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The '06 Dodge Charger: New Muscle

Turn back the clock some 40 years and you discover the genesis of the Dodge Charger, a name that 70% of the people Chrysler recently surveyed remembered (or knew).

A Formal Discussion. Essentially, the 2006 Dodge Charger is a four-door sedan designed to look like a coupe. A muscle car for the early 21st century. Jeff Gale, senior designer, Product Design Office, Studio 3 (which is headed up by Ralph Gilles, whose work, especially on the Chrysler 300, has made him something of a celebrity in design circles), a man whose work includes the interior design for the 2002 Dodge M80 concept pickup truck (as assertive a vehicle as the Charger—and then some), casts off the notion that some people have regarding the fact that the '06 is a four-door not a coupe like its famous predecessors by saying, "We wanted to come up with something original."* What they've come up with is a sedan that with a roofline that, he says, "is stretched to a coupe-like profile." He hastens to point out, however, that by having the roof slope from the windshield back to the deck lid is not something that results in interior limitations: the headroom for the rear-seat passengers is 36.2 in. and the legroom is 40.2 in. So there are both form and function to the way the vehicle appears. Unlike its stable mates, the Dodge Magnum and the Chrysler 300, the Charger has a low beltline, which helps provide a sense of interior spaciousness to the design, although there is a rear kick-up on the rear door in order to emphasize the aggressiveness of the rear wheels, thereby helping to balance the long, low aluminum hood form, which ends in a forward-angled front end; overall, the vehicle seems to be on its haunches, ready to pounce. (That front end, incidentally, received a five-star rating for frontal crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.) 

How Do You Make A Car Like This With a Starting MSRP of $22,995? (Hint: Think Manufacturing.) The Charger is a good indication of just how flexible Chrysler is becoming—and how it is using that flexibility by producing different models from a platform. In addition to the Charger, there are the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300 on the same platform. Add the SRT and police variants, and it becomes evident that they are getting a whole lot of mileage on one platform. What's notable in this regard is how each of the three cars is so different (e.g., sure, they each have four doors, but the sedans have significantly different forms from one another, and the Magnum is a station wagon). Comparatively speaking, this flexibility is something that was economically achieved. That is, the Brampton Plant, where the vehicles are built, had a $1-billion overhaul to prepare the plant for the Magnum and the 300. Remember: these cars are rear-wheel-drive vehicles; the models they've replaced are front-drive cars. In order to accommodate the Charger, there was an investment of $125 million. Of this, $68 million was spent for assembly and $57 million for stamping. (One reason why the vehicle can be accommodated is because they've deployed a robotic framing cell in the body shop that loads the body side inner to the underbody, then geometrically sets and welds them together. In other words, programmable tooling facilitates different body styles as opposed to traditional hard tooling, which isn't as adaptable.) The addition of the Charger to the lineup at Brampton led to the addition of a third shift, which represents 950 new jobs.

In addition to the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum variants that the Brampton workers must deal with, there are several Charger variants. There are the SE, SXT, R/T, R/T with Road/Track Performance Group, and Daytona R/T for consumers; there will be an SRT8 version in the fall of '05; there is a police package, as well. The vehicles are available with a 340-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V8 or a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V6. A five-speed automatic with AutoStick manual control is used for both engine types (with the AutoStick for the R/T trim level modified to reduce shift times).

"You gotta market for that?" You might think people in their teens and twenties would have been the majority of the "handraisers," those asking for information about the car after it was announced, that they would be the ones likely to buy a Charger. But you would be wrong. According to Judy Wheeler, director, Dodge Car Marketing, the younger cohort is opting for the Dodge Magnum, the station wagon-type vehicle. By and large, she points out, these younger people are looking for some utility, which that architecture provides, and they don't think about station wagons in the same way that those people in their 40s and 50s do. This older group will be the ones who are likely to opt for the car (quick demographic profile: a male (65% of total) with a median age of 46 (bracket: 40 to 59) making a median $75,000 (bracket: $65,000 to $90,000) who probably didn't go to college (45% of buyers may be college grads) and whose kids are older or have moved out (75% of buyers will have this household arrangement). In other words, these are people who undoubtedly remember both the vehicle first introduced in January, 1966 (which had a Dodge Coronet chassis—people weren't talking about "architectures" or "platforms" back then—but its own body) and the "General Lee" of "The Dukes of Hazard" (1979-85).

*The original model for what was to become the Charger was created at Chrysler's Pacifica Design Center (Carlsbad, CA), which was created in response to a need to fill a hole in the Dodge portfolio.

 

KEY CHARGER SUPPLIERS
Airbags (driver and passenger)Takata
Airbags (side curtain)TRW
Audio—eight-channel ampVisteon
Audio—radiosMitsubishi Electric;
Alpine Electronics of America
Audio—navigation/radioAlpine Electronics of America
Audio—satellite radioDelphi Delco Electronics Systems
Caliper assemblyBrembo
ConsoleCollins & Aikman
Cooling moduleValeo Engine Cooling
Doors and hard trimCollins & Aikman
Electronic stability programContinental Teves
Exhaust systemEberspaecher North America
FasciasDecoma International
Glass—backlightPilkington
Glass—sidePPG Automotive
Glass—windshieldGuardian Industries
Half shaftsDelphi Saginaw Steering Systems
HeadlampsDecoma
Instrument panel assemblyCollins & Aikman
Mirrors—exteriorSchefenacker Vision Systems USA
Overhead systemJohnson Controls
Seat beltsTakata
SeatsJohnson Controls
Shock absorbersSachs
SpeakersVisteon; Panasonic
Steering wheelKS Centoco
Sunroof InalfaRoof Systems
Suspension moduleBenteler Automotive
Tail lampsMeridian Automotive
TiresGoodyear; Continental; Michelin
Wheels (non-spare)Alcoa; Superior; Meritor; Ube
WiringYazaki North America