Dodge Sales Fall
Dodge sales fall even as Challenger sales soar
Sales of the Dodge brand have declined nearly 16% this year even as demand for Hellcat versions of Challenger and Chargers soar.
August 14, 2015
Tim Kuniskis, CEO of the Dodge brand, argues that the brand is performing much better than its declining U.S. sales figures suggest.
Dodge's sales have dropped nearly 16% to so far this year in the U.S. to 294,791 cars and SUVs compared with more than 350,000 during the first seven months of 2014.
But Kuniskis points out that the brand lost one of its nameplates -- the Avenger -- and said sales of the Grand Caravan minivan have slid because inventory declined when the automaker shut down its Windsor Assembly plant for more than three months to prepare for the next minivan.
The sales decline also reflects the brand's transition from a car, truck and SUV brand to a brand with a smaller lineup that relies heavily on its muscle and performance cars for sales.
"Right now, I am down...about 55,000 units year-over-year, and that significant," Kuniskis said. "But out of the 55,000 units about 45,000 of that are (because of the loss of) Avenger."
The company’s plan was to convince potential Avenger buyers to purchase the Chrysler 200 instead. So far this year the automaker has sold 121,677 Chrysler 200s, a 128% increase over the 53,337 sold over the same seven months last year.
Fiat Chrysler discontinued production of the mid-size Avenger last year when it launched its redesigned Chrysler 200. The company used to build both cars at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant but decided it would focus on the Chrysler nameplate for its midsize car when it launched the redesigned 2015 model.
The automaker also shut down production at its minivan plant in Windsor for 14 weeks earlier this year so it could retool the plant to make way for the company's redesigned minivan.
Sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan have plummeted 45.5% through July to 44,442 in the U.S. compared with more than 81,000 for the same period last year.
Production of minivans has restarted, but Kuniskis will soon have to make due without a Dodge minivan. The automaker plans to discontinue its Dodge minivan to focus on a Chrysler-badged minivan only but has signaled that it will introduce a new Dodge crossover in 2016.
Fiat Chrysler signaled last year that Dodge sales would fall this year are likely to remain relatively flat through 2018.
The company also folded its SRT performance brand into Dodge as a way to reinforce Dodge's image as an "American performance" brand.
Kuniskis said that decision, which includes the introduction of the popular "Hellcat" versions of the Challenger and Charger, is helping to fuel excitement about Dodge and is behind the sales growth for some of its models. The combination of Dodge and SRT also brought the automaker's Viper super car back to the Dodge brand.
"The integration is seamless, it’s perfect fit..It’s something that the customers always understood from day one," Kuniskis said of the combination of the Dodge and SRT brands. "Going forward...every Dodge product that makes sense and can support an SRT product, will be made in an SRT version."
The popularity of both the Challenger and Charger have been boosted by Hellcat SRT versions of the two iconic muscle cars. Challenger sales have increased 38% to more than 42,000 this year and sales of the Charger have increased 2.3% this year.
The Challenger SRT and Charger SRT Hellcats are both powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 that puts out 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.
Introduced last year, dealers quickly sold out of the 2015 models. Kuniskis said the company has sold 4,500 cars with the Hellcat engines this year and the company has promised to double production for the 2016 model year. Kuniskis said the company also sold out of the 2015 Challenger Scat Pack, which has 6.4-liter V8 Hemi engine with 485 horsepower.
Meanwhile, year-to-date sales are up 20.8% for the Dodge Dart and are up 9.7% for the Dodge Journey.
So, while the loss of Avenger and the changeover of the minivan haves hurt Dodge sales, "I am feeling pretty good about the rest of our cars."
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