PONTIAC, Mich. — The last generation of Dodge's muscle cars roared as professional drivers whipped passengers around during wild drifts at an annual gathering here dedicated to gearhead culture.
Nearby, Dodge's speedsters and the powerful Ram 1500 TRX pickup gave the public a taste of drag racing with intense launches during thrill rides.
Real drag racing was on the slate, too, with a colorful mix of vintage and modern cars that had been customized and tuned to reach their full potential during competition.
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis, who recently became Ram's CEO as well, said this spirit of performance isn't going anywhere as electric vehicles become more prevalent.
The Dodge-sponsored Roadkill Nights event Aug. 12 was an ode to the gurgling V-8 engines the edgy brand has built its name on, but the future also was on display as the Hellcat era comes to an end.
The Charger Daytona SRT Concept, which has a unique roar of its own, was on the scene for onlookers to check out, and the compact Dodge Hornet GT crossover and its R/T plug-in hybrid variant were available for test drives. The Hornet is the brand's first electrified vehicle. Dodge will move into full electrification next year with a Charger EV.
Kuniskis said the capabilities of EVs will steadily turn heads and gain a following.
When it comes to the EV transition, "everybody's panicked about it," Kuniskis told Automotive News. "It is what it is. This is the regulation. This is where the industry is going. This is what we have to do."
Kuniskis said the industry is in a similar position as it was in the 1970s, when regulations put a shackle on muscle cars. But Kuniskis feels this moment is different. He sees manufacturers delivering fun EVs with plenty of punch for speed lovers.
"There's tons of potential in this technology," Kuniskis said. "I get it: Not everybody is adopting to this technology right away, and not everybody will. It will take many years for everybody to, but people will. Early adopters will, and when they see what we can do with this technology, they will start coming along.
"Eventually people will see that this technology can make something cool and fun. It's probably going to sound different, but people tuning cars, making cars faster and competing against each other will not go away. They say the first drag race occurred the second the second car was built. People are going to compete. People are going to compete to have a cooler, faster, funner car and it's not going to change."
While looking toward that future, Kuniskis has to bridge the gap before the next-generation Charger arrives in the second or third quarter of 2024.
Kuniskis said inventories of today's Challenger and Charger will climb as the automaker stocks up before shutting down production of them in December.