What will be the “EV tipping point” that marks the beginning of the end of the Oil Age? Of course, there won’t be any one dramatic tipping point, but rather a long series of milestones, and some of the most visible of these will be the end of production of iconic gas-powered models.
Dodge parent Stellantis has announced that it will stop making gasoline versions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars, as well as the Chrysler 300 sedan, by the end of next year.
The retirement of a popular model due to changing technology may be an unprecedented event in the auto industry. Usually, models go extinct because consumers aren’t buying, but that’s certainly not the case for the Challenger, which was the top-selling muscle car in the US in 2021.
The Brampton Assembly Plant outside of Toronto, which has built more than three million Challengers and Chargers since 2005, will be converted to produce EVs. Retooling will begin in 2024, and production will resume in 2025 as part of a $2.8-billion investment in Stellantis’s Ontario operations.
Dodge also unveiled a battery-powered Charger Daytona SRT concept car, and said that a similar model will go into production in 2024. Stellantis hasn’t said where the electric muscle car will be built, but some predict its new home will be the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois.
The carrot of superior technology and the stick of government regulation are jointly driving the shift to EVs, as the Associated Press reports. As every EV driver knows, electrons are quicker off the starting line, and a lower center of gravity leads to better handling. At the same time, tightening emissions rules are expected to force US automakers to phase out some of their gas-guzzlers.
Under the latest fuel economy standards, automakers’ fleets will have to average 40 mpg in 2026, a substantial increase over the current 25.4 mpg. Automakers that fail to comply with the fleet average standards could be hit with fines. At last count, Stellantis had the lowest average fuel economy average among major automakers (21.3 mpg) and the highest carbon dioxide emissions, so the company will probably need to eliminate some models to avoid fines. “Compliance fines and things like that associated with a big cast-iron supercharged V8, yes, it’s tough,” Tim Kuniskis, CEO of the Dodge brand, told the AP.
Kuniskis insists that the shift to electricity won’t mean the end of the muscle car, but rather the dawn of a new era. Dodge is working to make its new EVs deliver the classic sound and feel of gas-powered muscle. The new electric Charger will generate air flow to simulate exhaust noise, and will feature a manual transmission. Its 0-60 time hasn’t been announced, but Kuniskis says it will be faster than Dodge’s gas-burning performance cars.
Naturally, Dodge will commemorate the twilight of the Oil Age with a series of special-edition muscle car models. No less than seven “last call” 2023 Challenger and Charger variants will be doled out to selected dealerships in the manner of a “sneaker drop,” as Kuniskis put it. It’s “all about how much more we can jam into and get out of our current cars before they go out of production. We want to make sure we’re celebrating these cars properly.”
“We are celebrating the end of an era—and the start of a bright new electrified future—by staying true to our brand,” says Kuniskis.
Sources: Associated Press, Detroit News, Barron’s