2018 may be the last year for Chrysler as we have known it. Dodge, too. These two sell the automotive equivalent of lawn darts – big rear-drive cars with big V8 engines.
At still-affordable prices.
People love them but the government bureaucrats who have somehow been empowered to countermand our buying inclinations do not. Such cars use “too much” gas – notwithstanding we’re the ones paying for it – and so the bureaucrats have been systematically working for decades to make such cars artificially more expensive to build – and to buy – via punitive “gas guzzler” taxes.
These taxes – the actuality as well as the threat – are why the average new car is compact-sized, front-wheel-drive and powered by a small, four-cylinder engine. Before “gas guzzler” taxes – when the car industry was still largely free to build the types of cars buyers rather than bureaucrats wanted – and those buyers were largely free to buy them at a price that was reasonable because not grotesquely, artificially ballooned by punitive taxation – Americans, average ones, routinely drove big, rear-drive cars with big V8s.
The kinds of cars that Chrysler (300 sedan) and Dodge (Charger, Challenger) still build today.
But probably not for long.
Right now, a car company gets hit – and in turn, hits its customers – with punitive “gas guzzler” taxes if its fleet of cars fails to average 34.5 miles per gallon. But tomorrow – 2025 – the fleet average requirement will almost double, to 54.5 miles per gallon.
Big, rear-drive cars with V8s like the 300, Charger and Challenger would incur enormous “gas guzzler” taxes under this regime, to a degree that would render them so artificially expensive to offer for sale that only very affluent people could afford to buy them – as is already the case with other big, rear-drive cars with V8s under their hoods.
The only car companies offering such vehicles besides Chrylser and Dodge are high-priced luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and BMW. And even they have had to retreat from V8s, which are now offered only in their highest-priced models, the ones in the six-figure range. (The 2019 Lexus LS – the company’s flagship sedan – will be powered by a turbocharged V6; it previously came standard with a V8.)
This backdrop accounts for the water-treading of Fiat – Chrysler (and Dodge’s) parent company with regard to the 300 and Charger/Challenger. These cars – which haven’t changed much in years – were due for an update this model year. To be based on the rear-drive Alfa (part of the Fiat family) Giorgio platform. This would have meant a renewed lease on life for rear-drive Chargers and Challengers – at still-reasonable prices.
2018 came – and the 300, Charger and Challenger remain unchanged. The plans for using the Giorgio platform as the basis for updated – but still rear-drive and presumably, V8-available – versions of these cars were kiboshed.
Meanwhile, Sergio Marchionne – head of the Fiat combine – let loose the horrible news that the popular Chrysler 300 sedan may go front-wheel-drive, riding on a modified version of the same chassis used for the current Chrysler Pacifica minivan. He didn’t say it, but this change from rear to front-wheel-drive would also mean no more V8 for the 300 – the whole point of going to FWD being to lighten the car in order to make it viable to downsize what’s under the hood, in order to appease the government bureaucrats who’ve assumed the power to dictate to us how much gas we’re allowed to use in our cars.
This leaves the Dodge Charger sedan – fraternal twin of the 300 and (currently) based on the same underlying chassis – and the Challenger, which is a two-door version of the Charger sedan and shares the same mechanicals.
People love these cars – just as they love a good ribeye and a beer. But how can FiatChrysler continue to sell them at a price they can manage when government bureaucrats are about to double if not triple the “gas guzzler” taxes that will be imposed upon them?
There was another rumor that the Charger/Challenger at least might get updated using the same platform Maserati – another Fiat property – uses to build the Ghibli. The good news about that, of course, is that the M157/Ghibli platform is rear-drive and would support a V8.
The bad news is . . . it’s a Maserati platform. And Maseratis tend not to be the type of cars average Americans often get their hands on.
The first – and least likely – is that FiatChrysler will use the M157/Ghibli platform to build a new (and still rear-drive, V8) Charger/Challenger, but at very high cost – which would mean very low production. A car for the rich only, the few who can still afford such cars.
The second, more probable alternative is that FiatChrysler will continue to sell the current 300/Charger/Challenger for another couple of years, largely unchanged – then replace all of them with fatwa-friendly FWD/four cylinder (or hybrid/electric) cars.
If the 300 goes front-wheel-drive, expect the Charger and Challenger to follow.
As Michael Corleone explained to his brother Sonny in the original Godfather, this isn’t personal – it’s business. FiatChrysler – like every other car company – has to do business with Uncle first before they can do business with us.
Until that changes, we’ll be allowed to buy only the cars Uncle permits the car companies to build – and both of us will continue to be punished for not bending knee to that.
If, therefore, you fancy a big, rear-drive bruiser like they used to make ‘em, better go get one while they’re still being made.
. . .
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