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This article is about the original 1959-1976 Dodge Dart. 1960 to 1976 in North America, with production extended to later years in various other markets. The first Dodge Darts were introduced for the 1960 model year. Dodge dealers had been selling Plymouths since 1930, but divisional restructuring took the Plymouth brand away from the Dodge dealer network. Project planners proposed the name Dart, only to have Chrysler executives demand an expensive research program which produced the name Zipp. This was promptly rejected in favor of Dart. Dodge products were pushed upmarket, while using Plymouth products with more features for lower-level Dodge products.
The Dart line was offered in three trim levels: the basic Seneca, mid-range Pioneer, and premium Phoenix. V8 was added in 1961. After the economic downturn of 1958-59, Dodge production for 1960 rebounded to a 367,804 cars, the division’s highest total to date and good for sixth place behind Chevrolet, Ford, Plymouth, Rambler, and Pontiac. Dodge’s volume consisted of the low-profit Dart line, compared to the upmarket Matador and Polara, of which only 41,000 were sold for the 1960 model year.
As the Dart’s sales climbed, Plymouth’s sales dropped. Chrysler executives did little to stop the infighting between the divisions. Dart sales were so strong in 1960 that production of the medium-priced model lines were reduced. The full-size, mid-priced Matador was discontinued after the 1960 model year as buyers selected the slightly smaller but better-appointed and less expensive Dart Phoenix. The premium Polara remained in the medium-price segment in 1961.