Pony Car Check-up: If Only Our Lives Were As Stable As the Dodge Challenger's Sales
What’s something that’s really, really old, yet continues to attract a steady flow of buyers year after year? You could say the Colt 1911 and its knock-offs, and you’d be right — in fact, an old American pistol that packs a punch and never really saw the need to improve in a major way seems like an apt comparison to what we’re actually talking about.
When it first appeared on sales charts in May of 2008, the Dodge Challenger was pure throwback. A cherry to place on top of the brash, retro sundae Chrysler had constructed out of its 300 and Charger sedans. In case you missed it, last month was the 10-year anniversary of the reborn Challenger’s first full month of American sales; the TTAC crew deferred its celebrations until July 4th.
Taking a look at the sales performance of its domestic, um, challengers, it seems like the two-door Dodge might outlive us all. Will the last American passenger car on the market ride into the sunset with a supercharged roar and two smoking rear tires?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that. In terms of volume, the Challenger takes second place in the pony car battle with 37,367 units sold over the first half of 2018. But while the first-place Ford Mustang’s 42,428 YTD sales modestly trounces its FCA rival, trajectory counts for something.
Mustang volume fell 4.9 percent, year to date, despite June providing the Blue Oval with a 19.6 percent year-over-year uptick for the month. The Challenger, on the other hand, saw sales rise 3.3 percent, year over year. Over 2018’s first half, Challenger volume rose 4.1 percent.
It’s worth noting that Mustang sales are far more fickle than that of the Challenger’s. To look at the last 15 years in Mustang sales is to look at twin peaks. From 166,530 units sold in 2006 to just 66,623 three years later, Mustang sales rebounded to 122,349 in 2015, only to fall again, to less than 82,000 in 2017.
The Mustang’s a yo-yo. That’s what you get when you actually redesign your model once in a while.
Anyway, if Fiat Chrysler keeps this up, it just might find itself surpassing last year’s tally, which wasn’t far off 2015’s high water mark. That year, after seven years of steadily rising volume, Americans took home 66,365 of the LX-platform coupes. The following year saw 64,478 Challengers leave the dealer lot. And 2017? FCA unloaded 64,537 of ’em. That’s amazingly consistent volume for a heavy, two-door passenger car that isn’t exactly the freshest thing around.
Of course, it’s one only a few vehicles where you’ll need all five fingers on one hand to count the engine options, with no electric assistance in sight. Only the addition, years back, of a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 base engine and eight-speed automatic in the lineup gave any nod towards environmental stewardship. And yet the Challenger, a decade on, manages to buck two trends: our simultaneous, self-defeating thirst for both SUVs and ultra-green driving (the latter of which is mainly just an OEM rivalry spurred by rosy predictions and fear of government).
For the coming model year, the Challenger Hellcat gains an additional 10 ponies (to 717 hp), while the semi-Demon Reyere variant leaves the gate with 797 hp on tap. It’s amazing seeing the amount of mileage FCA gets out of adding power to an ancient model.
But you’re forgetting something, you say. What about the Chevrolet Camaro?
Can’t forget that, though many buyers already have. The Camaro’s first-half volume stands at 25,380 vehicles, which represents a 30.6 percent drop from the same period last year. We can only average GM’s quarterly sales reports over three months, but it returns a figure of 4,529 — meaning June likely saw a year-over-year sales dip. Sadly for Chevy, the sixth-generation lookalike Camaro, even with the addition of the 650 hp ZL1, hasn’t set sales on fire.
Its introduction led to a steady decline for the model which, to its credit, still posted sales volume of over 67,000 vehicles in 2017.
For 2019, the model u ndergoes a trim-dependent styling refresh (Turbo 1LE seen above) and makes four-cylinder power available on more variants, possibly luring in buyers interested in extra features and flash, but no additional dash. To beat the Challenger in full-year 2018 sales, those new faces will need to prove very popular.
[Images: © 2018 Tim Healey/TACC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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