Home » The New Dodge Charger Cannot Fail Or Stellantis Will Have Another Lost Brand

The New Dodge Charger Cannot Fail Or Stellantis Will Have Another Lost Brand

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The new Dodge Charger will be showing up on the internet on Tuesday morning, and it’s a huge deal for Stellantis, which finds itself with far too many brands undergoing identity crises. Dodge is on the verge of becoming one of those brands, which is why there is simply no room for failure of the new Dodge Charger. It has to succeed, because it is the Dodge brand.

You may have read in the news last week that Stellantis killed off the “Wagoneer” brand, and will roll the models into the Jeep lineup. The Detroit News quoted Jeep Brand CEO Antonio Filosa and wrote about why Jeep is giving up on “Wagoneer”:

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“We understood that the story about the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer was not a very fluent story. So we want to give more fluency to that,” said Filosa, on Friday from the Stellantis U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills.


Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, which are assembled at Stellantis’ Warren Truck Assembly north of Detroit, were the company’s attempt at a premium and luxury sub-brand. On Friday, Filosa made clear that effort is dead and the two high-end SUVs will be “converging” into the Jeep brand, long considered one of the most valuable names in the automotive industry.

I get what Jeep was trying to do with the Wagoneer brand — basically offer a brand like Land Rover’s upscale “Range Rover” — but that Range Rover brand earned its reputation over decades, and it offered an SUV that was truly novel in its day. It was early to the luxo-SUV craze, and that made it a household name. Was creating a brand based on a 30 year-old name and two body-on-frame SUVs that are not that different than a Cadillac Escalade really going to work for Stellantis? Maybe over time, and with a few more models, it could have gained traction. Maybe.

Regardless, let’s forget about Wagoneer, as there’s more trouble in the Stellantis brand-verse. Look at Chrysler:

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The brand offers one car.

Yes, the entire brand consists of a single vehicle  in either gas or plug-in hybrid form. That’s it. Chrysler is the Pacifica.

Now let’s look at Ram’s lineup:

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The offerings amount to, basically, just a couple of models. There are some pickup trucks (1500, 1500 Classic, and the heavy duty trucks) and there’s a van.


In my eyes, and in many folks’ eyes, the Ram brand is weak even 15 years after it spun off of Dodge back in 2009. Sure, the trucks still sell in huge numbers, but let’s be honest: Most folks are still calling these Dodge Rams.

That “Ram” is the brand name and the model is just a boring number shared with Chevy — “1500” or “2500” — is so absurdly silly that the general public hasn’t really gotten a grip on the whole naming convention. In fact, I recently saw a car journalist in the secret “Automotive Media Professionals” Facebook group write this post:

Really MotorTrend? Dodge?! It’s been Ram for more than a decade and yes the post they reference is the new 2025 Ram 1500 first drive. They have it right in the title within this newsletter.

This was in reference to Motor Trend’s newsletter, which apparently came out at about the same time as the new Ram 1500 reviews hit the web:

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The journalist writing the post on the Facebook page seemed to think that Motor Trend was calling the Ram 1500 a Dodge. This led to a whole discussion among auto media professionals about the Ram brand. Here are a few quotes:

I always thought that the RAM brand name was a dumb idea. Like, why?
15 years after the creation of the Ram brand, literally everyone outside of automotive (and some in automotive) still call these trucks Dodge. They could change the name back to Dodge and no one would notice because they have been Dodges all along to every layperson. Even owners do, since they went to a dealer selling Dodges to get their Rams.
At cnet we would put Dodge in the url of Ram articles for SEO.

It’s the least successful name change since Navistar

Clearly they didn’t learn a thing from 20+ years of Imperials not being Chrysler models. I still think it was foolish to spin off Ram. Combined Dodge+Ram sales for CY23 would have put it in the top 10. And it would have given Stellantis two brands in the top 10, something GM and Ford couldn’t claim.

