Dodge Challenger Finally Takes Sales Crown

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

For the first time since American muscle returned to the assembly line in earnest, Dodge’s Challenger has managed to outsell both the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro inside the United States. Though Mopar fans might point out that Dodge would win every year if we bothered to include Charger sales in the headcount or were more precise when making determinations about what constitutes a muscle vs pony car.

Regardless of semantics, the Big Three have their performance icons and the Challenger has taken the two-door sales crown for the first time in modern history. Sadly, it was less about Dodge making inroads with new customers than it was about the other brands flubbing things. Performance vehicles aimed at the middle class are presently experiencing a rough patch, with the Challenger having lost the least amount of ground in the last decade.

Dodge’s crosstown rivals have been slipping the last few years — with Ford and Chevy’s most-recent highwater marks having taken place during the Obama administration. Blue Oval managed to move 122,349 Mustang domestically in 2015, while the Camaro peaked with 91,314 deliveries in 2012. During this period, Dodge’s Challenger could reliably count on between 40,000 and 60,000 U.S. sales annually.

In 2021, Mustang volumes had fallen all the way to 52,384 and the Camaro was only able to make 21,893 deliveries. Meanwhile, Dodge managed to sell 54,315 Challengers and another 78,388 examples of the Charger sedan to U.S. customers.

Speculating as to why, your author would argue that Challengers simply make more sense as a commuter vehicle and are a relative bargain compared to what’s being offered by Ford and Chevrolet. They’re exceptionally comfortable, have gigantic trunks, and maybe the only coupe left in existence where you can comfortably seat full-grown adults behind the driver. Challengers also appear custom-made for prolonged stints on the highway, whereas the Mustang and Camaro seem more at home being slung around backroads. But there are plenty of people ready to tell you that the Dodge is too damn big, too damn old, and lacks the poise of its rivals — all of which are valid criticisms.

Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis had his own ideas about why the Challenger has been holding its ground. During a recent interview, he told Automotive News that he believed his company weathered the supply chain problems better than its chief rivals. But he also said that he doesn’t really see the model as directly comparable. While undoubtedly a distinctly American performance vehicle, he said the Challenger’s greatest strength is “not trying to follow anybody else.”

“That’s why I said we don’t wake up trying to chase Mustang and Camaro,” he explained. “Not that I don’t think they’re viable competitors. They’re phenomenal cars; they’re just different cars. They’re different than what we’re trying to do.”

Kuniskis likewise discussed how Dodge has been building a community that he feels other marques lack. However the outward messaging has been changing as the company prepares to shift toward electrified vehicles.

From AN:

The brand is expected to launch a plug-in hybrid model in 2022 and a battery-electric muscle car in 2024. It also will show an electric concept this year.

Redesigned versions of the Challenger and Charger are expected to drop internal combustion and move to Stellantis’ electrified STLA Large platform, which is capable of up to 500 miles of range.

Kuniskis said the brand’s track record should give fans reason to look forward to a future of electrified muscle.

“They acknowledge the fact that we do muscle cars different, and therefore we’ll probably do electrification different,” Kuniskis said. “And that’s why I’ve been very vocal to tell people when we do electrification, it will be different. When we launch our concept car here in the next four months or so, we’re literally going to lay out how we’re doing it differently.”

As a degenerate Mopar fan myself, I’m excited to see what Dodge has planned for the future. But I don’t know many people who are all that enthusiastic to see the Charger and Challenger dropping V8 engines. Something about the rumored turbocharged straight-six hybrid also feels sacrilegious and unsettlingly European. It might make for a stellar powertrain and even a better vehicle on the whole. But it feels at odds with Dodge’s existing branding and enthusiasts of a certain vintage are going to be turned off.

[Images: Dodge]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
2 of 113 comments
  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.