The muscle car market is seeing a cycle of disruption that hasn’t been observed since the early 1970s, when emissions regulations and oil embargoes practically wiped the entire segment out like a bureaucratic cataclysm. Save for the Ford Mustang, which has never stopped being a thing since its inaugural model year in 1964 (technically, 1964½). Of which, the Mustang is about to enter its seventh-generation, with the 2024 model year, codenamed S650. It follows a familiar formula as before, except now with more EcoBoost turbo and Coyote V8 power, more technology, and a fresh layer of skin that takes an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, approach.
The same cannot be said for Dodge, which has begun courting its rabid and rowdy fanbase with electrification in the form of the Charger SRT Daytona Banshee concept that debuted between Roadkill Nights and the Woodward Dream Cruise this past August. It’s a vastly contrary opinion to what muscle car customers want, compared to the new Mustang, while Chevrolet is shoring up its funding around the cachet of the Corvette at the expense of the Camaro.
This tactic may appear alien, but according to Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis, it’s a strategy built on the necessity of differentiation.
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis: Words On Mustang, Camaro
“There’s Camaro, there’s Mustang, and there’s Challenger… I’ve always been very clear to say I think both of those cars are absolutely phenomenal products,” Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said during a recent media backgrounder. “Not throwing anything against them; they’re great cars. But we do things differently than they do. We don’t consider them – not that we don’t consider them to be a competitor because, of course, they’re competitive – but we don’t try to do the things that they’re doing. They’re going in one direction, and we go in another direction. We’ve been doing it for a decade, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Dodge has considered itself outside the competition’s realm, for example. They could have come out with a refresh for the Dodge Challenger, which they worked on intending to release in 2015, as well as a replacement based around the Alfa Romeo Giorgio Platform that would have put the Charger and Challenger closer to the sporty and athletic nature of the sixth-gen Camaro, and S550 Mustang. However, as Kuniskis stated, it’s tough to mess with something that’s effectively resonating with customers.
“Why would I try to chase somebody? I mean, that segment is not big enough for everybody to be the same thing. Then you’ve got three guys that are just trying to trade payments and get the best deal in the marketplace; that’s not good business. That segment is small enough that you’ve gotta be your own thing, and we’re not gonna chase anybody. Quite frankly, that’s why when we did the BEV, the whole industry is going towards UVs. The whole industry is going towards two-box designs and somewhat-sort-of-two-box-designs because of aerodynamics,” Kuniskis stated. “We said no, we’ve gotta find a way to not do that. To do it completely differently because if we would have done a two-box design and tried to tell you it was a muscle car, we would have just been competing with something else that’s out there in the marketplace doing the same thing. We don’t want to compete with somebody else. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a great car, just don’t want to compete with it.”
That last comment could be pointed at the Mustang Mach-E, an electric SUV that wears the Mustang badge and is a big reason why Ford is able to keep its pony car coupe running on gasoline, not even having to go a hybrid route, as far as the rules are concerned.
While Dodge has officially reiterated its next-gen muscle cars will be going electric, various analysts are tracking future Charger and Challenger products that will utilize Hurricane turbo I6 power and the STLA Large platform (like the Banshee), and will likely be produced at the Stellantis Windsor Assembly plant in Ontario, Canada by 2024. But with Stellantis entering labor contract agreements in 2023 with America’s UAW and Canada’s Unifor unions, future product transparency (regarding just what and where these vehicles are planned to be built – a bargaining chip for Stellantis) is as murky as ever.