2022 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (left) and 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Super Stock
DETROIT — Dodge will discontinue its gas-powered Challenger and Charger muscle cars late next year, marking the end of an era for the brand as it transitions to electric vehicles.
Since their resurgence in the mid-late 2000s, the Charger and Challenger – names that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s – have been faithful vehicles for Dodge and popular vehicles for a new generation of gearboxes.
In particular, the two-door Challenger struck a chord with buyers thanks to its retro-inspired styling, while the four-door Charger has managed to achieve notable sales milestones despite consumers flocking from sedans to SUVs in recent years.
Dodge has also been able to profit from the vehicles, which have starting prices ranging from the low $30,000 to nearly $90,000 for its infamous Hellcat models that produce over 700 horsepower.
“Dodge, with the Challenger and Charger, they really found a way to really get to that muscle car root. These cars definitely expressed it… and were able to capture that essence,” says Stephanie Brinley , principal analyst at S&P Global . “Having that clear DNA and a clear expression of what they should be helps make the transition to electric.”
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has hinted at the possibility that the Charger and Challenger names could be used for future electrified vehicles, including a future electric muscle car in 2024. Models – will save what he calls the new ‘Golden Age of muscle cars’ has named.
Kuniskis had been warning for several years that the end was near for gas-powered muscle cars due to emissions regulations. Dodge parent company Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, ranks among the worst of the major manufacturers for average fuel economy and corporate carbon emissions.
As many brands switched to smaller and more fuel-efficient engines, Dodge introduced Hellcat models and other high-performance vehicles. Such models helped showcase the brand, but did not help with the automaker’s carbon footprint, forcing it to buy carbon credits from automakers like Tesla.
“The days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 are numbered,” Kuniskis previously told CNBC, referring to engines like those in the Hellcat. “But the performance that those vehicles generate is not numbered.”
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis speaks August 13, 2021 at a media event. On the back, the Fratzog logo was used in addition to the current Dodge logo.
Michael Wayland / CNBC
Dodge is launching a series of special vehicles and products to “celebrate” the end of the cars as they are today. Dodge’s plans include seven special edition or “buzz” models; a “Last Call” plaque under the hood for all model year 2023 vehicles; and a new dealer allocation process, among other measures.
In the new dealer process, Dodge will allocate 2023 Charger and Challenger models to lots at once, rather than making orders available year-round. Dodge will provide 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 at a media briefing for an event this week in Pontiac, Michigan.
The Charger and Challenger are manufactured at Stellantis’ Brampton assembly plant 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 U.S.
Stellantis announced plans to invest $2.8 billion in the plant and another Canadian plant earlier this year, but it has not disclosed which vehicles will be produced at the plant.
“If we close Brampton, we’ll be using Dodge muscle cars for 20 years,” Kuniskis said. “We had to do this right.”