AUTOpsy: Dodge Avenger (2007)

The outcome of the best and brightest Daimler-Benz managers showing the Americans how to take the product side of the business was this. Seriously ?

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Was it ignorance? Negligence? Arrogance?

The motive(s) may be up for debate, but there’s no arguing about the utter lack of lustre this 2007 vintage Dodge Avenger embodies. Or that this utterly cynical product was the result of management decisions betraying one or all the traits mentioned above.

Of course, by the time the Avenger was brought to market, most of the people who had made those decisions had departed for pastures other than Auburn Hills.

After a most glorious turnaround performance abroad, former Chrysler CEO and erstwhile ‘Dr Zee’, Dieter Zetsche, had returned to the parent company in Stuttgart, where he immediately instigated the fire sale of the American company. His right-hand man, Wolfgang Ayerle/Bernhard, had left already, but would eventually rejoin Zee at Stuttgart. Chrysler chief designer, Trevor Creed, was about to retire one year after the Avenger’s unveiling, presumably not on a high note.

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What these respected men tried to flee from was another automobile design appearing as part of a product offensive so grotesquely ill-executed, it remains unfathomable to this day.

The 2007 Avenger could hardly be described as the worst offender among the likes of the Dodges Nitro & Caliber, the Jeep Commander or the 2007 Sebring, but it encapsulates the carelessness, cutting-of-corners and cynicism just as well as any of the other cars that constituted Daimler’s parting gift for its former American branch.

As with all the other cars mentioned, the Avenger betrays a conscious effort to design a car that’s ‘interesting’, rather than anodyne and competent, as was the norm of this sector of the market at the time. Something with ‘a bit more sparkle’ than a Camry. As a result, elements like the coarse rear haunch, whose shape is supposedly, but not quite picked up by the C-pillar, had been added, in order to stimulate a sense of flair and excitement.

In conjunction with the awkward angle of the rear window, not to mention the truncated boot and horrible ribbed triangular trim that only highlights the C-pillar’s awkward, massive proportions, the haunch proves to be more adept at unmasking the car’s basic deficiencies than hiding them. The way in which the haunch was included also results in a very square boot section, lending the rear aspect an almost leaden stance.

Some attempt to counteract this effect appears to have been made through the inclusion of an indent on and underneath the boot lid. But the simplistic, clumsy shapes these create only heighten the impression of stylistic carelessness. A similar indent can be found below the Dodge’s front grille too, where it has the surprising effect of visually weakening what is an otherwise very bluff front end.

It is this combination of appearing heavy, yet insubstantial that proves to be the Avenger’s undoing. It is a car design that’s primitive, rather than simple, whose flourishes in reality only serve to highlight these most basic shortcomings.

That many components, like the rubbing strip or auxiliary lights, appear to be non-bespoke, off-the-shelf units (even though they possibly are not) only adds insult to already grave injury.

While some might like to deflect some of the blame for the Dodge’s shortcomings onto its (allegedly Mitsubishi-sourced) FWD platform, there simply is no excuse for the poor execution of the detail design, the terrible stance (which, incidentally, is only exacerbated by the inflated wheel arches) or the ill-advised, shouty tropes like the haunch and C-pillar treatment.

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There is no shame in producing and designing honest, cheap and cheerful motor vehicles. The Dodge certainly was cheap, but its cheerfulness and honesty resemble that of an alcoholic, chronically depressed day labourer putting on a Ronald McDonald costume and taking half the money intended for charity he collected to get himself some booze.

That some of the people in charge during the development of this equally cynical and primitive device are nowadays considered luminaries of the automotive industry proves that this business can be far more forgiving than is often claimed.

The Dodge Avenger, however, shall not be forgiven.

 

The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at www.auto-didakt.com

Author: Kris Kubrick

Driven To Write Auto-Didaktic Automotive Content

11 thoughts on “AUTOpsy: Dodge Avenger (2007)”

  1. Good morning Kris,

    An excellent critique of a car that certainly put the “offensive” into “product offensive”. The only thing one can say in its defence is that it tried (unsuccessfully) to reference Dodge’s back catalogue from the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Sebring cannot even offer that by way of explanation (if you ignore the ribbed bonnet reference to the Crossfire) and, for my money, easily outdoes the Avenger in its sheer cack-handedness:

    The stance is terrible, with the short wheelbase exacerbated by overweight nose and front bumper. The A and, especially, C-pillar treatments are just terrible, and just what were they thinking when they applied that rubbing strip to the doors? I would love to have a fly on the wall, observing the design process that ended up producing this.

    As Adrian, rightly, observed in the previous post regarding the Fiat Croma, attractiveness is subjective, but I cannot see single redeeming feature in this sorry mess.

    1. Before I join the chorus of disapproval I would ask how well placed we are to judge the Avenger? I wonder what our US friends made of it? Was it a car that fulfilled its brief or did they too see it as a poorly judged attempt at, well what exactly? Irony? Levity? A cry for help?

      Perhaps as a disposable means of commuting sizeable distances it was entirely fit for its purpose. Perhaps the stylistic thought-burps and shonky execution was something to gloss-over or heaven knows, even celebrate in a vehicle which was merely a transportation device, purchased on the basis of being relatively inexpensive to buy and run. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to understand how anyone could choose something like this or indeed the risible Sebring over their domestic or far-Eastern rivals. Or indeed how Chrysler executives could with good conscience sign off on vehicles as carelessly wrought. (Mind you, they had practice on that front).

