The Internal Combustion-only Dodge Challenger's Days Are Numbered, Manley Says

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
the internal combustion only dodge challengers days are numbered manley says

Are the 66,716 Americans who helped take the venerable Dodge Challenger to a new sales record in 2018 just Luddites, rebelling against a rising tide of electrification and autonomy? Maybe, but the era of a Challenger line powered solely by gasoline is drawing to a close.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley addressed the muscle car’s future at this week’s Detroit auto show, admitting that, at some point, the Challenger needs to grow greener. That means venturing into the unsexy world of electrification — an unthinkable act for some American muscle purists.

Speaking to The Detroit News, Manley said the Challenger, despite enjoying a lasting popularity that’s rare in the industry — at least for a car model, must change with the times if it has any hope of long-term survival.

“The reality is those platforms and that technology we used does need to move on. They can’t exist as you get into the middle-2020s,” Manley said of the Challenger’s aging LX architecture and trio of V8s. “New technology is going to drive a load of weight out, so we can think of the powertrains in a different way. And we can use electrification to really supplement those vehicles.”

It’s not like no one saw this coming. There’s a plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler in the works, and FCA’s 2019 revamp of its lucrative Ram 1500 line saw the debut of “eTorque” mild-hybrid variants of its 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Dodge’s Challenger and Charger makes good use of these displacements and, with some weight shaved from a modified LX platform and a lightweighted body, the Wrangler’s turbocharged Hurricane four-cylinder could become a new addition to the engine lineup.

FCA’s Brampton, Ontario assembly plant should begin producing next-generation Chargers and Challengers in 2021, minus the Italian platform originally slated for the models. Late FCA boss Sergio Marchionne admitted last June that platforms sourced from Alfa Romeo or Maserati wouldn’t be able to handle the excessive torque of hi-po Mopar applications.

While a Hurricane four mated to an eTorque system is one low-end powertrain possibility mentioned in our piece, Manley suggests the company’s unsullied 6.4-liter and supercharged 6.2-liter V8s will have to give way to electrified alternatives in the coming decade.

“I think that electrification will certainly be part of the formula that says what is American muscle in the future,” he said. “What it isn’t going to be is a V8, supercharged, 700-horsepower engine.” Take that, Hellcat fans.

Take solace, too. Manley claims a move towards electrification is not a sign of Dodge handing in its man card.

“Electrification deployed to increase the performance of the vehicle as its primary goal – with the added benefits of fuel economy – is very different, instead of the other way around,” he added.

While the move towards performance cars equipped with a fuel-saving electric “boost” is gaining in popularity among high-end European manufacturers, some analysts wonder where the same strategy will go over well with American consumers. Especially consumers of a product as quintessentially red-blooded as the Challenger.

Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer isn’t having it.

“There’s a long-standing rule about what constitutes American muscle, but electrification is not part of it,” Brauer told The Detroit News. “I need something that gets my blood pumping.”

He continued, “The Challenger is now challenging the Mustang for sales primacy with a V8. Who would have thought that? In terms of sales, the supercharged V8s have worked well.”

A possible replacement for Dodge’s big boys could be a long-rumored twin-turbo V6 ( or inline-six), offered with or without hybrid assist.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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4 of 73 comments
  • Reclusive_in_nature Reclusive_in_nature on Jan 21, 2019

    The castrating knife of government regulation cuts its way a little deeper. Soon Dodge's testicles will be completely removed along with the rest of the domestic automakers. All the while, the eunuchs will chant in unison "Progress!" and "... but electrics are faster."

    • See 1 previous
    • Luke42 Luke42 on Jan 22, 2019

      Go drag race a Tesla, and then come back tell us which car has been castrated...!

  • Russification Russification on Jan 24, 2019

    wildly optimistic industry projectinos over a dried out global capital market. future borrowers will have a)exhorbitent tax burdens to support government debt growth on pace to stop out the largest car markets in the coming decades b)consomer credit profiles who will need to borrow money for these new vehicles c)all of the above coalesce into larger market/political disturbances upsetting any further drift into undue complexity. my bet is that easily serviceable, readily available, cars and parts will out last forthcoming injection-molded plastic golf carts..

  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.
  • ToolGuy From the listing: "Oil changes every April & October (full-synth), during which I also swap out A/S (not the stock summer MPS3s) and Blizzak winter tires on steelies, rotating front/back."• While ToolGuy applauds the use of full synthetic motor oil,• ToolGuy absolutely abhors the waste inherent in changing out a perfectly good motor oil every 6 months.The Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage I run in our family fleet has a change interval of 20,000 miles. (Do I go 20,000 miles before changing it? No.) But this 2014 Focus has presumably had something like 16 oil changes in 36K miles, which works out to a 2,250 mile average change interval. Complete waste of time, money and perfectly good natural gas which could have gone to a higher and better use.Mobil 1 also says their oil miraculously expires at 1 year, and ToolGuy has questions. Is that one year in the bottle? One year in the vehicle? (Have I gone longer than a year in some of our vehicles? Yes, I have. Did I also add Lucas Oil 10131 Pure Synthetic Oil Stabilizer during that time, in case you are concerned about the additive package losing efficacy? Yes, I might have -- as far as you know.)TL;DR: I aim for annual oil changes and sometimes miss that 'deadline' by a few months; 12,000 miles between oil changes bothers me not at all, if you are using a quality synthetic which you should be anyway.