2013 Dodge Dart: Overselling MPG
August 1, 2013
I hate the way fuel economy is marketed and sold, and this 2013 Dodge Dart billboard is Exhibit A. Let's run down what's wrong with it.
The "41 mpg" Dart is really only good for 32 mpg. That's the EPA Combined rating, the one that really applies in day-in-day-out usage. Most car owners have a hard enough time matching EPA Combined. The highway by itself number is fairly useless.
The "41 mpg" Dart is in fact the Dodge Dart Aero, but by not disclosing that little nugget this billboard implies all Darts are good for 41 mpg on the highway.
The "41 mpg" Dart Aero is a $3,300 option package available only on the base SE trim. It's not standard equipment.
The "41 mpg" Dart Aero is not the one pictured on the billboard. They're showing an SXT with the Rallye package that looks exactly like our long-term test car. A real 2013 Dart SE Aero won't have the tough looking blackout headlights, blackout accent paint or fog lights. I just asked Dodge public relations for a stock photograph of a 2013 Dart SE Aero and they didn't have one.
The relentless focus on highway MPG to the exclusion of all else is tiring. And it's extremely misleading, even if the word "highway" does appear here. Such marketing tactics only set the owner up for disappointment and the carmaker for customer complaints down the road. Nobody wins except the car salesmen.
Dodge is far from the only one doing this, however.
EPA Combined is the number that really matters day-in, day-out. It's the one that should be advertised, the one car shoppers should focus on.
A new window sticker layout was made mandatory for the 2013 model year in an attempt to remedy this. Today's sticker elevates EPA Combined from the ultra-fine print to headline status. EPA City and Highway ratings still appear, but they're greatly diminished. Still, because they're listed at all, ad agencies still feel empowered to dwell on the highway mpg number as if it's the only one.
Here are the relevant 2013 Dodge Dart fuel economy ratings:
SE Aero 1.4T, 6-speed manual: 32 Combined (28 city / 41 highway)
SE Aero 1.4T, 6-spd DCT auto: 32 Combined (28 city / 40 highway)
SXT, Ltd. 1.4T, 6-speed manual: 32 Combined (27 city / 39 highway)
SXT, Ltd. 1.4T, 6-spd DCT auto: 31 Combined (27 city / 37 highway)
And the base 2.0-liter engine
SE, SXT, Ltd. 2.0, 6-speed manual: 29 Combined (25 city / 36 highway)
SE, SXT, Ltd. 2.0, 6-spd automatic: 27 Combined (24 city / 34 highway)
That last rating in the first group and the window sticker image correspond to our long-term car. If you follow our monthly fuel economy updates you know we've averaged 27.7 mpg so far, which trails its 31-mpg EPA Combined rating by 11 percent. And its 37-mpg EPA Highway rating has proven to be a pipe dream; the best cross-country tank we've seen is 35.6 mpg.
And yes, ours is the version that looks exactly like the Dart pictured on the "41 mpg" billboard.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,600 miles