Coming off of a dismal 2021 for muscle car sales, the 2022 calendar year delivered what can only be described as polarizing. Last year, we saw the introduction of two unique directions on the future of muscle cars. One is a completely new idea on what a muscle car can be with the Dodge Charger SRT Daytona Banshee Concept; and the other is an evolution of an icon with the new 2024 Ford Mustang, codenamed S650. Quietly, off to the side, Chevrolet is soldiering on with the Camaro, and even had a few deals to dish out that may have contributed to a sales comeback. This report details the annual 2022 sales figures for American muscle cars between Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge, as well as to explain why the segment remains at such a low sales point.
2022 Muscle Car Sales: Corvette Outsells Camaro Again, Mopars Are Up, Mustang Is Down
According to the official sales numbers, Dodge sold 55,060 units of the Challenger in 2022, which is up from 54,314 in 2021. To give some more context, Dodge’s annual sales totaled 190,795 cars in 2022, including 80,074 examples of the Charger and just 55,433 units of the Durango. Meaning the Challenger almost managed to outsell the Durango. In short, The Brotherhood of Muscle came out strong for 2022, hot on news that Dodge is phasing out the Charger and Challenger as we know it after the 2023 model year.
Both the Dodge Charger and Challenger easily outsold its rivals, with the Ford Mustang selling 47,566 units in 2022, down from 52,414 units the year prior. 2022 marks the worst sales year for the Ford Mustang in its history thus far, beating the previous record lows of 2021.
While the sales drop for the S550 Ford Mustang can be easily pointed to the reveal of the new S650 model, which should begin production later this year, it’s not the entire story. Because after an initial strong surge in demand for the S550 Mustang in 2015, the S550 has seen its sales decline with each successive year. It could be attributed to buyers getting older, which is something the new Mustang aims to fix. What’s more, Ford continued to battle ongoing supply chain issues that kept Mustang production lower than usual. And you can’t sell them if you can’t build them.
Then there’s the Chevrolet Camaro. GM sold 24,652 examples of the Camaro, which may sound dismal compared to its rivals, but it is up 12.6 percent from 21,893 total sales tallied in 2021. While incentives were offered, The General seems to have been able to figure out its supply chain setbacks, as well, leading to wider availability of its pony car.
That being said, the Camaro was again outsold by the C8 Corvette, which tallied 34,510 units sold in 2022, up 4.4 percent year over year. It’s the most the Corvette has sold since 2006, and demand remains white hot for the C8 as Chevy launches the 670 horsepower Z06 supercar, and the E-Ray on the horizon.
The market share dominance of the Dodge Charger and Challenger defies most conventional business models, as the average car doesn’t live to see its 15th birthday, let alone celebrate it by outselling its rivals. But simply keeping the pricing reasonable while delivering as much horsepower as possible has proven to be a winning formula in this segment, suggesting that’s all it ever needed to be.
Total combined US sales of the Dodge Charger and Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, and Ford Mustang, totaled 241,744 units for 2022, only 1,722 units better than the year before. In 2012, that number was a combined 333,783 units. This is largely because of surging Camaro and Mustang sales at the time, while Dodge Charger/Challenger sales remained steady compared to today, and the Corvette was sunsetting the C6 generation.
Muscle Car Sales: Major Headwinds Ahead
The rhetoric from on high is that the muscle car market as we know it will hang by a thread. As we progress through the decade, General Motors will eventually cease production of the Chevrolet Camaro after the 2024 model year with no direct replacement. However, that’s not to say The General is giving up on combustion-powered performance (yet). But with the C8 Corvette, Cadillac CT4-V and CT4-V Blackwing, CT5-V and CT5-V Blackwing, as well as the Escalade-V, you just have to be willing to pay handsomely for it. By contrast, the Camaro is the most affordable V8 performance car on the market, coming in at $37,795 USD for the 455 horsepower LT1 trim level. That’s nearly half the price of a C8 Corvette. It’s an absolutely screaming deal.
Over at Stellantis, Dodge is making a lot of noise (or should we call it a Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust) over the next-generation cars going completely electric. And even if that doesn’t turn out to be entirely true, the beloved Hemi V8 engine family is likely going to be put to pasture in favor of the Hurricane T6 twin-turbo six-cylinder; a more powerful, more efficient, and more expensive replacement to the Hemi.
This level of forced evolution that we’re seeing from Dodge may come at a consequence: a large share of its existing customers are likely to be alienated by the brand’s shift to electrification, and may look elsewhere to fulfill their V8-sized demands. This has all roads leading to the S650 Ford Mustang, which stands to be the last V8-powered muscle car standing by next year.
That’s not very far away, is it?
So, where did the 90-plus thousand muscle car sales go from 2012 to now? Why did they leave, and what are customers buying instead? A major shift in customer preference points toward fun-having trucks and utility vehicles in lieu of more personal cars like the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger.
To demonstrate a few examples, the Jeep Wrangler has pulled away pony car owners and into the 4×4 SUV life. Others, like the WK2-series Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 392 and Trackhawk, provide little compromise when it comes to V8 straight line performance, but manage to add a ton more of utility and passenger comfort. Vehicles like this make more sense for parents who didn’t want to give up driving personality to better accommodate their family. And we see a far greater abundance of vehicles in this space today than we did in 2012.
For example, the Ford Bronco wasn’t around back then, and now makes up a quarter of its market share in a burgeoning segment. Nor was the expanded Jeep lineup we see today such as the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe hybrid, V8-powered Wrangler 392, or even the Gladiator pickup truck. These vehicles represent a core ethos of an industry-wide shift that has just about every automaker and brand offering some sort of off-road performance variant of otherwise conventional, street-oriented vehicles (like the Chevrolet Trax Activ, for example). Even Porsche is building an off-road 911.
Speaking of trucks, this segment is no longer about the simple single-cab work horse that kept the fancy things to a minimum. More millionaires buy trucks than anything else now, yielding more breadth to this segment that skews premium. Just as well are there more fun-having pickup trucks than ever before. Consider that the Ford F-150 Raptor saw its first model year in 2010, effectively pioneering a segment, showing customers just what’s possible with a factory truck both on-road and off-road. Today, along with the Raptor, there’s the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2, the Ram 1500 TRX, and plenty of sub-variants such as the Silverado Trail Boss, Ram 1500 Rebel, and F-150 Tremor (and Rattler). And that’s just the full-sized truck market.
Looking at the midsize truck market, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 has only been around since the 2017 model year, and GM looks to take that off-road appeal to another level with the next-generation Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks due out this year. Over at Ford, there’s the Ranger Tremor, and an all-new Ranger on the way soon that promises a Raptor variant for the US market. Then there’s the aforementioned Jeep Gladiator. In other words, customers are spoilt for choice beyond just the Toyota Tacoma TRD, a top-selling staple.
The American muscle car segment is currently engulfed in a pincer movement of regulatory-driven shifts in what automakers will offer in the future (electric vehicles, or nothing at all), as well as a golden age for performance trucks and utility vehicles that sell a go-anywhere, do-anything image to great effect. It may be a while before the muscle car market sees a turnaround, as consumers continue to upsize their vehicles to better fit their lifestyles.