By on June 10, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That sound you’ve been hearing for nearly two decades is the weeping and gnashing of teeth roused by the Chevrolet Beretta’s demise. Oh, Ford Probe, we hardly knew ye. Whither the Dodge Daytona? Let’s look at the continuing decline of an empire, formerly ruled by the American Muscle Car.

V8 Daytona - Picture courtesy allpar.com,jpg

At Chevrolet, SS is not the oft-used badge that AMG is at Mercedes-Benz. Ford’s ST and SVT branding aren’t used to form an overwhelming BMW M-like presence. You can buy big V8-engined Chryslers, but many of Chrysler’s higher-volume products – 200, Avenger, Dart, Journey, Wrangler – go without sporting iterations. Detroit’s three automakers don’t even sell coupe versions of their mainstream sedans these days.

1990 Beretta Pace Car replica - Picture courtesy Wikipedia.org

There is plenty of sporting heritage present in GM, Ford, and Chrysler showrooms, of course. Iconic nameplates sell at a level normally associated with moderately successful midsize cars. And even in 2013, a year in which muscle car sales have fallen, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang are America’s 29th and 30th-best-selling passenger cars, ahead of the Ford Taurus, Subaru Impreza, and Buick LaCrosse.

TTAC_Camaro-chart

Although we’re also showing results for two higher-end cars, two veritable sports cars, a more accurate reflection of the muscle car marketplace is made more apparent when you leave out the Corvette and Viper. Sales of America’s muscle car trio are down 4.6% through five months. May sales of the Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang fell 8.3% in the United States.

TTAC_Camaro-Challenger-Mustang-YOY_chart

Those declines haven’t occurred because of the lowest-volume member of the group. Dodge Challenger volume is up 28% this year, rising 15% in May. Its market share in the three-car category grew to 24.9% in May, up from 19.8% a year ago.

That market share was obviously stolen from the Camaro and Mustang, whether there are any prospective Challenger buyers who would have actually chosen the Chevrolet or Ford. It’s bit of a Sox or Cubs; Manchester United or Manchester City world.

Of the 22,263 American muscle cars sold in May, 35.6% were Camaros, down from 37.2% in May 2012. The Mustang’s share slid from 43% in May 2012 to 39.5% in May 2013. Year-to-date, the Camaro and Mustang have lost nearly four and three percentage points worth of market share, respectively.

In a market which enjoyed an 8% year-over-year increase in May, the fact that the Camaro and Mustang could be struggling to match last year’s pace shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether you’re selling a German roadster, a driftable Japanese sports car, or an outrageously powerful Detroit pony car, the number of customers is likely to shrink as the launch date becomes a distant memory.

Dodge Challenger sales figures must then be the exception that proves the rule.

Auto
May 2013
May 2012
May % Change
5 mos. 2013
5 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Chevrolet Camaro
7929 9023 - 12.1% 35,076 40,574 - 13.6%
Chevrolet Corvette
905 1219 - 25.8% 4820 5547 - 13.1%
Dodge Challenger
5537 4816 + 15.0% 24,881 19,442 + 28.0%
Ford Mustang
8797 10,427 - 15.6% 33,868 38,361 - 11.7%
SRT Viper
65 129 20 + 545%
Total
23,233
25,485 - 8.8% 98,774 103,944 - 5.0%

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.  

 

 

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51 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Muscle Cars Weak, Challenger Dodges The Trend...”


  • avatar
    Pan

    If the Dodge Challenger is based, as I’ve read, on the Charger platform. they could probably raise Challenger sales significantly in the Northern States and in Canada by offering AWD. Powerful, short wheelbase cars need AWD in cold climates, even with all the electronic anti-skid devices now offered.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      The Challenger has a 120-inch wheelbase, one of the longest wheelbases you can get in a passenger car.

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      I love the Challenger. It’s my favorite muscle car. Visibility isnt great but I agree with the owner on here – its doable. They should offer a rear camera as a from the dealer feature though.