I still call it a Dodge Ram when talking about the Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150. If I say F-150 and Silverado I never say Dodge. But if I’m using the brand and model then I pretty much always slip and say Dodge Ram.
Plus, let’s be real: it should still be the Dodge Ram.
Yes, the Ram brand — like Chrysler and Wagoneer — is weak. Spinning it off of Dodge still seems silly, not just because “Dodge Ram” clearly has lots of staying power that should be leveraged but also because having an entire brand based on essentially just a couple models (a van and various version of the full-size pickup) is absurd.
Stellantis clearly knows about this to some degree. If you hop over to Dodge’s website, you’ll see — right at the bottom of the “all vehicles” pull-down — a link for Ram Trucks:
Screen Shot 2024 03 04 At 11.45.22 Pm
Like Wagoneer, Chrysler, and (to a lesser extent) Ram (and Fiat, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo, if we’re being honest; though I don’t have time to get into those), Dodge is on the verge of losing itself. As recently as 2016 it offered a Dart small sedan, a relatively-fresh Durango big-SUV, a Charger sedan, a Challenger coupe, a Caravan minivan, a Journey small SUV, and a Viper supercar. That’s a pretty damn extensive lineup — still not at the level of, say, Toyota, Ford, or Chevy, but that’s a pretty solid range of offerings.

But let’s fast forward to early 2024, and Dodge literally only has two cars in production:

1. Dodge Durango

2. Dodge Hornet
That’s all! There’s the Durango, which has been out since the 2011 model year (14 years!), there’s the Dodge Hornet (whose owners have been struggling with all sorts of issues that one might expect of a car sharing an Alfa Romeo platform), and now here comes the Charger, for which Stellantis put out a press release yesterday titled “Dodge Set to Reveal Brand’s Next-generation Charger Muscle Car.” That press release describes the Dodge brand thusly:

For more than 100 years, the Dodge brand has carried on the spirit of brothers John and Horace Dodge. Their influence continues today as Dodge shifts into high gear with a lineup that delivers unrivaled performance in each of the segments where they compete.

Dodge drives forward as a pure performance brand, offering SRT Hellcat versions of the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger and Dodge Durango, as well as an R/T performance hybrid version of the all-new Dodge Hornet, representing the brand’s first-ever electrified performance vehicle. Dodge delivers the drag-strip dominating 807-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Super Stock; the 797-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Redeye, the most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world; and the 710-horsepower Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, the most powerful SUV ever; and best-in-class standard performance in the compact utility vehicle segment with the Dodge Hornet. Combined, these four muscle vehicles make Dodge the industry’s most powerful brand, offering more horsepower than any other American brand across its entire lineup.

Look at all of those references to the now-dead Charger and Challenger, and you’ll see what I mean by my headline. Especially after the death of the Viper and other models, Dodge built pretty much its entire brand-identity on that L-car platform, and now the L-car platform is gone. So you can see how, if Dodge wants the world to see it as a performance brand, the new Charger simply cannot fail, or else Dodge will fall into the same spiral facing Chrysler, Ram, Wagoneer, Alfa, Fiat, and Maserati.
The old-boned Durango — even “the most powerful SUV ever” SRT Hellcat version — and the slow-selling and fast-breaking Hornet — with its “best-in-class standard performance” (whatever the hell that means) — aren’t enough to prop Dodge up as a “performance” brand. You can surround that Hornet with all the V8 Chargers and Challengers in the world, but you’re not fooling anyone:

It has to be the Charger that rightens this listing ship. And the good news is that every indication of what the new Charger will be looks fairly promising. Here’s the Charger Daytona SRT concept car from 2022:
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The new Charger will be a high-horsepower EV, though Car and Driver states that a gasoline version may also be on the horizon. So it sounds like Dodge might hedge its bets on powertrain offerings, a move that I think will please many old-school “gasoline or bust” folks.
I thought the Daytona concept car looked great, but I also mentioned in my article when that concept car story broke back in 2022 that I had concerns about Dodge of all brands going EV, especially given how Dodge markets itself as a rough-and-tumble, loud machine. From my review:
Dodge is in a bit of a pickle. The brand has built its name, in part, on raucously loud, powerful internal combustion engines, and now has to pivot to electric propulsion like the rest of the industry. Many of the brand’s customers are EV skeptics, believing that the only proper engine for a motor car is the V8. I don’t fault them for this; V8s are great. (And, to be fair, many people outside of Dodge’s customer base are are EV skeptics). But getting those skeptics onboard with Dodge’s new EV direction is going to be tricky, and it seems Dodge’s strategy is to acknowledge those customers’ skepticism, commiserate a bit, and then use that commiseration to build trust that gets customers to buy into electrification. At least, that’s what the strategy looks like to me based on this quote from Dodge’s CEO Tim Kuniskis, who showed off the new Daytona concept at the company’s annual drag race-filled event on Detroit’s fabled Woodward Avenue:
““We didn’t ask for the rules to change. We didn’t want them to change, but they did. And we can try to outrun them, but that would be a nine second pass straight into extinction. Or we can do what we did: read their rules. Study their rules. Find their gray areas, then unleash the Banshee. Trust me, this is not the EV they want you to have. This is the way Dodge does EVs.”
Will absurd acceleration and artificial sound have the same effect as a revving gas engine? Will the alleged gas variant offer the same thrill as a Hemi V8 (which we know won’t be sticking around)? Will the new Charger be significantly more expensive than the outgoing one, which brought lots of loud and ferocious horses to the masses for cheap? Who knows.
The Smoke Will Clear On March 5 — That’s The Date Dodge Is Set To Electrify Performance Lovers Around The Word With The Reveal Of The Brand’s All New, Groundbreaking Dodge Charger Muscle Car. The Global Debut Of The Next Era Of Dodge Muscle Can Be Viewed Online At Dodge.com On March 5, 2024, Starting At 11 A.m. Et.
The smoke will clear on March 5 — that’s the date Dodge is set to electrify performance lovers around the word with the reveal of the brand’s all-new, groundbreaking Dodge Charger muscle car. The global debut of the next era of Dodge muscle can be viewed online at dodge.com on March 5, 2024, starting at 11 a.m. ET.
To be sure, there are (apparently) future products that will come later (maybe a Stealth?), so it’s not like Dodge couldn’t re-find an identity should something somehow go wrong with the Charger debut. It’s also worth mentioning that these issues of brand identity aren’t unique to Stellantis. You could argue that Ford’s Lincoln and GM’s Buick and Cadillac brands have been “lost” for decades. I’m hoping Dodge stays away from that company.

We’ll have a better idea at 11 A.M. Eastern time on Tuesday, when every car site (including this one) out there publishes its “first look” at the new Charger.

Images: Stellantis


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1 month ago

This is terrible timing to release a new EV: The early adopters have theirs, others like me had bought used EV and are not impressed and many Americans are only really ready for PHEV or Hybrid since the infrastructure is not ready.

Don Mynack
Don Mynack
1 month ago

The EVs will be bought for flips and once that market dies, the car will sit on lots forever. The I6 is intriguing but that could have been introduced while keeping the V8 around for the Charger and Challenger. I have no idea why Dodge is committing brand suicide but here we are.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago

Maybe they’re secretly working on combining two Hurricanes into a quad-turbo v12 to put into the halo version of this. Then for the special-mega-halo edition they hybridize the V12. Bingo, the red hat crowd now wants a hybrid.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 month ago

I don’t know that I would call it “losing” a brand so much as “sloughing off” a brand.

Also, I don’t know why a company which owns more legacy brands than anyone in the world feels the need to come up with new, pointless brands all the time? Instead of Ram, they could have used one of their existing commercial vehicle brands like Commer, Fargo, O.M., or Karrier. The Hornet should have been a Hillman or an Autobianchi and those Wagoneers would have been much, much cooler with Humber or Talbot badging.

1 month ago

Are car sales still regional in terms of brand sales? I grew up in Texas and — in the ’70s and the ’80s, at least — Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth always seemed like they were on life support. Blazers, Jimmys, Broncos everywhere. The Ramcharger and Trail Duster were running way behind. Same with pickup trucks, GM and Ford ruled the roost with a sprinkling of Dodges. A privately owned big Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge car like a Newport or St. Regis, Fury, Coronet or Monaco was as rare as a Citroen SM. Well, there was a brief bloom of Cordobas around, but that’s the only “hit” that I can remember.

1 month ago
Reply to  FleetwoodBro

Dodge’s truck lineup was kind of an also-ran (also-Ram?) until the ’94 redesign gave them a competitive product with that big OTR tractor-inspired front end. That’s also probably the reason why trucks keep getting bigger, because the rounded-off F-150 that came a few years later ended up derided as a jellybean.

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