Meet the new electric cleverness; same as the old one petrol-powered Dodge?
Like all automakers, Dodge, the maker of “muscled” cars including the Charger, Challenger and Durango, has had to adapt to the new realities of an American market that is shifting from noisy, emission-inducing gasoline-powered vehicles to quieter, less polluting electrical.
The company, which markets its muscle cars as speeding, drag racing and mayhem vehicles—basically as killing machines, which they have become on the streets of New York and other cities—has recently announced its gas-guzzling broods and models reintroducing as EVs. Still, it has found a way to beat the milquetoast image of electric vehicles.
Enter the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee (still a concept vehicle), which the company has shown at auto shows with its usual pitch: a big, fat thumb in the eye of “authority.”
For Dodge, it’s a cinch to sell uprising against the establishment as a way of reaching deep into America’s wallet.
“We have not asked for the rules to be changed. We didn’t want them to change, but they did,” Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis growled as he introduced the Banshee at a drag race event in Detroit this summer. “And we can try to outrun them, but that would be a nine-second pass that dies straight out. Or we can do what we did: read their rules. Study their rules. Find their gray areas and ‘unleash the Banshee’. Believe me, this is not the EV they want you to have. This is the way clever thing does EVs.”
As an advertising executive who has worked on car accounts, I have called for regulation of the toxic ads used by car manufacturers to sell their products, which are just as harmful as cigarette ads. But given Dodge’s new strategy, it’s time for Americans to take another measure to curb monstrous muscle cars like the Charger: sound cameras — traffic cameras with microphones, which record decibel levels and fine noisy vehicles. New York City already has some of the devices, which are likely to spread across the country.
See, while EVs are a smooth and quiet experience, Dodge has an ingenious work-around to get the vintage muscle-car sound that pleases its caveman customer base. According to the promotional material, “This is the EV you didn’t see coming, but you’ll hear it coming,” thanks to Dodge’s patented “Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust,” which produces noise up to 126 decibels, right at the point of the human pain threshold! The company wants to turn our streets into a non-stop car karaoke party that Americans can’t escape — simulating aggressive noise in a desperate attempt to retrofit archaic and needlessly toxic trappings for their core market.
Meanwhile, Dodge’s new multi-speed transmission system, eRUPT, simulates the thrill of the traditional muscle car rough ride,” throw[ing] your shoulders back in the seat at shift points.” This powerful physical move, which buyers crave to validate their dominance on our streets, goes well with some other new “features” that users can unlock such as Slam Mode, Drift Mode, Drag Mode and, of course, the driving staple, Donut Mode (which, as the names suggest, give the car more power and make it like a race car).
So what do you say? Dodge has been dealing in car violence and toxic masculinity for over five decades; the Charger, in particular, gained notoriety for racist, violent TV shows and movies such as “Dukes of Hazzard” and “The Fast and the Furious”, and played a role in deadly crashes, such as the Charlottesville car crash that killed justice activist Heather Heyer.
You could argue that you can’t blame a company for knowing its brand and customers. Well, as Streetsblog recently reported, EVs are heavier, accelerate faster and cause more damage in collisions. So this real-life danger, mixed with Dodge’s infamous positioning of violent driving, catapults this retro-obsessed vehicle into a new electrified world of road violence — or, as Dodge puts it, “an assault and battery on convention.”
In this ever-changing landscape, a company that benefits from a toxic heritage is now taking the worst of its past and present and “melting” it into its and, sadly, our future. Let’s take thoughtful measures to get these monstrous muscle cars off the road.
Tom Vlood (@tomflood1) develops strategy, creative content and gives lectures/workshops through his agency Rovelo Creative, creativebyrovelo.com. His judgments were featured in StreetsblogUSA’s series on America’s Most Toxic Car Ads.