Of all the car brands transitioning to an electrified future, Dodge may have the toughest road ahead. The American brand has become synonymous with absurdly powerful, gas-guzzling, V8-powered muscle cars that are proudly not efficient or economical. Its customer base isn’t exactly clamoring for greener cars or lower gas bills. And they certainly aren’t cheering on the looming demise of internal combustion. 

So Dodge has its work cut out as it looks to sell buyers on the Charger Daytona, its first-ever electric muscle car that broke cover on Tuesday. The good news for Dodge is that, from a performance standpoint, EVs can more or less wipe the floor with gas cars. Just look at the 670-horsepower Charger Daytona Scat Pack’s blistering 3.3-second zero-to-60-mph time. 

The hard part will be figuring out how exactly to sell electric cars to customers who largely want nothing to do with them. And—conversely—how to sell a brand steeped in gasoline to EV buyers. 

“There are a portion of buyers that are going to be open to it,” said Alexander Edwards, President of Strategic Vision, a market research firm that specializes in the automotive industry. “But because of what Dodge has done, it’s going to be a fight.”

Get the InsideEVs Newsletter
Sign Up Today

Dodge is well aware of the challenge here. During a media briefing this week, brand CEO Tim Kuniskis told reporters that Dodge chose to show off a basically finished Charger EV back in 2022—rather than some kind of off-the-wall concept car—to give its customers time to let the electric future sink in.

“You normally wouldn’t do that. That’s a tip-off to any competitor,” Kuniskis said. “We had to tell the customers, that brotherhood, what we were doing. They needed soak time.” The fact that Dodge calls its customers “The Brotherhood of Muscle” should underscore the magnitude of the challenge it faces; it appeals to an often ultra-macho crowd that prides itself on loud noises, ripping sick burnouts and generally being badass.

Not traditionally things that get associated with electric cars.

Data from Strategic Vision shows that current Dodge Charger and Challenger owners are substantially more likely to reject EVs than the average car buyer. Its latest survey of some 350,000 car owners suggests that 16% of U.S. drivers intend for their next car purchase to be electric. For Challenger owners, it’s just 5%. Among Charger owners, it’s a paltry 4%. 

Gallery: 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona

(The new Charger family of two- and four-door cars replaces both the outgoing Challenger coupe and Charger sedan. It’s worth noting that Dodge isn’t going fully electric right out of the gate; it will sell gas-fueled Chargers alongside the new battery-powered options, but not immediately, and with an inline-six engine instead of the beloved V8s.)

A whopping 78% of Charger owners and 64% of Challenger owners say they are flat-out not interested in buying an electric car, according to Strategic Vision. That’s compared to 47% industry-wide.

There’s also a demographic divide that Dodge needs to bridge if it wants to sell EVs to Dodge owners and vice versa. Nearly half of Challenger owners identify as Republicans, while only 16% say they’re Democrats. For EVs, as you might imagine, those numbers are basically flipped: 48% are Democrats and 21% are Republicans. 

EV owners have a rather high median household income of some $181,000. Challenger and Charger owners make approximately $94,500 and $76,500, respectively. EVs typically skew higher-end, while Dodges are known for providing cheap horsepower. The Charger Daytona’s pricing is still TBD.

The 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona.

This isn’t a uniquely Dodge problem to have. The entire auto industry is teasing out how to sell people on an unfamiliar powertrain and the new lifestyle it requires. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. EV sales growth has slowed in recent months, leading some carmakers to slow their roll on EV production and embrace hybrids

Despite the headwinds, Dodge is pushing ahead. And for good reason. Americans on the whole want more electric options and EV sales are still growing rapidly. Environmental regulations seek to sideline smog-spewing internal combustion engines while propping up EV sales and manufacturing. Moreover, EVs, with their instantaneous torque, deliver the very best in straight-line acceleration. And that’s what Dodge owners in particular crave. 

So far, Dodge has been trying to meet customers where they are—by playing up the Charger EV’s performance chops while at the same time bashing the whole idea of electric cars. Dodge evidently wants to sell the merits of its EVs while also proving to “The Brotherhood” that it hasn’t gone soft, or "woke."

This dance is best exemplified in a promotional video Dodge released on Tuesday, in which Kuniskis travels through time to explain the new Charger to the Dodge brothers. It gets weird. 

“Right now we’re under attack. Your legacy is under attack,” Kuniskis tells the company’s founders. He goes on to blame regulators for the fact that Dodge even has to sell an EV in the first place. 

“The point was that they told us we couldn’t sell Hemis. But they never told us that we had to be boring and slow,” he said, referring to Dodge’s V8 engines. “So we took the rules, found the gray areas, and used them. Used them against them to build a muscle car, a Dodge muscle car, and slide under the wire that the regulators threw down in front of us like spike strips on the highway.” 

Kuniskis also downplays EVs’ environmental benefits, assuring customers that Dodge didn’t pay much mind to energy efficiency: “Electric cars are supposed to be green and politically correct. So this thing must be super efficient and environmentally friendly, right?,” he says. “I don’t know, maybe. But that was never the point.”

The 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona.

But Edwards thinks this is a losing strategy.

Rather than bashing the government and catering to an existing customer base that’s unlikely to play ball, he’d recommend trying to bring new people into the brand—buyers who are more affluent and want a fast, fun car. He brings up Hyundai and Kia, which famously transformed themselves from makers of cheap commuter cars into highly respected and coveted brands. 

“Are they selling to the same customer as 1995? Absolutely not,” Edwards said. “If Kia can do that, Dodge absolutely can do it.” 

Selling EVs will be harder for a brand with Dodge’s identity, said Dave Sargent, Vice President at J.D. Power. But other companies have shed their gas-powered identities and found success selling electric cars, he said. The electric Taycan sedan has become one of Porsche’s top sellers.

Dodge also has a leg up in that the Charger Daytona is a distinct product, Sargent said. Nobody else sells an electric muscle car. There's the Ford Mustang Mach-E, but as a crossover with performance pretenses, it's kind of a different animal.

So Dodge has a big opportunity here to draw in new customers looking for something different while avoiding direct competition with Tesla, the dominant force in EVs, he said. 

“The question is: Are there enough people out there who want an EV that looks like this? And the answer is probably yes,” Sargent said. “You know, not everybody wants something that looks like a jelly bean.”

The 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona.

Advertising that the Daytona can tear it up just as well, if not better, than gas muscle cars is the way to go from a marketing perspective, he said. And that’s a big part of what Dodge is already doing. The Daytona comes with all sorts of features that play up its classic Dodginess: A rumbling fake exhaust, a PowerShot button that adds 40 horsepower on demand and a “Donut Mode.”

Ultimately, driving EV adoption will require seeding the car market with a greater variety of EVs that appeal to a broader swath of Americans. Because people aren’t going to buy a Tesla if what they really want is a muscle car. 

No matter the reason people end up springing for a Charger Daytona, more EVs in more driveways is a net positive as far as tailpipe emissions are concerned. The climate doesn’t care whether a driver wants to cut their carbon footprint, go fast or save money on gas.

Or maybe they’re a member of “The Brotherhood” who thinks they’re sticking it to the EPA.

Contact the author: tim.levin@insideevs.com

Got a tip for us? Email: tips@insideevs.com