      The Challenger also needs an interior update. It loses some sales because its heavier then the Stang – so we will be seeing a smaller one for the 2015 year. The question is – will it still be the best looking car on the road? (Not counting like Ferrari and other 100k stuff).

      Its going to debut at the NYC car show. I hope it still great looking and has some back seat room. I wonder how many inches they are cutting. I don’t think they can cut off more then 6″ and keep the great looks..

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    I’m seeing more and more Challengers every day. Dodge has a good looking powerful car that is inexpensive to buy.

  • avatar

    Mustang is at the end of its life cycle. Camaro’s MCR was meh. I wonder how much of this drop is that these are (for many buyers, not all of course) discretionary purchases, and people are waiting to see what the new Mustang looks like?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      While this explanation is likely true for the Camaro and Mustang, the Challenger’s fundamentals date back even further than the other two, which makes it’s increases even more interesting.

      They’ve kept it fresh with some powertrain updates, which surely have helped. I know a few people who traded in ’08 and ’09 Challengers when the 6.4L came out just to have the latest and greatest.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Considering the fact that the Mustang’s fundamental structure and style originates from MY2005, it has actually aged very well. I think it could soldier on for another couple of years with minor updates, even if it is out-of-line with Ford’s new Aston-Martin-inspired design language.

      Out of practicality, I’d get the Challenger if I had to buy a muscle-car. But if I could have what I really wanted, I’d get a Mustang GT…

      • 0 avatar

        It is irrelevant if the S197 style could countinue for a few years as Ford announced quite awhile back that 2014 would be the end of it’s life cycle. While there are many buyers who just pick the one they like, anyone of the core mustang driving groups knows the 2014 (1/2) or 2015 mustang will be smaller, faster, sportier, and the 50th anniversary. To not take these factors into consideration is poor journalism IMO. No one waiting for a new mustang bought a challenger instead. I’m glad for challenger though! I’d love to see all 3 models be successful. Ford will be a major competitor next year with the economy import sport cars as well. I’m excited to see where chevy and dodge take it too. Maybe an SRT4 Darn would help things out, though I’ve not read much good about the platform.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I’d expect sales of all three cars to continue falling. The new Mustang will be released next year with the Camaro and Barracuda to follow soon after.

    If the tea leaves are correct, the new muscle cars will lose weight, gain a better interior, and in the Mustang’s case an IRS. The present day cars (some chunkier than others) perform well. We’ve all seen the numbers and some of driven the beasts.

    Now imagine a smaller, 400 pounds lighter, ZL1 with a similar power-train and an improved interior.

    Prospective buyers are waiting because the next generation of muscle cars will be the best ever.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I agree.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Hubcap, you nailed it. After flogging my friend’s SS Camaro Convertible, I felt all that it needed was to lose 500 pounds, a foot of length, a nicer interior, and better visibility…and that is what the next generation Camaro is expected to be. Sounds like a recipe for a winner to me and well worth waiting for.

  • avatar
    skor

    Muscle cars will soldier on, for a while at least. The front-drive sport coupes, like the Probe and Daytona, ain’t never coming back.

  • avatar

    I’m one of those guys who dreams about buying a car in this segment, but who never does. I’ve sat in all three but as I have aged I have become a lot less brazen and no longer waste salespeople’s time with frivolous test drives so I can’t say how any of them perform on the road.

    I thought the Camaro was (and is) a cartoonish joke. It looks good from a distance in that it mimics the line old the Camaro we knew and loved from 1969, but I have decided that up close it looks odd. Even so I could live with it if I didn’t have to sit in it. The high beltline does this car no favors. It is too difficult to see out of to inspire any confidence on the road.

    I liked the Mustang. It fit me well, I liked the style and generally felt like it was something I could live with every day. It also had really good performance numbers so I feel like I would be getting real value for my money. If all I cared about was performance, the ‘Stang would be the car for me.

