Gas just hit $4 a gallon in 2 metropolitan areas in the United States (Chicago and Long Island). President Bush went over to Saudi Arabia to ask the terror-barons over there to please increase oil production, and they basically gave him the Heisman. The American economy is likely in a recession and with consumer budgets extremely tight, conservation behavior is actually starting to trickle into the market. Virtually every car commercial you see today mentions miles per gallon – fuel efficiency is key to capturing market share right now.
Uninspiring looks aside (what else would you expect from Dodge?), let us run a checklist. Belts tightening across the country? This car costs almost $40,000. Fuel economy a priority among new car buyers? Well sidle on up to the gas pump, Chester, and I hope you like the view, ’cause you’ll be filling up quite a bit – how about 13 mpg city and 18 highway? That’s right – Dodge, in this market, just put a 2-door coupe on the road that gets the same gas mileage as their frigging Durango. A full-size SUV. What a stroke of brilliance. Hey Dodge, how about this: instead of going to all the time and effort to operate factories and produce cars, and then send them to car dealers and have those poor bastards try to sell these things, why don’t you just fill a bunch of shipping containers with money and ship it directly to Japan?
The argument Chrysler has made is that this is a car for enthusiasts who will buy it simply because they want to take it for weekend joyrides, and it isn’t going to be used as a primary commuter car. That may be true, but I do not care. Announcing a car like the Challenger in this day and age sends exactly the wrong message – it’s like showing up at a Weight Watchers meeting with a lunchpail full of Baconators. A car like this, no matter its intended use, makes people associate your entire brand with expensive, impractical gas hogs, and when it comes time for somebody to pick up a new sedan, people will say “Dodge, the Challenger people? F that, let’s see how the Civic looks these days.”
I’m telling you what…I’m as much a flag-waver as you’ll find outside of the South, but I will cry no tears for the American auto industry if it dies.