More vehicles that use the Dart architecture are to be introduced, Mr. Marchionne said.

He aims to get the Belvidere plant producing as many as 400,000 cars a year.

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