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Kuniskis Talks ECU Cybersecurity Of Dodge Charger, Challenger

The FCA Passenger Car Chief Notes That It’s A “Slippery Slope”

photo copyright Muscle Cars & Trucks.

FCA head of passenger cars Tim Kuniskis didn’t hold back when it came to addressing the cybersecurity of the engine control units for the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger. As time has gone on, the software encryption of these important systems have become exponentially more robust. This affects the businesses of performance tuning companies both small and large all over the world. But FCA is doing what it has to do.

“We’re actually kind of notorious for being the hardest ones to crack,” said Kuniskis. “It makes people mad that our computers are harder to tune than some of the other manufacturers.”

It’s unfortunately the way the cookie crumbles right now, and automakers like FCA appear to be keeping themselves from being held liable when it comes to certain aspects of tuning that may be illegal. Both the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger are popular vehicles in the performance community, and customers are far more likely to seek out ways to modify them, compared to more conventional vehicles.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody

“It’s difficult, because as a manufacturer, you can’t be involved in enabling any of that, because then you’re enabling someone to break the law; violate emissions and things like that. It’s a very slippery slope,” said Kuniskis.

His words are similar to that of GM President Mark Reuss, who told MC&T about a month ago that the automaker has to do everything it can to protect customers from a cybersecurity standpoint. In other words, hacker-proofing vehicles is a double-edged sword, and customers that would like to tamper with the ECU/ECM to re-calibrate factors such as the air:fuel ratio to increase horsepower will likely be unable to, save for a full ECU/ECM swap and reprogramming. The all-new 2020 Corvette will be one of those vehicles.

Otherwise, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger customers will have to stick to bolt-ons, as they work outside the boundaries of the engine control module. They could otherwise seek out older vehicles for performance modification.

“Cat-back exhaust systems and cold-air intakes and things that are outside of that, you can still do. And depending on the car you can still get significant performance benefits,” finished Kuniskis.

Ultimately, while tuning companies might be losing bread over this, it also means that OEMs will have to step up to the plate, and deliver on the high-horsepower demands that the aftermarket has provided thus far. Cars like the Dodge Demon are examples of this.

Written by Manoli Katakis

Muscle Cars & Trucks was founded by Manoli Katakis - an automotive media veteran that has been covering the latest car news since 2009. His journalism has uncovered dozens of major product changes, updates, plans, and cancellations long before automakers were ready to make things official.

Some highlights over the years of his reporting include the uncovering of the Zora trademark before anybody else reported on the coming of a mid-engine Corvette, as well as the dead-accurate reporting of the coming of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, two years before it hit the market, and even before the debut of the concept vehicle. This type of reporting has immediately continued here, with reports of the original seventh-generation Camaro plans being shelved, as well as what's in store for the Chevrolet Silverado.

Some of his work can be found on massive automotive media outlets, such as Motor1. He also has been a guest on the 910AM Radio Station with Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne, as well as the enthusiast-oriented Camaro Show podcast.

Over the years, Manoli has interviewed various automotive industry titans, leaders, and people that make things happen otherwise. These include figureheads such as GM CEO Mary Barra, GM President Mark Reuss, automotive aftermarket icon Ken Lingenfelter, Dodge firebrand Tim Kuniskis, along with various chief engineers of vehicles such as the Ford F-150 & Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro & Corvette, and many more.

At MC&T, Manoli is taking his journalism expertise, deeply planted sources, driving abilities, and automotive industry knowledge to new levels, covering more vehicles and brands than ever before. This is the place where you will continue to read groundbreaking stories about American performance vehicles, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. Here is where you’ll also read insights and quotes from various automotive subject matter experts on the latest relevant products, as well as some of the latest official news from their manufacturers.

Fun facts: he also once beat Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner in an autocross with a Chevrolet Bolt EV. The biggest vehicle he’s ever driven is a John Deere mining truck. Besides a go-kart, the smallest vehicle he’s driven has been a Hyundai i10. He’s also spent time in the cockpit of various American performance vehicle icons, including the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Dodge Challenger Demon, and Ford Mustang GT350R. He has reviewed dozens of trucks, SUVs, and performance vehicles over the years.

One of his favorite new vehicles on the market today happens to be the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. He is also a card carrying member of the Sports Car Club of America, and regularly participates in Detroit Region autocross events.

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