    The car I would buy, however, is the Dodge. That’s not just because I am a Chrysler Co. fan, but because it felt big inside and I know I would be able to put the kids in the back without too much problem. I also like the style, I think it is the most subdued of the three Pony cars, and the Challenger looks really good on the road. It does not have the performance of the Mustang, but, unlike Vin Diesel, I don’t live my life a quarter mile at a time so that performance is wasted.

    I think a lot of Americans are like me. We want the image these cars evoke, and (like it or hate it) they all have style in spades, but we spend our money on practicality. Of the three the Dodge is the most practical.

    • 0 avatar

      I totally agree with you. Not having anything really in the dispute as the Chevy is the only one that officially comes over, but having seen all 3 on the streets, the Challenger wins. It wins cause it’s the best looking, inside and out. I wouldn’t be too unhappy with a Mustang either, but the interior looks pretty plain, too plain. The Camaro, inside and out, is a mess in my eyes.

      In orange please.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      As a Chevy guy, it pains me to admit it but I agree with you. If I was in the market for a new two- door coupe, I’d be getting a Challenger. Actually, if I was really in the market for a new muscle car, I probably go ahead and get a 4- door Charger R/T instead of a 2- door Challenger.I must be getting older as things like interior volume, visibility, and the ease of ingress and egress has started to matter more to me than the Chevy vs. Ford vs. Mopar arguments.

      I do find it interesting that the Camaro and Mustang are both outselling the Taurus. If there’s not a better measurement of how much of a dog the Taurus is, I don’t know what it could be.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Taurus doesn’t sell so badly for being a fifteen year old car that’s suffered awful restyling attempts and that has horribly compromised packaging.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          “The Taurus doesn’t sell so badly for being a fifteen year old car that’s suffered awful restyling attempts and that has horribly compromised packaging.”

          The Taurus simply got too big. Inside, it’s D-segment, but externally it’s as big as E/executive-segment cars. The Taurus’s sales have declined because the Fusion took over for it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Given your glowing review of the Charger, a Challenger would only make the most sense.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I was sort of hoping that Chrysler would update the Challenger with some of the Charger’s new kit…like a nicer dashboard, the cooler instrument panel, UConnect, and the new key design. So far all they’ve done is give the Challenger the corporate Dodge steering wheel and the Charger’s redesigned door-handles.

          • 0 avatar
            Ion

            Aesthetically the interior in the challenger is bad. Material-wise a lot of the dash was soft touch and the wheel is real leather which considering I’ve driven last gen 3-series that had plastic wheels is a huge plus. The ergonomics were real good with the exception of the hood release placement, anyone with big feet like me will pop the hood while unsetting the parking brake a few times.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Chrysler Group may have horrible mid-sized cars, but the company more than makes up for it with the full-sized entries. That they can include things like RWD-bias, V8 engines and gorgeous styling while still being accessible enough to most customers makes them very relevant to Americans. And the only automaker that has come up with a remotely-successful answer is Hyundai with the Genesis sedan.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I haven’t had much time with the Camaro,but as far as the Mustang and challenger are concerned I think the reason the Challenger is gaining market share is three reasons:
    1 the challenger is the bigger fleet queen( this relates to 2 and 3)
    2 the challenger is cheaper because the mustang locks options as premuim trim only.
    3 the challenger is larger and thus easier to live with. I can fit 4 adults, a child, and a bunch of luggage in the challenger comfortably.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, my biggest objection to the Mustang (only objection, really) is that my very tall 13-year-old twins can’t get in the back of it without contortions and serious discomfort. It’s not a family car for me, not even in a pinch.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      But kids ain’t the mission of musclecars, and to design for them would be a terrible mistake. That is what the Charger is for. I’d say the biggest drawback of the Challenger is that it is too damn big. Stylistically it really looks great. But it is ponderous, and as a result performance – especially handling – suffer badly for it. It weighs too much. If I was redesigning the Challenger, it would lose 800 pounds and I’d scale it down about 20 percent om the outside. Better engineering would minimize the interior impact. The Challenger, like the Camaroo, suffer from the outsized DNA of their donors. I am thrilled that these cars made it to market and that they sell as well as they do, but they really are too large to be “pony” cars. I hope the next generation takes care of that. But the V8 has to stay. A V6 Mustang is pretty damn quick, but it just does not sound right.

