The Day – Dodge Drops Hellcat V-8, Introduces New Era of Electric Muscle

The era of electrification has claimed its first big scalp.

Dodge ends production of its iconic V-8-powered Hellcat Challenger and Charger muscle car models by 2023 as the brand shifts to a mix of electric, hybrid and plug-in transmissions amid government regulations requiring battery operation . Vehicles. High-powered, supercharged hemispherical engines have defined the brand for the past six years, leading to increased sales as Dodge crammed Hellcat V-8s into everything from its muscle cars to the three-row Durango SUV.

The Charger and Challenger models, however, will remain in the lineup as the Hellcats make history. The news is stepping up the pressure on Dodge’s first so-called eMuscle electric car, whose prototype is expected early next year, to deliver on its promise of a new era of Tesla-like electric performance.

“People are really nervous about (electrification),” Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said in an interview with the Los Angeles Auto Show. “(But) the power isn’t going to go away. The muscle isn’t going to go away. We’re going to show a concept of our all-electric muscle car. We’re going to show it in about four months. We’re going to show you what it can do. … and redefine American muscle. “

The reaction to Dodge’s announcement of ending the sizzling, supercharged V-8s of the enthusiast community was greeted with a mixture of rage, disbelief and resignation.

“Hellcat production will unfortunately stop in 2023”, moans the passionate publication Car and Driver of the Hellcat which delivered between 707 and 840 horsepower. “You have two years left to buy a Hellcat. We won’t let the Hellcat’s exuberant whine from its supercharger be forgotten by the purr of electric motors.”

Wrote Hellcat – Red on the SRT Hellcat forum, “Looks like we’re about to say goodbye to America’s most legendary muscle car. Really sad for the future ahead.”

“I’m not happy with this forced EV situation. Guess I have to order a Redeye before it’s too late,” added “S8ER01Z” in reference to the 797 horsepower Challenger V-8 model.

“2024 will be the new plug-in, no thanks,” Caddy59 said.

The Hellcat line – coupled with the exaggerated marketing instincts of market leader Kuniskis – caused a stir for the brand. Despite being built on two-decade-old platforms, the sinister Challenger and Charger hopped on Camaro during the Detroit muscle car race and challenge Mustang for the top spot. These are bestsellers in the coveted California market. Dodge’s web traffic has been epic despite its relatively low sales volume – across three models – compared to mega-brands like Chevrolet and Ford.

The switch to electrification calls into question the personality of the brand out of the blue.

“In a world where everyone is obsessed with making everything better for the environment, the Challenger doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter what people think or say about it,” HotCar.com wrote earlier. This year. “Challenger fans don’t want a hybrid powertrain or an electric SUV model. What they want is a fire-breathing muscle car.”

Dodge isn’t the only brand grappling with the challenge of electrifying a carefully nurtured image.

Porsche has made it clear that it will not electrify its iconic 911 supercar, the touchstone of the brand. Instead, it switched to battery power with the Porsche Taycan sedan and the Taycan Cross-Turismo. He’s already felt the pain of trying to account for MPG issues in his performance cars – when he replaced the screaming 6-cylinder engine in his Cayman / Boxster sports cars with a 4-cylinder, the models lost control. half of their sales in the United States.

Ford was also careful not to fiddle with his secret V-8 sauce. When the Blue Oval used its Mustang performance brand to showcase its first electric vehicle, it chose an all-new Mach E SUV while leaving the fire-breathing Mustang coupe alone with its lineup of gasoline engines.

Patrick Rall, writer at StellPower.com, is influential in the muscle car community and himself a Hellcat owner. Like Porsche and Mustang, he believes Dodge recognizes the purity of its V-8 Challenger muscle car and will choose to electrify the Charger sedan.

“Like the Porsche Taycan and the Tesla Model S Plaid, it makes sense for Dodge to explore the sedan space,” he said. “If you want to be the best, you have to face the best. “

CEO Kuniskis is aware that he is playing with fire.

“I’m juggling knives because I have to keep two huge different factions because at some point those two factions will converge,” he told Motor Trend at the LA Show, referring to customers who will adopt the electrification and to those who want the signature of its brand. Power V-8 and V-6. “The problem is, no one knows when they’ll converge. My job is to give assurance, over the next 24 months, that we’re going to do that.”

Industry insiders say the EPA’s forced switch to electrification is fraught with pitfalls, pointing to the 1970s when federal MPG standards stumbled Detroit automakers.

“The 1970s were the dark ages for the auto industry,” said Karl Baer, ​​industry analyst at ISeeCars, recalling models like the 1974-78 Ford Mustang II that slashed performance for address MPG’s concerns. Insulted by purists, the Mustang II is rarely seen in the parades of Woodward Dream Cruise.

“Older cars were better than new ones in the 1970s,” Brauer said. “There have been big changes, big government mandates. I hope that doesn’t happen again and that we’re more technologically advanced this time around.”

For its part, Dodge appears to be assembling a diverse lineup of transmissions beyond the electric vehicle that will debut early next year.

Built on an all-new platform from 2024 to accommodate electrified powertrains – something The Detroit News first reported in 2019 – the Challenger and Charger, experts say, will likely get hybrid and plug-in drivetrains. in using a ZF hybrid drivetrain recently contracted by Stellantis.

Brauer said Dodge’s small size and unique image gives parent company Stellantis the opportunity to experiment.

“Dodge profits are only a fraction of total sales,” he said. “So the risk of remaking Dodge is less than, say, the Jeep brand in volume. If Dodge can re-power Hellcat with the right type of car, it will help a certain percentage of mainstream buyers to try electrification. “

Dodge came here before when it developed the Dodge Dart to meet the Obama administration’s demands that the new Fiat-Chrysler alliance build a 40mpg car. The Dart was manufactured from 2013 to 2016 before dying due to poor sales.

Significantly, Stellantis is not playing with its V-8-powered formula in its high-volume Jeep brand. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer both debuted on brand new platforms this year, and both come with an optional 5.7-liter normally aspirated V8 in addition to the standard V6s.

As Dodge accelerates into its new era in 2024, Kuniskis said the brand will launch a series of teasers to build customer loyalty.

“When we say that we will switch to electrification in 24 months, it would have been easy to keep quiet. We are not doing anything quiet, we are not doing anything subtle,” he smiled. “We published a calendar,… there are 24 doors and those doors are going to open every two months or so. We’ll show our full electrical plan at the end, and we’ll show motor) stuff along the way. “

Dodge has already announced a new Jailbreak package on its Charger and Challenger Redeye models that allows buyers to customize them for $ 995. And it’s shown an EV logo called a “fratzog” – a word coined for the triangular arrangement of three arrowhead shapes used by the brand in the 1960s.

“People come to me all the time and say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy from Dodge, you’re going to be totally averse to EVs. What do you do ? “I say, no, the performance isn’t going to go away. There are some really cool innovative things we can do with electrification.”


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