Thursday, July 18, 2013

Whither Dodge's Grille Design

Grilles can be a strong brand identifier -- or not.  Some car makes such as Cadillac with an egg-crate motif since the late 1930s and (especially) Rolls-Royce follow thematic consistency.  Others change grille designs often, leaving brand identity to carried by a trademarked symbol (Ford, for instance).  I'll have a lot more to say about this in a forthcoming e-book.

One brand that has used a consistent grille theme for nearly 30 year is Dodge, with its crossed bars or "gunsight" nested within the radiator opening.

This motif has been used on Dodge's trucks as well as its cars. But a few years ago the truck line was spun off as a separate brand called Ram.  The name "Ram" was chosen because Ram was a line of Dodge trucks.  Back in the period roughly from the early 1930s to the early 1950s, Dodge vehicles used a ram (bighorn sheep) as its hood ornament.

When the Ram truck brand was established, someone at Chrysler insisted that Ram would still be Dodge-related and the symbolism would be retained.  A brave statement, that, but will it hold for the future as the Ram brand continues with its own staff who might not want to carry the Dodge symbolism for all time.  Or might the Dodge people decide to let Ram retain the theme and have Dodge do something different?  Are there any clues?


1985 Dodge Diplomat
Here is one of the earliest instances of what became the traditional Dodge grille motif.

2013 Dodge Charger
It can be seen on Dodge's largest current sedan line.

2013 Ram 1500
Thanks to its bold, simple design, the cross pattern works well on large, aggressive looking trucks.  I suspect Rams will continue to use it.

2013 Dodge Dart
This smaller dodge is based on Alfa Romeo components.  Like many cars these days, the main radiator airflow opening is set low and is a rather anonymous hole.  The small slot above the bumper is part of the grille ensemble, but not really needed for radiator airflow.  The cross pattern is retained here, but only in a stylized manner.  It's too soon to tell if it is a harbinger of future grille symbolism for Dodge.

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