      Anybody recall how many of the B&B said these cars would bomb in the marketplace…….

  • avatar

    The only sub-$100,000 two-door car that I like is the CTS V coupe.

    I like the Challenger, but I can’t see myself in one. I’m gonna stick with 300 models for a long time to come. I love what they offer and the image.

    Everytime I see a Challenger, it’s an R/T, but I have a neighbor with an SRT. You can buy them with superchargers used for $28,000 here. I can’t wait till the 392 Challenger gets Uconnect 8.4n and heated/cooled seats. I’m waiting for the 300c 392 SRT with an 8-speed.

    For now: I’M EATING UP RICE AND dummies with M-series!!!

    youtube.com/watch?v=EAUGQABm-WI

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      A friend of mine had a 300SRT, all built up, but it was stolen by a chop shop outfit and only the engine was found intact. He got a pretty big check from his insurance company and bought a gently used 2010 Hemi Orange SRT8 Challenger with a sick engine (messed up rings on one cylinder). Out went the bad stock 6.1, in went a built, blown 440CI motor, putting out 700+HP to the rear wheels (with the big blower pully on it). Fun. He put R/T wheels on it, along with white nose to tail R/T stripes and an HO spoiler on the back, so it looks like my R/T, but is a little bit faster than my car. Suckers in Mustangs want to run him constantly.

  • avatar
    gmichaelj

    Perhaps the cars are just too expensive? I really like the Mustang, but a new 5 liter, with cloth seats, will set you back about $32,000. That’s roughly $525/mo for 5 years, with 10% down. Ouch! Yes, the V6, which is faster than a 98 SVT Cobra is only $23,000 or so, and yes it makes up most of the Mustang’s sales, but I want a V8.

    • 0 avatar
      Travis

      For what it’s worth, I got my ’13 GT optioned with Track pack, the sync upgrade, and Recaro cloth seats for 33k after Texas taxes. Not cheap options either.

      Mine was also pre owned with 53 miles. :3

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Buddy of mine picked up his base GT for around 27k. Another good way to knock the price down is to look for a Mustang club(like MMA or STVOA) join for the hear a d take advantage of the X-plan discount they offer.

    • 0 avatar

      Cars aren’t really “expensive”. The problem is multi-fold.
      #1 Inflation on our money.
      #2 people trying to buy more “car” than they can afford.
      #3 cars coming with more standard features and higher price tags.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The lure of new powertrains and trim packages has worked in the Mopar’s favor. Chrysler is also allowing a bit more wiggle room with the incentives on the car. For the first few years, they pretty much sold them at asking price.

  • avatar
    Acd

    I’ve seen a lot more Challengers lately as well…..in the rental car aisles. A few weeks ago I saw National had about a dozen of them in their Emerald Executive aisle all in Rental Car White.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    I’ve driven all 3 many times. I ended up buying the Challenger for one reason: the car is full size and the interior room reflects that. The Camaro is a big car with a tiny pinched interior. The Mustang is better, but the roof line is too low. The Challenger is a throwback to what our Fathers and Uncles bought: a full size coupe that may not have the best performance, but will take you around town or across the USA with equal comfort.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I own a 6cyl Mustang rag,and also a winter/practical car, Cobalt. The other car would be an 2SS Camaro 6speed.

    Agreed the the visibilty issues with the Camaro are very real. With the wet spring we have had, The Mustang has barely moved. I drive the Camaro most of the time. Along with the visibility issues,the six speed takes a lot of getting used to.

