It’s been a little quiet since the debut of Dodge Direct Connection; an in-house performance program available exclusively through the brand’s vetted “Power Brokers” network of dealers. Along with Direct Connection came the announcement of stage kits for the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye.
Yes, despite Dodge’s announcement to go electric, it’s still making strides in pushing the envelope with what’s currently available today. But customers are stuck in a holding pattern to get this wild upgrade, due to two factors: government agencies, and the continued global chip shortage.
“Everything we’re doing is in Jell-O right now, it’s so hard to plan anything,” said Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis. “The Direct Connection Stage Kits? If we didn’t have a shortage of chips for the controllers and approval from the EPA right now, we’d have the stage kits really out there and available for sale right now. I’m hoping we have those in the next couple of weeks.”
Through Direct Connection, Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye customers can upgrade their range-topping muscle car to an astonishing 885 horsepower via a Stage II kit, and is factory warranty-backed. The Stage I Kit for the “regular” SRT Hellcat that unleashes a respectable 757 horsepower on high-octane. None of these kits require any changes to engine internals or anything overly burdensome like that – just basics, like an OBD-II tune, a performance air filter, low-temp thermostat, and 3.17-inch “Hellephant” engine pulley.
“We had a disruption in the supply chain with the chips for the controllers that are required in the ‘pre stage kit’ to make all of this work. We think we have that resolved now. We should be getting those controllers in a couple of weeks. So, not stopped, just delayed because of supply issues.”
Stellantis, along with the rest of the auto industry, have been wrestling with supply-related issues since 2020. Some leaders believe this chip shortage crisis will continue into 2024.
“We have the kits ready to go. The MAPs are done, the pulleys are ready, we can launch,” said Kuniskis. “But the problem is I don’t have the full stamp of approval of the EO certification from CARB yet, and why would I send it out without the CARB approval? That’s one of the differentiators between under our factory warranty and EO certification. We think everything’s gonna be okay with them. Quite honestly they’ve been fantastic to work with… so not canceled, just delayed. We hope to have announcements here pretty soon.”
The Dodge CEO went on to further elaborate why the Direct Connection program exists. Direct Connection was first launched back in 1974, and served as Dodge’s official source for performance parts and technical information. Direct Connection also featured a massive portfolio of performance parts sold through the dealer network with technical information and how-to performance upgrade guides, something that other brands in the industry eventually followed.
“Extending the cars on the road today is a great thing. It’s a $23 billion industry… anybody that’s ever been to SEMA knows it’s a huge, huge business,” he said. “But there is another benefit to this. Think about what we’re doing here with a two year plan and a two-year transition. There’s a change happening to the industry that’s going to affect our retail partners. Our dealers are our partners in this business, and when we go to full electrification across the industry they’re going to lose a revenue stream that they have today. They’re going to see a decrease in revenue in parts, service and maintenance. That’s just a fact. Getting heavily involved in the aftermarket/parts business can help us close that gap and bring our dealer partners some revenue.”
Kuniskis also hinted at what we can expect from Dodge Direct Connection in the future.
“Direct Connection is not just going to be for the old cars. We’re planning right now to have that stuff for the next generation of muscle cars, planning in advance to give them that revenue stream and funnel it through our Power Broker Dealers. So, getting ahead of something that they haven’t experienced yet, but when it happens they’ll be happy we did it.”