DETROIT -- Early buyers of the 2006 Dodge Charger want a Hemi engine.
And Dodge is complying.
Dodge dealers complained when only 35 percent of the 2005 Dodge Magnum wagon stock had Hemis at its launch. Dodge has promised more Hemis with the Charger.
That strategy is paying off, according to an early-buyer study. In May and June, 65 percent of Charger buyers chose the V-8 Hemi, according to the Power Information Network. Dodge agrees.
"We haven't got any base models at all," says Marlon Smith, general manager of Tim Marburger Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Bristol, Tenn. "We want the high-performance end of it."
Initially, Smith is ordering only V-8 Chargers.
Transaction prices are higher for Hemi models. The average price for a V-8 Charger was $32,722, according to Power data. That is $7,785 more than average price for a six-cylinder Charger, Power says.
"It is very impressive," says Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates. "They are commanding a very robust price for a mainline brand. It speaks to the image of the Hemi."
But the future Hemi mix on the Charger is difficult to predict, he says.
Dodge boosted the Charger launch in June with a $500 national trade-in bonus. Any make traded in would earn the bonus.
On July 1, Dodge began offering $500 bonus cash on the Charger, except in the Southwest. The deal expires July 31. The Charger RT and Charger SRT-8 are not covered by the programs.
In May and June, Dodge sold 6,195 Chargers.
Dodge has about 40,000 dealer orders, says a company spokesman.
V-8 versions will sell despite rising fuel prices, says Jim Hall, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific Inc. That is because gasoline availability, not price, influences buying behavior, Hall says.
Returning Dodge customers are the largest group of early Charger buyers, according to Power. Thirty-three percent of trade-ins are Dodge models.
Seventy-one percent of early Charger buyers are male, the study says. That is consistent with Dodge's projections.
The Power study is based on retail transaction data from more than 6,200 dealer franchises.
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