Roadkill Nights is back. What’s probably the rowdiest, loudest, fastest and grittiest event of the year that’s headlined by a major automotive brand – Dodge – takes place at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan. The main showcase of the event is eighth-mile drag racing featuring some of the quickest door slammers in America, and for 2021 the event adds a “TV vs YouTuber” tournament for big prize money. Among all of the noise, tire smoke, and fried food, Dodge also has been known to show off a few new products for enthusiasts to gawk at. Technically, there won’t be any new product announcements at the event this year, but there will be a teaser of a future product that could debut later this year. And it could be some sort of electrified Dodge Charger or Challenger muscle car, either in hybrid or EV form.
When asked how Dodge will balance how octane events like Roadkill Nights and its “Brotherhood of Muscle” messaging with its plans of “reinventing the muscle car,” Dodge CEO Kuniskis simply retorted to MC&T to “tune in July 8.”
“We’re not going to show anything new there,” said Kuniskis, when asked about whether or not Roadkill Nights 2021 will debut any new vehicles. “We had something that we’re trying to get done in time share right around the (Roadkill Nights) event. We’re probably going to push it to maybe SEMA-ish timeframe, but we will have some pretty interesting stuff July 8.”
The Electrified Dodge Muscle Car Paper Trail
In 2021, FCA placed a major order with German supplier ZF Friedrichshafen for hybrid-ready eight-speed transmissions, with production scheduled for 2022 – just in time for the 2023 model year, when the current-generation Charger and Challenger are expected to run their course. ZF currently supplies all of the eight-speed autos in RWD applications for Stellantis, and are considered to be some of the best gearboxes on the market. Furthermore, the supplier deal inks the second-largest order for a transmission the company has ever seen. This means we can expect some kind of hybridization on virtually every major FCA product from 2022 onward, confirmed or not confirmed.
Also in 2019 was the discovery of a straight-six-cylinder engine USPTO patent, codenamed GME-T6. It’s been speculated that the engine could find itself in next-generation Dodge Challenger and/or Dodge Charger, as well as several other important vehicles in the FCA fleet, such as the JL Jeep Grand Cherokee, albeit mated to a hybrid system.
More recent reports have gone to allege that the straight-six engine is being called “Tornado” internally, which could signify forced induction of some kind. It’s expected that this new engine will be under the hood of the upcoming JL Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe hybrid.
FCA has also applied to secure the ‘Cuda trademark for motor vehicle use. While unclear at the present, this nameplate could be reborn as a hybrid, or an EV.
Considering that the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, and Jeep Grand Cherokee have shared common powertrains up to this point, it feels accurate to assume that Stellantis would continue to share these common parts in the future as well.
Constant Hinting From Dodge Leaders
MC&T and other leading publications have been steadily extracting meaningful quotes from Dodge’s Tim Kuniskis, as well as those who report to him directly.
In January 2021, the charismatic Dodge brand CEO recently admitted to CNBC that “the days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V8 are numbered,” and going on to say that electric vehicles can save the “Golden Age of muscle cars.”
“I think there’s a huge value in electrification,” he told MC&T in 2019. “I don’t know when customers are going to be ready for that, accept that, or be willing to pay for that.”
“Like everything, the cost will come down, and how do you do it? Do you do a ISG (mild hybrid)? Do you do a PHEV? Do you do full BEV? The price difference is massive between them and it’s all based on battery size. But if the costs of the batteries come down, it will all become feasible,” he also said.
Most recently, MC&T caught up with Matt McAlear, Dodge head of sales operations, who said the following:
“There hasn’t been a date drawn in the sand saying you’ll no longer be able to buy an iron block Hemi anymore, but everybody knows it’s coming and they want to enjoy (today) while they can… it will come to an end, but the replacements are going to be so much more exciting,” he said.
“I think more than anything people are looking for the next generation,” said McAlear, on the broad trend of the shrinking muscle car segment. “Everybody knows electrification is coming, we’ll reinvent the muscle car as far as Dodge is concerned. I’m extremely excited about where the future is going, but right now everybody is enjoying ‘the bachelor party.’ This is the last hurrah.”