      Dieter Zetsche was considered something of a whizz-kid in Daimler circles at the time and was tipped for greater things. Considering what he subsequently achieved back at the Stuttgart mothership, these cars can be seen with more clarity perhaps. Sensual Purity, one could argue, began here…

  2. Is it known wether Dr. Zetsche has any vision impairment? It’s not as if the aesthetic deficiencies of the vehicles developed under his tenure are that difficult to see.

    1. One theory (which of course I merely pass on by way of conjecture) suggests that owing to Dieter expending all his energies into the cultivation of his luxuriant ‘tasche, he has little left over for other matters.

  3. I have to admit that I have a bit of morbid affection for the Avenger – at least viewed from a healthy distance. The Sebring is beyond saving, though.

  4. Well, the North American consensus was that the 2007 Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger was utter rubbish. (“Imported from Detroit” – good one, Doctor Zee, or was that Mad Marchionne once he assumed control? Does it matter? Both of these twits are nowhere near as good as they envision their grandselves).

    Starting with early to mid- nineties, the predecessors to this car were the Plymouth Breeze and some Dodge or another. Actually not bad structurally – drove one to Montreal and back to Halifax in 1995 and was impressed compared to my personal ’94 Audi 90 V6 and its terrible suspension. Lots of frost-heaved roads on that trip which the car dealt with very well indeed. But the engine was dreadful around town even with EFI, surging and rev-hanging.

    Still, take that basis and share with Mitsubishi, and the second gen had a convertible and 2 door coupe made by Mitsu in Illinois on the Eclipse chassis, while the sedan underneath was the original chassis modified. The three models looked different, the sedan being dumpiest.

    By the time the 2007 Chrysler 200 and its sister 2008 Avenger appeared, the chassis was 80 % different from before and had some Mitsubishi influence so they could base some of their indifferent cars and crossovers on it and make them in Normal, Illinois. Different, not better. Thank you Daimler. The current Dodge Journey still has this chassis. Gronk.

    The best review of this rolling t*rd is on TTAC, the website then in its original owner’s hands. It’s good for a chortle:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/03/dodge-avenger/

    My best friend bought a 2013 Chrysler 200, this car, for his wife. He works for a Chrysler dealer, and we have agreed not to discuss it. Too big a divide. For him/her, it has 4 wheels, a 280 hp Pentastar V6, and moves under its own power, so he finds my tastes ridiculously snooty. Oh well. It was best known as the rental car everyone hated. But they did sell a lot of them each year, nonetheless.

    The approximately $40 billion Daimler lost overall on Chrysler is hard to fathom. Nobody has written a definitive book on it; the principals are keeping mum, no doubt. But a series of complete dogs were sired under Daimler’s ownership, including the Caliber, Compass and Dodge Nitro.

    Dr Zee, as he was known, (Zetschke) starred in his own TV commercials pushing Chryslers, waggling his clown moustache, and speaking in heavily German-accented English. He was copying Lee Iacocca from 20 odd years before, but instead came over as a stand-up comedian. It was a Monty Python grade performance. At least Daimler did do the gangsta Chrysler 300 and Grand Cherokee. But it was generally awful stuff compared to pre-Daimler days. Chrysler Crossfire, anyone?

    Once Daimler had paid Cerberus to get Chrysler off its hands prior to the big bankruptcy/recession, the Germans fled home and thought up enough excuses to mollify the markets. Pretty soon old Doc Zee was back to his chipper self, somehow promoted to top spot at Daimler, and proving the Peter Principle in principle. I bet it was he who approved the useless downmarket CLA, another total underachieving tin box, this time, ta da, with no rear room and extra road noise built in as standard. Maybe he hired Gordo and his ensuing SP trope, but I cannot be bothered to look it up.

    The waste of money continued with the 2015 successor to this car. Completely re-engineered at several billion dollars cost, based on some Alfa platform, tugged in all directions for size, I found it not bad to drive in AWD V6 form. After 18 months on the market and low sales, Marchionne canned it, victim of the change to crossovers. How he managed to make a whole new car for a fraction of what Daimler spent a decade before is one of life’s mysteries to me.

    1. It was Zee himself who instigated the sale of the very company he’d previously ‘turned around’.

      Gorden was a leading designer before Zee had returned to Sindelfingen, but not only did he appoint him chief designer upon Peter Pfeiffer’s timely retirement, but he also gave him carte blanche in a way none of his contemporaries at Munich Milbertshofen or Ingolstadt enjoyed. Go figure.

      Those adverts were even more cringeworthy for a German viewer with a basic grasp of the English language.

    2. Years ago, I tried reading ‘Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off with Chrysler’ by Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz. I only got halfway through, as my eyes glazed over after the 94th detailed description of the cunning and audacious issue of preference shares at a discounted rate. I might give it another go, if I’m feeling bored enough.

  5. The Chrysler 200’s facelift fixed some issues with the poor styling of the Sebring, but overall the 200 and Avenger were terrible looking cars.

    Shame; they’re essentially stretched 2007+ Mitsubishi Lancers, which is a smart looking car despite being very old now.

  6. The reasoning behind this kind of Chrysler was that people supposedly yearned for very American and expressive designs. Chrysler´s managment though this styling a low price would be a good formula. Alas, the low price killed the quality and the design lacked subtlety. I imagine these were rushed designs. They look it.

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