As the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat thunders across our screens, FCA exec Tim Kuniskis says EV and hybrid power is coming… someday.
Earlier today, FCA showed us the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat (a 710-horsepower family SUV powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8) and Challenger SRT Super Stock (an 807-hp muscle car on drag radials powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8). As such, you could have knocked us over with a feather when we heard FCA North America Head of Passenger Cars Tim Kuniskis say that electrification will eventually come to the company’s sporty cars.
“We’re very interested in electrification, specifically for performance,” Kuniskis told Motor1.com in an exclusive interview. “I think it is absolutely the future of performance, and it’s what is going to enable performance to exist amid [environmental] regulations.”
Kuniskis is the steward of what is arguably FCA’s highest-profile brand – SRT – as well as Dodge, Chrysler, and Fiat. And while hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric powertrains make great sense for family cars like the Chrysler Pacifica and commuters like the Fiat 500e, it’s surprising to hear the executive include electrons in a discussion about speed.
“I’m not going to say there’s no way to avoid it, because I’m not looking at it as something we want to avoid,” Kuniskis says. “I think it’s going to be the next evolution, the next step of even higher performance than anything that we’ve seen up until this point. It’s going to open up massive capability.”
His zeal for electrified performance is somewhat uncommon among performance enthusiasts, a group to which Kuniskis certainly belongs. He was a key player in advocating for Dodge’s first supercharged muscle cars, the 2015 Charger SRT Hellcat sedan and Challenger SRT Hellcat coupe. But speaking with him, it’s clear that he’s enthusiastic about the performance and power that electrified powertrains enable.
I’m not going to say there’s no way to avoid it, because I’m not looking at it as something we want to avoid.
-Tim Kuniskis, FCA North America head of passenger cars
Of course, Kuniskis is also realistic.
“Right now, electrification is not cost-effective,” he says. “Let’s say you have a trim that you want to make into an awesome electrified performance car, and you’re going to sell 5,000 of them. There’s no way to justify the expense to do that because of the cost of technology.”
However, by amortizing development costs over models with wider appeal, electrified performance becomes possible. “When the cost...comes down across the mainstream, now that opens up the door for the crazies,” he says.
Gallery: 2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Super Stock
It’s fair, then, to assume that FCA will eventually incorporate more plug-in vehicles into its lineup. The auto giant already markets the fourth-best selling PHEV, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, but more FCA vehicles across a wider pricing structure will likely be needed before SRT can invest in high-performance electrification.
Unfortunately, Kuniskis couldn’t cop to specific timing. We’ve heard rumors that the forthcoming 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer will offer a plug-in hybrid variant, as well as the next-generation Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee. With that in mind, we’d love to see some sort of electrified Hellcat successor – a chargeable Charger, if you will – sometime early in the next decade.