Challenger Defies Industry Trends, Leaves Chevy & Ford in the Dust

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Hellcat Challenger and Demon

Challenger continues to sell well as buyers flock to trucks EVs and SUVs. So what’s holding Chevy and Ford back? The answer is simple.

In an era of the American auto industry where most buyers are snatching up a truck, sport utility vehicle, hybrid or electric vehicle, the Dodge Challenger continues to sell well. Both the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro are down through the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year and while both of those cars have watched their numbers decline since 2016, the Challenger has been on a steady incline in that same period.

CNBC recently published a piece looking at the success of the Dodge Challenger in the modern automotive world. In that piece, they kind of go on about all of the things that are “wrong” with the car, focusing on things like fuel economy numbers, sales incentives and the fact that it hasn’t been heavily refreshed since the car was introduced for 2008. It is chock full of information from industry analysts who essentially forecast the end of muscle car popularity and in the long run, it smacks of an automotive piece written by someone who has no real connection to the community.

Fortunately, Mopar fans know exactly why the Challenger has continued to thrive while the industry has taken a different direction, and it has nothing to do with fuel economy or sales incentives.

TopCat Challenger Doing a Burnout

Facing Criticism

The Dodge Challenger is often criticized by owners of other performance vehicles for being too big, too heavy and too old to compete in the modern automotive world. While the brawny Mopar muscle car competes in a segment with the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, it is considerably bigger and heavier than those competitors. As for its age, the car really hasn’t changed all that much since it was reintroduced to the Dodge lineup for the 2008 model year.

Outside of the performance car world, there is a whole different group of critics who are constantly forecasting the end of the Challenger and everything like it. They insist that in the current market with the strong upward trend in the sales of electric vehicles, trucks and sport utility vehicles, there is just no place for a 4,500-pound performance car packing a big V8.

Dueling Challenger Burnouts

However, with all of that in mind, the Dodge Challenger continues to sell better and better. In fact, through the first nine months of 2018, the Challenger is the only one of the three American muscle cars to post positive growth. The Mustang is down on the year and over the past two years and the Camaro is way down this year and over the past two years, but the Challenger is up this year while posting a steady-but-slow sales increase since 2016.

Big Power: Key to the Challenger’s Success

So, with so many industry experts and wannabe analysts going on about how cars like the Challenger are quickly coming to an end, how it is that Dodge manages to keep their muscle car sales numbers growing?

Power, more power and staying true to the Mopar muscle car design.

Hellcat Challenger Burnout

During the first portion of the modern era of the Challenger, running from 2008 through 2014, Dodge was routinely beaten badly by Mustang and Camaro. With the introduction of the 2015 Challenger, Dodge saw a big spike in sales that has been maintained for several years now. The 2015 model year brought about some minor exterior styling changes and a nicer interior, but the big story with the second generation of the modern Challenger is big power.

Monster Power

The 2015 model year introduced the world to the 485-horsepower R/T Scat Pack and the 707-horsepower Hellcat. The Scat Pack was by far the most power you could get for under $40,000 and with a starting price under $60,000, the Hellcat was hundreds of thousands of dollars less than other cars with more than 700 horsepower. Buyers literally lined up to buy these cars, with the wait for the Hellcat reaching as long as a year for some people while the R/T Scat Pack was hard to find for much of the 2015 calendar year.

Dodge rode the wave of success with those two models through 2015 and 2016, using 2017 to introduce the new Challenger T/A and T/A 392. These models introduced performance features of the Hellcat to a car with either 375 or 485 horsepower.

In 2018, the 840-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon became the most powerful American production road car ever and for the 2019 model year, the 797-horsepower Redeye is the most powerful American road car on the market.

Sure, not everyone buying a Dodge Challenger over the past four years bought one with big V8 power, but there is no question that the constant media attention for the higher-powered models led to improved sales of the less-powerful and less-expensive models. Also Dodge introduced the first-ever all-wheel-drive muscle car with the Challenger GT in 2017, serving as the only muscle car that can be driven in snowy climates all year long.

Classic Design

The modern Dodge Challenger is often criticized by people with slow cars for having an exterior design that is now in its 12th model year. By industry standards, that is ancient, but with sales continually improving, it is hard to say that the styling is hurting the big Mopar muscle car. When the car was introduced for 2008, the big, bold, retro styling was an instant hit and with the 2015 refresh, the slight changes made the car better looking and even more popular.

2019 Challenger Group

Meanwhile, Chevrolet completely redesigned the Camaro for the 2016 model year, resulting in a big drop in sales and for the Mustang, sales numbers have continued to decline since the 2015 redesign. Even with an exterior refresh for both cars, sales have continued on their downward trend, especially with regards to the Chevy.

Meanwhile, Dodge has found a way to make the exterior styling work for more than a decade while all sorts of V8 power have kept buyers lining up.

Photos & Videos for Dodge Forum: Patrick Rall

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"Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500," says Patrick Rall, a lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years. "He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car – a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16 while I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

"Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group. While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

"Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never “work” a day in your life," adds Rall, who has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now automotive journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular auto websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

"I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

"My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

"Being based on Detroit," says Rall, "I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit's Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.

Rall can be contacted at [email protected]

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