Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has navigated the brand through very lean development times. Dodge has seen ever-increasing use of 700 hp Hellcat engines to liven up a very stale lineup of very old Charger sedans and Challenger coupes. Old, as in the Charger debuted in 2004 and the Challenger in 2008. They have seen only minor cosmetic changes over those said 15 years. In a CNBC interview recently Kuniskis said the one thing Dodge needs to stay in business it doesn’t have.
Of course, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, and Ram just merged with France’s Groupe PSA. Lacking in that whole mashup of famous brands is the one thing every auto manufacturer is clamoring to make. That would be electric vehicles.
The “Golden Age” of muscle cars will not die like it did in 1972
So, in a January 25, 2021, CNBC interview, Kuniskis said that this “Golden Age” of muscle cars, which is all that Dodge has left, will not die like it did in 1972. That was when the original muscle car era pooped out. “1972 was the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of muscle cars,” said Kuniskis. “They went away for fuel economy, for the oil crisis. They went away for safety. They went away for insurance, and they went away for increasing emission standards. It’s kind of crazy to think about how we’re getting close to a similar list of things right now.”
Yeah, he’s right. But how does that bode well for Dodge? “I’m super excited about the future of electric because I think it’s what’s going to allow us to not fall off the cliff,” Kuniskis said. “Without that technology, without electrification, this is 1972 right now. This thing is going to end.” Ouch!
Where will Dodge get the electrification Kuniskis says it needs?
We couldn’t agree more. But when you stand back and look at the big Stellantis picture, the one thing missing, for the most part, is electrification. It doesn’t have nearly any EVs. In that regard, where will Dodge get the electrification Kuniskis says it needs? And in which vehicles? Would Dodge stab electric motors and a ton of batteries into existing Chargers and Challengers?
No, you can’t do EVs that way. So a new Charger and Challenger must be conjured up. But from where? If something is being developed it needs to be out soon. There are no camo’d Charger or Challenger mules floating around to suggest Dodge is on the brink of introducing all-new models. That means Dodge needs about three years to make that happen.
We don’t see Dodge able to survive three more years cranking out Hellcat sedans and coupes
Does Dodge have the piggy bank and time to make something like electrifying a new Charger and Challenger? We don’t see Dodge able to survive three more years cranking out Hellcat sedans and coupes. Changes are happening too quickly and the Charger and Challenger just get staler each passing year.
So, while we would agree with Kuniskis that electrification would begin a new phase of the muscle car era, we don’t see Dodge surviving to that day. Not with all of the other brands now under the Stellantis roof needing as much or more attention. In many ways, the Dodge CEO is saying the brand is through. He didn’t mean to, but without anything like what he’s talking about in the pipeline, what else can happen?
Dodge is on the ropes, as is sister company, Chrysler. With as strong as Jeep and Ram is, and with the new products Citroen, Opel, and Peugeot have, it leaves both Dodge and Chrysler nowhere to go but away. Savor the end of the muscle car era while you can.