Is There a Future for the Dodge Car Brand at FCA-PSA?
The Dodge brand is a bit of an enigma, and it doesn’t help that by 2021 it has been reduced to three vehicles: two aging muscular cars and a large three-row SUV. (The Grand Caravan minivan lives a little or continues to run, but should die.) As FCA prepares for a merger with PSA Group, creating the fourth largest automaker in the world, so are the chances of the new entity which eliminates brands from its large portfolio seems rather high. This ultimately begs the question: will Dodge survive in the long term? Or even in the medium term?
We spoke to Tim Kuniskis, who oversees Dodge as part of the passenger car manager for FCA North America, about the future of the American brand. As Dodge continues to add more trim and high-performance variations to its Challenger, Charger and Durango model lines, it also sends two of its nameplates to the big heap of junk in the sky. Here we have gathered what Kuniskis cites as Dodge’s buyout qualities and the state of affairs in the future:
Goodbye Dodge Journey and Grand Caravan
Finished for the 2021 model year are the Dodge Journey crossover and the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. During the three years, Kuniskis said the models did not match Dodge’s DNA, but sales remained strong and the two people who moved managed to avoid the cutting block. So far, it is. “We are at the point where we drew a line in the sand and said,” This is it, this is the last year, we are not going to do it anymore, “said Kuniskis, adding that neither the pandemic nor the merger pushed the decision.
Yet Kuniskis sees a role for Dodge after the merger of FCA and PSA, and he noted that the beauty of a “brand house” is that it allows everyone to have their own unique and distinct identity on the market. In short, no individual brand needs to try to be everything for all customers.
Hellcat will not comply with future Durango regulations
The head of the brand also knows that his muscle cars are criticized for their age and for having what some consider to be a ridiculous power. We are not sure who thinks that there is too much power, especially democratized at relatively affordable prices, but good. Dodge adding a Hellcat engine to its Durango family SUV is more red meat for the critics. But Kuniskis knows that Dodge customers appreciate the brand’s high bid mentality. The brand and FCA practically live and breathe the saying “Hellcat all of the things”, which circulates in certain passionate circles – even leading designer Ralph Gilles to draw a Hellcatted Chrysler Pacifica minivan in what was not clearly a joke .
Even if it is only temporary, as is the case with the Durango Hellcat, which will only be offered for the 2021 model year due to the engine’s inability to comply with the stricter regulations to come for the he model year 2022, power is an integral part of Dodge’s image. Fortunately, it’s not the Hellcat engine per se, which can’t meet regulations, but the combination of the powertrain and the Durango platform. In other words, the supercharged Hemi is still good for the Challenger and charger for the 2022 model year (and the foreseeable future). Phew!
Five years after its introduction into the Challenger Hellcat, the high-powered engine shows no signs of slowing down. At that time, it found its way into a total of nearly 40,000 Dodge vehicles. In fact, the engine assembly plant can barely meet the demand. “There is no way we could have called this. We have scrambled many times to increase capacity,” said Kuniskis.
Dodge will not go quietly
“At some point, something will have to change, no doubt about it,” said Kuniskis. “I’m not going quietly into this new reality. The requirements are getting stricter every year and, at some point, we have to do something.” However, the head of the brand would not share if a charger or a new generation Challenger, which are currently running on a platform dating from 2005, is in preparation. Kuniskis also wouldn’t develop when asked if other future models were planned for Dodge.
Nevertheless, the brand will adopt, over time, the electrification and the performance potential that electric motors can offer. Dodge doesn’t need to switch entirely to battery electric vehicles, said Kuniskis, because gas-electric hybrids deliver the torque, power and visceral driving experience that fits the brand’s DNA. It’s a good thing too, because clearly, Dodge relies on this high octane DNA to justify its existence.