Fiat Chrysler head of passenger cars Tim Kuniskis is gung-ho about Dodge. You can see it in his eyes when you talk about all things high performance, Dodge, and the competition. He’s been guiding the sedan ship for years and in that time we’ve seen quite an unusual thing happen: Dodge sedans selling more year-over-year-over-year. We’ll include the Challenger in that statement but it also includes Charger sister Chrysler 300. Kuniskis knows why competitor’s sedans don’t sell and the other companies won’t like what he says.
Kuniskis talked with Muscle Cars and Trucks about what’s going on with Fiat Chrysler-specifically everything Hellcat and Super Stock related. “The last 20 years cars have gone from 55 percent of the industry to 27 percent of the industry… the reality is that you gotta dig below that surface and see what has dropped,” Kuniskis says. “What has really dropped are the soulless commodities. But the cars that have a unique identity really have not dropped.”
Ford/Chevy/Buick/Cadillac-et al sedans are soulless according to Kuniskis
Ouch. So basically, Ford/Chevy/Buick/Cadillac-et al sedans are soulless according to Kuniskis. As hard as it is to say, we agree. Who wants an angry toaster when you can drive a 700 hp Hellcat? Do a Taurus or an Impala have any identity? Not really. Does a Hellcat Charger? Ah, yeah.
But from a 2019-2020 industry perspective, Fiat Chrysler sedan sales have been big. “The last half of last year was the best six months we’ve ever had in the history of (Charger and Challenger),” says Kuniskis. “And we were coming into 2020 riding high. It wasn’t long into the year until the COVID-19 pandemic brought auto sales to a halt.”
Without a doubt, 2020 will go down as a terrible year for the car industry. Vehicle sales are finally seeing an upturn, but the coronavirus is not going away and experts are predicting a second wave at some point. “We were gonna kill it, then COVID set us back,” says Kuniskis. “January and February we were killing it. In the first part of March we were doing really good because we sell a lot of cars in Florida and Texas. We did relatively okay considering. But we ran out of cars.”
There is a lot less competition now that most of the Detroit 3 have killed their sedans
When you consider that these LX-platform Chrysler products debuted in 2005 for the Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, and 2008 for the Challenger, this has been an epic run. There have been some tasty updates with the exterior, interior, and powertrain redesigns and refinements. Does the longevity of these sedans raise questions about the decades-long idea that periodic styling changes are necessary to sell cars? Granted, there is a lot less competition now that most of the Detroit 3 have killed their sedans.
Still, if someone were to tell you in 2005 that the Charger and Chrysler 300 would be basically the same and sell well for almost 20 years would you have believed them? But here we are and Tim Kuniskis is high on perpetuating his Challengers and Chargers for as long as it takes to get new iterations of the sacred sedans into production.