2013 Dodge Dart launch at Detroit Auto Show, Jan 2012Enlarge Photo
Unless you’re the kind of person who can afford a bespoke luxury car, you’ll know the pain of finding out from your car dealer that the car you want doesn’t come with the paint or interior options you’d like.
So what if you could help automakers decide on which options to offer with a new car -- before it even makes it to production?
That’s the idea behind the online customization tool for the 40+ MPG 2013 Dodge Dart, which our sister site The Car Connection covered yesterday.
To start, any visitor Build Your Own Dodge Dart page has to enter their ZIP Code, presumably to help Chrysler determine where in the U.S. demand is highest for the compact sedan.
Then, visitors are encouraged to choose a trim level, complete with a range of engines.
Next comes the usual paint and interior choices, finishing off with the options list.
Mopar accessories for the 2013 Dodge DartEnlarge Photo
There’s only one catch: While Chrysler wants you to spec your new Dodge Dart, you won’t be able to buy it, or even reserve your perfect car.
Automotive News (subscription required) notes that Chrysler’s small print says it all. The current online car configuration tool is nothing more than market research.
“By building and personalizing a Dart, you will provide us with information on how you want to see the all-new Dart,” warns Chrysler. “Please note the packaging and pricing information on this site is for survey purposes only.”
As The Car Connection points out, that kind of behavior is hardly new: Automakers have been doing pre-launch market research of this kind for years.
By conducting market research, automakers can then tell which trim levels and engine options will be the most popular, allowing them to match production volumes to demand.
What is different however, is the transparency under which Chrysler is conducting it.
We’ll admit the online Dodge Dart configuration tool is a fun way to pass 10 minutes -- but if you’re really serious about buying one, you’re going to have to wait until at least the second quarter before you can book a test-drive.