Dodge kicked off the “Never Lift” campaign in October 2021, signaling a 24-month product blitz that will undoubtedly culminate with the debut of a salable, production version of a performance EV – presumably an electric Dodge Charger – at the end of the timespan. But before that happens, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has disclosed that the brand will debut not one, not two, but three vehicles during the 2022 calendar year.
The first will be a concept version early next year of the 2024 Dodge Charger EV (or whatever they’ll end up calling it). It will feature the revived Fratzog logo, and will be a movable, drivable concept car. Further details are kept close to the chest. Afterwards, a plug-in hybrid is expected to shot face. Described as a “new, new vehicle” by Kuniskis, this is likely the Dodge Hornet SUV that’s been much rumored up to this point, and even teased during July’s Stellantis EV Day presentation.
The third vehicle is a bit a mystery. It could be something that truly sends off the current generation Dodge Charger and/or Challenger in wild fashion (perhaps bringing back the 840 horsepower Demon engine in a less track-prepped package), or something as wild as a Challenger convertible. Or, it could confirm the rumors, and debut a body-on-frame Dodge Durango SUV.
Kuniskis is hoping that the upcoming Dodge Charger EV concept (that’s what we’re calling it) will help fans and customers ease up a bit on the future product direction. They’ll have to justify killing the 707 horsepower Hellcat V8, after all.
The Dodge CEO explained how he wants to “do electrification different than everybody else,” and is “waiting, until I have all my patents done,” according to a Motor Authority report.
Dodge Never Lift Campaign: Where It’s Going, What It’s Doing
“They’re going to go ‘I see where they’re going with this,'” Kuniskis said to MC&T during 2021 Roadkill Nights, when he was first explaining the plans for the Dodge “Never Lift” Campaign.
“We know exactly who we are, who are customers are, and we know exactly what they want. We’re going to make sure we build a Dodge (muscle car) first, and also leverage where the industry is going with electric vehicles to make the car better than what we sell today with the current technology,” he continued.
Are electric vehicles at odds with what’s been paramount to Dodge’s growth and image over the past decade? One of incredible power for the money? Not if customers divorce themselves from their preferences on how that power is generated. But that’s easier said than done, to be sure.
“Even the expectations of the analysts’ future predictions, we debate internally all the time because they’re just predictions. But when the Administration says they want 50 percent EVs by 2030,” said Kuniskis, just after Biden announced stricter fuel economy mandates and targets for fully electric vehicles beyond his term. “If you look at IIHS statistics, they predict that there will be 40 percent ‘electrified’ (not ‘battery electric’), but on the flip side of that it also means 60 percent are going to be ICE. Who is right? I don’t know… the outcome is that the consumer wins on this all day long.”
That’s provided the customer is willing to pay for it. To that end, they certainly aren’t having trouble paying up for $60,000+ Hellcat muscle cars.
“Price points are very relevant to everybody in the industry. Electrification is really expensive. Batteries are really expensive. EDMs (electric drive modules) are really expensive, a lot more than ICE technology,” said the Stellantis executive.
Governing bodies can’t just waive a magic wand, either.
“Regardless of what any administration says and wanting X percent of sales to be EVs, people aren’t getting raises or new jobs tomorrow,” Tim pointed out. “Just because we say the car costs just $125/month more doesn’t mean that everybody is going to buy it, because they can’t afford that extra $125 more a month.”
Blending Electric And Muscle: Technology, Or Alchemy?
Historically, expensive vehicles have paved the way for new technology, but a different, more commodified approach may take place with future electric Dodge muscle cars.
“To me, it’s the exact same thing that happened with the LaFerrari, Porsche 918… you have this $1 million cars with this technology and everybody goes ‘wow it’s amazing’ and on the cover of magazines. But it’s not accessible to ‘me’ so it’s not cool,” Kuniskis said “I can come out with an electrified muscle car for $150,000 and it will be awesome, but who cares? Because the heart of the market is at $45,000. I communicate ($70,000+) Hellcats and Redeyes, but it’s a small percentage of the market.”
Even as Tim claims that Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye sales are small percentages of overall sales volume, the demand for 700+ horsepower from a supercharged V8 appears undeniable.
“We’re probably 60,000 Hellcats sold right now,” said Kuniskis over the summer. “That’s an unheard of mix for a car that expensive. It should be a 2 percent run of our volume… it’s way more than that.”
Way more, but not the heart of the market.
Electric Scat Packs?
“The real market is Scat Packs. $45-$50,000 and nearly 500 horsepower. That’s where the market is,” said Kuniskis. “Everybody can make this really expensive EV that’s awesome, but if you can’t transition that down through the lineup, it’s not going to work. The only thing that’s going to enable that is two things: 1) we have to create consumer demand and make better cars. When we create consumer demand, more people will buy them, which means more suppliers will gear up to build more of them, which means costs of batteries will drop dramatically, and the next thing you know, you’ll be able to sell at those heart-of-the-market price points that are not just ‘electric cars,’ but badass performance cars.”
Performance may be just what moves the needle. Because it wasn’t working when automakers were trying to sell frumpy compliance cars.
“There are two pillars to this thing, there’s the administration’s that have to come with infrastructure. But more important than that, it’s on us manufacturers… we gotta deliver cars that make people say “I want that,” because you can put all the incentives that you want, but it doesn’t matter. Cheap is just cheap. They gotta want it first.”