Should FCA Bring A Hellcat Jeep To Market?
The release of the Dodge SRT Hellcat Challenger and Charger has injected energy into a rising brand. The question remains, will Fiat-Chrysler of America (FCA US) put the highly touted power plant in the current WK2 iteration of the SRT badged Jeep? There are good arguments on both sides, but the overwhelming response should be YES!
The second generation of the SRT Jeep Grand Cherokee has become the best-selling vehicle in a SRT lineup that includes the Dodge Challenger, Charger as well as the vaunted Viper. With the popularity of sport utility vehicles and crossovers in America, many consumers are looking for a way to get their performance and utility in one package. The SRT Jeep has been one model that has provided that practicality with sports car performance in the same platform. With 0-60 times that rival the likes of Ford’s Mustang GT and Chevy’s Camaro, the Jeep can haul around a family of four comfortably on the way back from an excursion to the local grocery store.
The question then becomes, does America really need a 707 horsepower grocery-getter? The answer is both simple, and yet complicated. While it was easy for Dodge to drop the Hellcat engine into the Challenger and Charger , the physics of that much power in an all-wheel drive vehicle becomes an engineering nightmare. Having a factory warranty on a roughly 5,000lb vehicle pushing out 650 pound-feet of torque requires a newly developed drive line that would include a beefed up transfer case to help drive the front wheels.
The first generation transfer case of the SRT Jeep has been proven to support many of the high horsepower builds of the Jeep enthusiast crowd in excess of 1,000 horsepower to the wheels, but is it strong enough to be reliable on a factory beast with a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty? Does the development cost outweigh the benefits of competing with the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S or BMW’s X5 and X6M?
The other issue is cost. Are people willing to pay over $80,000 for a Jeep? The Hellcat option in the Challenger and Charger models provides roughly a $15,000 increase over the pedestrian 485 horsepower, 392 powered cars of the LX platform. With the standard SRT Jeep having a starting base price of $64,595, the Hellcat Jeep could push the sticker prices into the high $80,000 range.
While the second generation SRT Jeep proved to be much more expensive than its earlier model, sales have increased considerably from the first generation. This goes to show that people will spend that kind of cash to get their adrenaline pumping in a sport utility if it comes with the kind of excitement that Jeep has built into their top of the line offering. The one knock often heard though, is that Jeep dealerships can’t provide the kind of service expected with a vehicle coming with such a large price tag. That would be a piece of the puzzle that FCA would have to overcome with an entry into the upper echelon of an ultra-premium SUV category that Porsche and BMW have been playing in for decades.
So is there a market for an American barnstormer in the ultra-high-performance SUV category…Absolutely! Americans love horsepower, so why wouldn’t they love more kick in their beloved sports utility category? The Hellcat Jeep would provide a halo vehicle back to their lineup that would create unprecedented press for a brand that has been growing under the leadership of Sergio Marchionne and FCA. With the recent announcement that Dodge has stopped taking orders for the Hellcat Challengers and Chargers due to overwhelming demand the better question http://www.torquenews.com/106/chrysler-halts-new-orders-hellcat-challenger-charger-details might be, could Chrysler keep up with production on the berserk Hellcat engine that has already taken over the dreams of so many performance car fanatics across the country?