Chrysler’s Aussie V8s

Hard-core models to fill the V8 void left by Holden and Ford

TOBY HAGON

CHRYSLER is hatching plans to expand its SRT performance range and import hot Dodge models to fill the void when Holden and Ford stop production in Australia.

The move would see Dodge join the Ford Mustang and next-gen Chevrolet Camaro in a three-way muscle-car battle in Oz.

While the end of local car-making also spells the end of indigenous V8-powered sedans, Chrysler sees this as an opportunity to flex its performance muscle with its US range of rear-drive sedans and coupes, and Mopar-branded performance products.

“We all see opportunities there,” Chrysler president Al Gardner told Wheels. “[And] we’re excited about the opportunities.”

Newly appointed Fiat Chrysler Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty said the aftermarket and performance-focused Mopar brand represents a big opportunity.

He said performance mods for cars like the 300 sedan and wagon are already available in America, including exhausts, air intakes, Chrysl Wheels op New Austra Dough perform repres s lik alr includ camshafts, heads and computers.

“We absolutely want to have a performance focus, but I don’t know where that sits here,” said Dougherty just days after arriving in Australia. “We’re doing a lot on the Mopar side [that] are easily transferable [to Australia] … and at a cost-effective price.”

Key to the growth is a largecar assault to be spearheaded by the next-gen 300 sedan, due by 2017, and other sports models like the Dodge Challenger coupe and Charger sedan which, Wheels understands, will be package protected for right-hand drive.

Chrysler senior vice-president of product design, Ralph Giles, all but confirmed this to Wheels.

“It’d be foolish not to,” he said.

Giles added the Charger muscle car was “probably the number one request we get” when it comes to demands for cars to send to here.

The first shot to cement the 300 as a volume-selling large car comes with the updated 300C SRT8, which is being produced primarily for Australia as a rival to the Commodore SS, Falcon XR8 and V8-only HSV range.

Gardner said a management team was being dispatched from Detroit to evaluate the Australian market “shortly”.

Falcon and Commodore once accounted for one in five vehicles sold in Australia. Even with declining sales, Commodore is still our fifth-best-selling car.

“There’s a reason we invested in this product. It wasn’t just about North America,” Gardner said. “We know there’s a huge opportunity to increase volumes in North America, but we also understand in North America the segment is shrinking.

“We’re looking at other markets going, ‘Okay, this market is holding, or there’s opportunities as other people pull out to really take advantage of that’.”

Whatever the outcome, work is already well advanced behind the scenes to ensure next generation Chryslers and Dodges will make it to Australia. 8 s s e

Chrysler 300C SRT8

6.4-litre V8 packing 347kW and 631Nm to humble the SS and XR8 in a straight line, though point-to-point may be another story. It’s slightly pricier, too, starting at $56K for the base car. g p p y e ricier, he 6. an th pr th

Dodge Challenger SRT

Has the Charger’s drivelines, including the 527kW Hellcat, but in a two-door body. Rear-wheel drive and with a six-speed manual transmission.

Dodge Charger SRT

The 527kW Hellcat flagship packs a supercharged 6.2-litre V8.

There’s also an atmo V8, and a smaller 5.7-litre version. A true Chev/Commodore SS rival. s