2022 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (left) and 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Super Stock
DETROIT – Dodge will retire its gas-powered muscle cars Challenger and Charger late next year, marking the end of an era for the brand as it begins its transition to electric vehicles.
Since their revivals in the mid to late 2000s, the Charger and Challenger – names that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s – have been a fixture for Dodge and popular vehicles for a new generation of transmissions.
The two-door Challenger drew particular nostalgia from buyers thanks to its retro-inspired design, while the four-door Charger managed to achieve notable sales milestones even as consumers flocked from sedans to SUVs in recent years.
Dodge has also been able to extract profits from the vehicles, which start at prices ranging from a low $30,000 to almost $90,000 for its infamous Hellcat models, which produce more than 700 hp.
“Dodge, with the Challenger and the Charger, they really found a way to really get to that muscle car root. These cars definitely expressed it… and were able to hold on to that essence,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst at S&P Global. “That clear DNA and clear expression of what they are meant to be will help make the transition to electric vehicles.”
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has alluded to the possibility that the Charger and Challenger names could be used for future electrified vehicles, including an upcoming electric muscle car in 2024. He has previously said he believes in electrification — whether Hybrid vehicles with less powerful engines or purely electric models – will save what he has dubbed the new “golden age of muscle cars”.
For several years, Kuniskis has been warning of the end of gas-powered muscle cars due to emissions regulations. Dodge parent company Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, ranks worst among major manufacturers in terms of average fuel economy and CO2 emissions of US companies.
As many brands transitioned to smaller and more fuel-efficient engines, Dodge launched Hellcat models and other high-performance vehicles. Such models helped draw attention to the brand, but didn’t contribute to the automaker’s carbon footprint, forcing it to buy carbon credits from automakers like Tesla.
“The days of a 6.2-liter supercharged iron-block V-8 are numbered,” Kuniskis previously told CNBC, referring to engines like those in the Hellcat. “But the performance that these vehicles produce is not counted.”
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis speaks during a media event on August 13, 2021. On the back, the Fratzog logo was used alongside Dodge’s current logo.
Dodge is launching a litany of special vehicles and products to “celebrate” the end of cars as they are today. Dodge plans include seven special edition or “buzz” models; a “Last Call” commemorative plaque under the hood for all 2023 model year vehicles; and, among other things, a new dealer assignment procedure.
The new dealership process will result in Dodge allocating 2023 Charger and Challenger models to lots at once, rather than making orders available year-round. Dodge provides customers with a guide to finding specific models at each dealer.
Kuniskis said the process is designed to help customers get the specific vehicle they want.
“We wanted to make sure we were celebrating these cars properly,” Kuniskis said during a media briefing for an event this week in Pontiac, Michigan.
The Charger and Challenger are manufactured at Stellantis’ Brampton Assembly facility in Ontario, Canada. The company says it has produced more than 3 million Dodge vehicles at the plant, including 1.5 million Chargers and more than 726,000 Challengers sold in the US
Stellantis earlier this year announced plans to invest $2.8 billion in the plant and another Canadian facility, but has not disclosed which vehicles will be produced at the facilities.
“If we close Brampton, there will be a 20-year lineage of Dodge muscle cars,” Kuniskis said. “We had to do this right.”