    On the positive side. It cleans up real nice. I don’t like stripes, and or graphics. My Camaro IMHO has a nice clean look, and stance. It get lots of compliments.

    The 426 HP with the 6 speed is incredible powerfull. Way more than I will ever need, or use.

    This isn’t a car built for the BMW crowd. I’m not knocking BMW I love BMW styling. The BMW is just not me.

    When all the warranty’s run out, I may sell it,I might not. One thing is for sure. I don’t care who likes Camaros or who doesn’t like them. I know, that when I take it out for a ride, it dosn’t make me think I’m 18 again.

    What it does do. Is put a $hit eating grin on my face.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Well that’s just it; you have to sacrifice so much to get one of these muscle-cars. They cost more to insure and fuel than a typical car, have poor visibility (especially the Camaro), and rear-seat room is a joke. Also the Mustang is quickly falling out of accord with Ford’s new school of design, and the Camaro was practically ruined during the 2014 refresh. The Challenger, on the other hand, is more of a large, RWD coupe than a muscle-car, especially in the semi-sensible V6 SXT trim. And it looks plenty handsome.

    So when Ford claims that its next Mustang will be a global, well-rounded sort of coupe, I actually applaud. Maybe then It’ll finally make sense for me to get one.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      My SXT Challenger costs me less to insure than my TDI Jetta did. The rear seat room is excellent, you just have to work harder than in a 4 door car to get there. Hey, what do I care, the kids are grown and I hardly ever use it anyway. The visibility is excellent; thanks to the lack of a B-pillar and the old school pod mirrors that are further back and stick out further than modern A-pillar flags, I have better awareness of traffic around me then I’ve had in decades. This is in stark contrast to the Camaro, which to me felt like I was looking through a gunslit instead of a windshield, in addition to having the cheapest looking interior since the aforementioned Beretta.

      When Ford takes the Mustang “global” they’ll ruin it once and for all. One of the things I like best about the Dodge is its utter lack of “globalness”; no one looking at its style would ever confuse it with Asian or German product, it is apologetically American style.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Indeed, with 500 horsepower on the books, my Mustang costs less than 100 bucks a month to insure.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @jplolicke…As a Camaro owner, I don’t see the Challenger as having a spectacular interior. I also see the Challenger as a fairly large car.

        I love the looks of the Camaro. Though I can see where other folks may disagree.

        I do agree with you 100 percent on Fords “globalness” . It will kill a huge part of the Mustang market.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …..When Ford takes the Mustang “global” they’ll ruin it once and for all. One of the things I like best about the Dodge is its utter lack of “globalness”; no one looking at its style would ever confuse it with Asian or German product, it is apologetically American style…..

        I’d say “un-apologetically American”. And that is why a “Global” Mustang will be a disaster. When TopGear UK had a Shelby GT500 in Europe, the cameras were nonstop. Ford, don’t F-up the Stang…It has to look American because that what it is. Just put in a nicer interior…

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Well that’s just it; you have to sacrifice so much to get one of these muscle-cars. They cost more to insure and fuel than a typical car, have poor visibility (especially the Camaro), and rear-seat room is a joke.”

      It sounds as if you expect these cars to be Camcord like. They’re not and to me that’s a good thing. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with the Camry et alii, they perform their intended purpose admirably but most of the complaints you’re leveling don’t hold water.

      Of course they use more fuel than a typical car as most high performance cars do. I wouldn’t purchase one if rear seat leg room was a priority, there are better options. As for visibility, yes, the Camaro is compromised, but the other two are just fine. I’ll bet dimes to donuts that it, along with some other issues (interior) will be addressed in the upcoming generation.

      I’m glad these cars exist and are selling well for what they are. I can’t imagine a future where everything is a carbon copy of a Sonata yet it seems that’s the direction we’re heading.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      My Challenger R/T is a little cheaper on insurance than my Charger R/T was. The Camaro was hideous and still is with the “refresh”. I hope, but fear Ford is really going to screw up the Mustang. I hope not, I want something to choose from. If not, it looks like a new Challenger about 2-3 years from now.

