Dodge Challenger beats Ford Mustang to become best-selling muscle car in 2021

Muscle cars are in a class of their own. While the exact definition remains subjectively debatable, a muscle car is loosely defined as a high-powered American car sent to the rear wheels. From the mid-20th century to the present day, muscle cars occupied a large portion of the auto market, especially in the United States.

The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is considered the first muscle car, giving rise to a new culture in the automotive industry. However, that muscle car culture didn’t peak until the 1960s, when auto companies became deeply embroiled in the so-called horsepower war. Ford, GM, Chrysler and other automakers were essentially fighting to sell the most muscle.

Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964 and has been producing the pony car without interruption ever since. Due to its popularity and sales, rival car manufacturers began to offer competing cars. Chrysler reacted a little late, as it didn’t launch the Dodge Challenger – also a pony car – until 1969.

While many may argue that the Mustang was and is not a muscle car, it is labeled as such by others. It has a rivalry with the Challenger, which can be considered the only true muscle car in production. That rivalry extends to sales, and in 2021 the cleverness Challenger beat the Ford Mustang to become the best-selling muscle car of the era.


Dodge Challenger has finally surpassed the Ford Mustang

According to figures from Stellantis, it sold 54,314 units of the Dodge Challenger (all models included) in the full year 2021. This represents an increase of approximately 3% compared to sales of the Challenger in 2020, when Stellantis sold 52,955 units of the car. While the sales increase is pretty miniscule, it’s more than enough to finally beat the Ford Mustang.

RELATED: 2022 Dodge Challenger: Cost, Facts, and Figures

As America’s definitive pony car, the Mustang remains popular, although that popularity seems to have waned in recent years since 2015. In 2021, Ford sold just 52,384 units of the Mustang, compared to 61,090 units in 2020. That’s a massive drop and is huge enough to allow the Challenger to sell 1,930 units of the Mustang.

The turnaround is pretty amazing because in the year before (2020), the Ford Mustang sold the Dodge Challenger with over 8,000 cars. As for the other muscle car, Chevrolet sold just 21,893 Camaros, a drop of nearly 9,000 units from 2020 (29,777 units). It can be noted that sales declined in 2021, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the semiconductor chip crisis.

Ford Mustang’s Steady Decline Over the Years

The Ford Mustang tops muscle car sales. The Challenger had been absent for more than two decades; it didn’t return to the streets until 2008 as the Dodge Challenger SRT8. That year, Dodge only sold more than 17,000 units. This is quite a pathetic number compared to Mustang sales that year, when approximately 91,000 units entered customer hands. That year, however, Mustang sales dropped from six figures to just five, not thanks to the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.

In 2015, the Mustang saw its sales bounce back to six figures to around 122,000. Since then, demand for Ford’s pony car has fallen at an alarming rate. Ford sold nearly 106,000 Mustangs in 2016 and saw sales drop to about 81,000 in 2017. The automaker somehow managed to slow the plunge in 2018 and 2019, when it sold about 75,000 and 72,000 Mustangs, respectively. Now Ford needs more Mustang buyers to stop the decline.

Dodge Challenger’s meteoric rise since return

On the other hand, sales of the Dodge Challenger have risen steadily since its return in 2008. Sales grew to over 25,000 in 2009 and jumped again to nearly 37,000 in 2010. Sales of the Challenger continued to rise through 2015. when Dodge sold 66,365 units. However, Dodge saw a slight drop in sales in 2016 to 64,478 units, followed by just a double-digit increase in 2017 to 64,537.

RELATED: Mustang Dominate Sales in 2018, While Challenger Outperforms Camaro

The Challenger peaked in sales in 2018, when 66,716 units were sold. In this year, Dodge’s two-door pony car already posed a strong challenge against the Mustang, narrowing the gap between them to less than 10,000 units. However, Challenger’s numbers fell in 2019, when sales plummeted to just below 61,000 units.

Monthly Sales 2021: Challenger 7, Mustang 5

Monthly muscle car sales in 2021, however, offer a glimpse into the story of how the Dodge Challenger outperformed the Ford Mustang. The Challenger started the year with more sales than the Mustang (4,831 to 4,324 units in January). However, over the next three months (February to April), the Mustang recovered and sold the Challenger, regaining the sales lead over its rival.

However, the Challenger turned the tide from May to October, when it steadily outsold the Mustang. Nevertheless, the Mustang posted strong sales in November and December, but demand in the last two months of the year was not enough to overcome the Challenger’s full-year lead. As a result, the Challenger shattered the Mustang’s cloak of sales invincibility and became the best-selling muscle car in 2021.


Source: Ford, Stellantis, General Motors

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