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