In a press conference today at the Detroit auto show, Fiat head honcho Sergio Marchionne acknowledged that the C-segment Dodge Dart has been something of a sales disappointment for the company.

Marchionne places the blame for the weak sales on the Dart’s available transmissions. Marchionne describes the six-speed manual (with which the Dart launched) and the six-speed dual-clutch automatic that came shortly after as, “not the ideal solution for this market.” Based on our test drives of the manual and the dual-clutch, we think his description is something of an understatement.

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In hopes of delivering to the market a product that does not annoy buyers, Chrysler will add a ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic gearbox that will be seen first in the replacement for the Jeep Liberty this spring. Unlike the dual-clutch unit currently available, the nine-speed will be a conventional torque-converter that Marchionne (and us) anticipate will better suit the expectations of American C-segment buyers.

By Daniel Pund