Hot on the heels of the 8,950 HP 2021 SRT lineup reveal, the head of Fiat Chrysler Passenger Cars, Tim Kuniskis, spoke with the fine folks at Muscle Cars and Trucks about the Dodge brand and the current American performance ecosystem.
Kuniskis begins by observing that “The muscle car race is really down to five cars.” He continues by bringing up is the Corvette, whose faithful he hilariously dubs “the yellow team,” in a nod to the traditional colors of Corvette Racing, when he says that they (we) “will be mad at me that I consider the Corvette a muscle car, but when you look at online shopping behavior, the number one vehicle that our SRT Chargers and Challengers are Cross-Shopped with is Corvette. It’s not really a muscle car but look what it’s cross-shopped with, so we put it in there.”
If true, and we have no reason to doubt that it is, this is quite the revelation; Dodge’s steroidal muscle cars, not something from Stuttgart, are the ‘Vette’s primary competition for consumer dollars. The Challenger, in particular, seems to be doing an astounding job of… challenging. In Q2 of 2020, the big coupe outsold both of Chevrolet’s sports/pony/muscle cars by itself, 9,880 to 9,134 (6,675 for Camaro and 2,459 for Corvette). As we touched on in the Fourth of July edition of Quick Shifts (fourth gear), what Kuniskis and Co. have accomplished by keeping their pair of ancient, plus-sized muscle cars relevant and financially successful in a segment ripe with newer, lighter, more advanced cars is nothing short of amazing!
If you are only interested in Corvettes, it’d be safe for you to exit now, otherwise, on with the interview! After musing about how the plastic fantastic fits into the muscle car conversation, Kuniskis moves on to the Challenger’s more natural foes, the Mustang and the aforementioned Camaro, saying, “the people that buy them and own them and like them would probably punch me for saying this, but they’re very similar.” He’s got a point, especially in their current generations. Both have drifted further into the sports car realm, the ‘Stang has finally adopted an independent rear suspension setup, they both use an optional co-developed 10-speed automatic transmission, and the Blue Oval has also resorted to fitting mag-ride to its top-tier pony. Then, he finally brings up the vehicles that his company actually produces (whose owners might also want to punch him), saying that they “are kind of the outliers. They’re bigger, they’re heavier, they’re drag-strip focused, they’re GT focused… that is a unique space for us. And within that space, we want to be the number one performance brand,”
At first, this whole interview had your author thinking, “you’d have to be pretty dim and only care about horsepower to even consider one of the Hellcat brothers over a ‘Vette” but upon further introspection, a Charger Redeye makes a lot a lot more sense for someone like myself with small kids so I’ll just leave it at this; Tim Kuniskis is the kind of interviewee that GM Performance desperately needs. That whole MC&T piece was a huge, fun breath of fresh air when all we ever hear from the yellow team is company lines like “we don’t discuss future product” or “we are confident in what we have built.”
Muscle Cars and Trucks
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