Camaros and Challengers and Mustangs, oh my: Which sells best?
With the last quarter’s sales reports behind us, we can answer the question of who wins in the United States’ muscle car sales races. There’s not really a surprise year-to-date, though: you knew it would be the Mustang, and it was. The Mustang has a smart, up-to-date series of powertrain options, and the best publicity of possibly any car in the world.
The big surprise is the number two player, and the winner of the third-quarter sales race: it’s the Dodge Challenger, the oldest of the three American muscle cars, and also the most powerful (in Hellcat Redeye form, the Challenger has a 797 horsepower supercharged V8 engine).
For the year to date, the Ford Mustang leads with 55,365 sales, a bit of a decline from January-through-September 2018 but still more than enough to overpower the Challenger’s 46,699 sales. Partly, that’s because the Challenger itself was down by 11% to Ford’s 10%; but even if the Challenger had gained a few sales it would still be #2. The Chevrolet Camaro, despite being produced by the largest American automaker, came in a distant number three, with just 36,791 sales so far this year. The cartoonish styling was definitely tuned down in the second generation, but it doesn’t have the wide media and engine range of the Mustang or the classic good looks and spacious interior of the Challenger. Some of the highest-end Camaro sales may be leached off by the Corvette, too, though that’s a good problem to have.
The most recent sales release told us about the third quarter, and there we saw that Dodge was on top, with 18,031 sales spread over the last three months. The Mustang netted 16,823 sales, and the Camaro hit 12,275.
Can the Dodge Challenger be #1 in sales for 2019 as a whole? Only if it keeps ratcheting up sales, and Ford keeps falling. It’s possible, but most likely the Challenger will be a close #2. That’s okay for Chrysler, because they have a four-door version, the Charger, which is selling well, and a Chrysler four-door version, the 300, which isn’t. The Camaro shares its platform with the Cadillac ATS and CTS, but 70% of the “architectural components” are unique, and the ATS and CTS are being dropped. That leaves the Camaro on a unique body, and the sales just don’t match up to what GM needs; you can expect the Camaro to be dropped in 2024 or so.
As for the Mustang, it, too, will carry on, almost unique in Ford’s nearly car-free world. It sells well enough to keep going, it gives Ford a nostalgic glow, it’s been in hundreds (if not thousands) of movies and countless TV show episodes, and it’s not limited to the United States. Mustangs sell very well in China, and are available elsewhere around the world.
There may only be two contenders in the sales race for 2024, but there will be a Challenger (brand new for 2021 or 2022) and a Mustang.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, lives in Farmingdale, New York, and can be reached at +1.516-531-4021.