Kuniskis Talks ECU Cybersecurity Of Dodge Charger, Challenger

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

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.

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“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.

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Written by Manoli Katakis

Detroit Region SCCA Member and founder of MC&T. Automotive Media Jedi Knight. Not yet the rank of Master.

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