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    I own a Red 2012 RT. I chose it because it is quiet has a smooth ride and looks great. I get compliments wherever I go. I carry a Challenger brochure because I get so many questions about it. Kids give me a thumbs up when I drive by, people will come over to me when I am filling up and ask me questions. I could go on and on about the people who have stopped to talked to me about the car. I have never owned a car like this before. Would I buy it again? In a New York minute.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @challenger2012….I’m happy for you. You got a car that makes you feel good. As far as I’m concerned thats what its all about. I’m a GM guy and I really like the Challenger. If I had the cash and the garage space, I would have one. I can see these cars holding thier value,for quite sometime.
      I don’t like the tweaking, Ford did with the 2010 Mustang. I have not seen a 14. So I will keep an open mind.

      I’m keeping my 08 Mustang all original no mods!,right down to wiper blades and the battery. I plan to keep it for a long while, God willing it will outlast me.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      With you 100%. Catching people doing double takes or giving your car admiring looks as they walk by never gets old. Your answer to whether you would buy it again tracks with CR’s results which place the Challenger second in this question, surpassed only by the 911 and the Corvette.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Calling “any two door car” a “muscle car” is flat out, 100% w-r-o-n-g!

    No #@&^*(! way was the Chevy Beretta ever a muscle car!!!

    Young Auto Writers on the WWW need car history lessons. They’ve been surrounded by ‘truck based’ vehicles their whole 20 some years, when they see a pic of a Beretta or Probe from before they were born, they assume it “must have been fast and sporty”.

    Like assuming the 1930′s Great Depression was ‘good times’ from the looks of buildings and cars then.

    Todays little kids will call all V8 trucks ‘performance cars’ in 20-30 years. LOL

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Muscle car seems to have a pretty elastic definition. When I first learned the term, it meant an intermediate two door powered by a big block from a full sized car. Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds, Challengers, Barracudas, and Javelins were pony cars. With the exception of the Challenger and third generation Barracuda, they were all based on compact sedans. They were not muscle cars. Nor were Hemi-Darts, for that matter. Applying strict definitions from the ’60s to car classifications would mean that the Mustang isn’t a pony car anymore. By the same token, the only sports cars Porsche has built in any meaningful numbers have been the 356 Speedster(all other 356s were GTs), the 550, the 904, the 914, the Boxster, the Carrera GT, and the Cayman. All the other real Porsches were 2+2s, and GTs as a result. Roadsters can’t have roll down windows and probably shouldn’t have external door handles. Hardtops can’t have B-pillars. Coupes can’t have more than two doors and must be based on a sedan(I like this one).

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The present-day situation with muscle cars reminds me of the time just before the collapse of the original ones. IIRC, polled owners of the Stangs, Camaros, Cudas of the day mostly said that they loved their cars. Hence their makers expected sales to continue well. However, they had failed to ask a critical question: WILL YOU BUY ANOTHER? To that, the answer was basically NO.

    Camry owners replace their Camrys with Camrys. F-150 owners replace their F-150s with F-150s. Muscle Car owners usually replace their hot rods with something else. The whole performance car segment will suffer as the older, richer one-time owners move on, to be replaced with a younger, poorer generation of car buyers who are much more interested in low costs of ownership than quarter-mile times.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      This is sadly true, to a point. Several of my friends with Challengers and Mustangs will replace them with a 4 door vehicle next time, but a lot of them won’t be, their kids are gone, and they have another vehicle for grandkids, etc. It’s about 50/50 Charger or 300 if they are going the 4 door route, unless the Chevy SS grabs them. For me, it’s going to probably be either another Challenger, if they don’t mess it up, or, if GM makes the next one look ok, a Camaro. The present one is just too plain ugly to think about.


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