DETROIT -- Dodge, which built a reputation as a bad-boy performance brand, is making fuel economy part of its advertising message.
Consumer worries about gasoline prices are changing buying habits, says Steven Landry, who became vice president of Dodge marketing and product planning last month.
Fuel costs are more of a hot button with car buyers than truck buyers, Landry said in an interview last week.
The V-6 Dodge Charger is selling better than anticipated. Dodge initially projected demand for the V-8 Hemi engine at 70 percent of Charger sales, Landry says. But current demand is running at 55 percent, he adds.
And sales of the Dodge Neon and Stratus cars revived in September, Landry says.
Dodge plans to advertise the cylinder deactivation system on its 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine, Landry says. The system shuts off four cylinders when full V-8 power is not needed. That boosts fuel economy by as much as 20 percent when the system is in use, the company says.
Dodge considered an ad campaign specifically addressing the miles per gallon its vehicles get, Landry says. But that approach was "too messy," he says.
Dodge's Steven Landry: Saving fuel is "more a car thing." PHOTO: JOE WILSSENS
Saving fuel is "more a car thing" than an issue with truck buyers, Landry says. "People who come in to buy a car are more conscious of how many miles per gallon they are going to get and how big the engine is," he says.
The V-6 Charger is rated at 19 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway. The 340-hp 5.7-liter V-8 Charger is rated at 17/25 mpg. The 425-hp V-8 Charger SRT8 performance model is rated at 14/20 mpg.
Landry says he expects demand for the Hemi V-8 Charger to level off at about 60 percent of sales. "The Charger surprised us, going to the V-6," he says.
Revived consumer demand for the Neon and four-cylinder Stratus sedans has been "unbelievable," Landry adds.
Says Landry: "We haven't been able to get dealers to even order four-cylinder Stratus. Now dealers are calling (and) saying: 'I will take all the four-cylinder Stratus you can give me.' "
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