Belvidere's future was uncertain after the poor reception given its previous product line, the Dodge Caliber and its Jeep platform mates, the Compass and Patriot. The Dart launches with more promise than any product since the original Neon, which began production at the Illinois plant in 1995.
While Belvidere has been open since 1965, it has had a long history of building inexpensive Mopar models since the Dodge Monaco and Plymouth Fury went out of production in the late 1970s. Belvidere built Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons through the 1980s, and the K-car-based Chrysler New Yorker and Dodge Dynasty before retooling for the Neon.
Belvidere was also home to several of Chrysler's awesome budget performance models, the Shelby GLHS, Neon ACR and Dodge SRT4. Here's to hoping that it can soon add a hot-rodded Dart to that resume.
Scroll down to see video of the event and read the full press release.
by Pete Misiak
May 7, 2012 2:31 PM
There's a prevailing attitude at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois. No matter where you go inside the nearly 5-million-square-foot facility, or who among the more than 2,700 workers you may talk to, there's one distinct feeling there that overshadows all the rest.
And for good reason.
Today, the first 2013 Dodge Dart rolled off the assembly line, officially beginning a new era for the brand's compact car segment, offering customers roominess, style, functionality and fuel-efficiency.
It's also time for a little pomp and celebration on this watershed day for the plant, its workers and for Dodge.
"This is huge for everybody here at Belvidere," said plant manager Kurt Kavajecz. "Seeing that Dart roll off the line was quite a thrill for me and the men and women who built it."
"The launch of the 2013 Dodge Dart is one of the most anticipated in our history and represents a tremendous source of pride for the Brand and the Company," said President & CEO Dodge Brand Reid Bigland. "The all-new Dart offers consumers features and benefits never before found in a compact car."
The all-new Dart will begin to arrive at Dodge dealers across the country in late June and already has been bestowed with several awards. The Dart was named to "Ward's 10 Best Interiors" List for 2012, as well as being awarded "Most Significant Vehicle" at the North American International Auto Show by editors at Autoweek. And, just last week, the Texas Auto Writers Association named the Dart the "Best Value," "Best New Feature" and "Compact Car of Texas."
It's ironic that although the pride for the all-new Dodge Dart felt throughout the Belvidere plant is genuine (and not manufactured), it was the manufacturing of the Dart that provides the source of that pride.
There's an anonymous quote that puts the whole issue into perspective: "Pride is a personal commitment. It is an attitude which separates excellence from mediocrity."
Or, as that great sage (and former baseball pitcher/broadcaster) Dizzy Dean was known to say, "It ain't bragging if you can do it."