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Say Goodbye to the Hellcat V8

Why is Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis all but signing its death certificate?

When Fiat Chrysler announced its intention to merge with European car company Groupe PSA, industry analysts warned that there would be casualties: specifically by way of trimming down the number of vehicles in Dodge and Chrysler’s slow-moving portfolios.

But recently Carlos Tavares, the CEO of Stellantis -- the new moniker for the now-fourth-largest global automaker -- tried to allay those fears, suggesting that, despite the merger, they would be giving the company’s brands a "strong opportunity" to rebound.

So why, a few weeks later, is Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis all but signing the death certificate on the brand’s well-known Hellcat V8? The answer actually lies outside of the company’s four walls.

In an interview with CNBC, Kuniskis said “The days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 are numbered.” But he went on to make an important distinction: while Kuniskis believes that it’s regulations that are making the cost of compliance unsustainable, he does not believe the performance generated by these types of vehicles is necessarily on its way out.

Dodge believes, in fact, that these super-performing engines can be replaced by electrics, ushering in what Kuniskis calls “a new Golden Age of muscle cars.” He sees this happening after electric vehicles reach the point of industry standard, after which “the crazy people are going to take the electrification that has now become accessible from a price point and make that performance-based instead of economy-based.”

So does Dodge count itself among these “crazy people?” It might not have a choice. Kuniskis likens the environment today to the one that killed the original muscle cars in the early 70s, when oil prices and safety requirements started to make them unworkable. The engines then were adapted to be more efficient, and could now be facing a similar arc as the government and consumers continue to push for energy efficiency standards to tighten. 

The company has stressed that Dodge will remain a performance brand but, also, that Stellantis will produce an electric variant of every vehicle it unveils between now and 2025. So will the Hellcat EV take the V8’s place? While Dodge doesn’t currently offer any EVs, Kuniskis says that will change because “it’s what’s going to allow us to not fall off the cliff.”

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