Dodge CEO Rings Death Knell For The Hellcat V8

Illustration for article titled Dodge CEO Rings Death Knell For The Hellcat V8
Photo: Dodge

As the automotive world continues its slow pivot to electric vehicles, the future prospects for big, high-powered internal combustion engines have been growing slimmer. But instead of mourning the loss of what’s been one of the company’s most successful marketing measures, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis doesn’t sound at all concerned that the Hellcat V8 is a dying breed.

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“The days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 are numbered,” Kuniskis told CNBC during a recent video interview. “They’re absolutely numbered because of all the compliance costs. But the performance that those vehicles generate is not numbered.”

It’s that last part that’s the most fascinating: the Hellcat’s days are numbered, not because consumers don’t want them, but it’ll come down to those engines being regulated out of existence.

In fact, Kuniskis notes that the Hellcat has gone above and beyond expectations.

“What Hellcat has done is way beyond what our initial expectations were because it’s way beyond what a traditional, very high-end trim does,” Kuniskis said. “In the last five years or so, we’ve sold well over 50,000 Hellcats. That’s a lot of Hellcats in five years if you think about you know the price point of that car.”

Kuniskis likens this situation to the late 1970s, where The Powers That Be began regulating muscle cars out of existence—but he hopes it won’t take decades to recover this time around.

Part of that is going to come down to reinventing what the Hellcat name means, largely by starting a transition away from combustion engines in particular and instead emphasizing overall performance. It’s a bold concept, since most car enthusiasts are going to be hard-pressed to disentangle “Hellcat” from “big, beefy engine.” But I have to admit, highlighting performance in some instances and not just economy is going to be an important factor in getting those same enthusiasts onboard with electric vehicles.

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There’s no hard timeline yet, but when the Hellcat name ends up on an EV, don’t say Kuniskis didn’t tell you.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

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Half-track El Camino

Surely most of the really fast EVs that currently exist are already traction-limited. I mean, a Model S Plaid will do 0-60 in two seconds. At what point do people just stop caring about 0-60 times for EVs? It just seems like a bit of a party trick that you might try out on a track three or four times (if that) and then just never use again. And when you take away the engine noise, well… where’s the fun? Good for you, you can press a pedal and go very fast. Well done, I guess? Seems like the novelty would wear off fast.

EVs are just getting started, but we’ve reached a point where we can already make them arbitrarily quick in a straight line. If someone makes a car that goes faster than whatever Tesla’s current fastest is, Tesla just makes a version with a bigger battery and more or bigger motors. I don’t get a sense that there’s really a meaningful limit, other than the tires and the price tag. It’s gotten kind of boring, and like I said the EV revolution is only just beginning.

I dunno, I guess I just don’t see EVs as being as inherently exciting as cars that are powered by fire and explosions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for them to take over—we can’t keep burning fossil fuels forever, the planet can’t take it—but nobody has yet shown me a compelling idea for a performance EV that is as fun and exciting as what you could get at a similar price with an ICE car. There’s just something about the barely-contained fury of a high performance ICE engine that’s missing from the point-and-squirt power delivery of an electric motor. I’m sure someone will crack the code eventually, but an EV equivalent of a Hellcat doesn’t seem like it, to me.