Dodge Demon: One year after its New York Auto Show debut

At the 2017 NY show, Dodge dropped a Demon-shaped bomb on the automotive world. How's it doing now?

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
3 min read

At last year's New York Auto Show, it's fair to say that Dodge's 2018 Challenger SRT Demon didn't just steal the show, it beat up all the other debuts and took their lunch money. For such a niche, specific-use and small-volume automobile -- a high-horsepower drag racer based on an already aging model -- the Demon's popularity on the internet and in the wider media was nothing short of astonishing.

Now that we're at the 2019 New York Auto Show and a calendar year has (nearly) elapsed since we first met the 9-second quarter-mile rocket, it's time to take stock. Just how is the Demon doing?

Deliveries for the 840-horsepower, wheel-standing Dodge began in early November, and as of today, over 1,200 of them have found homes. According to a Dodge/SRT spokesperson who spoke with Roadshow, "More than 1,000 are currently some point in the build process. Roughly 750 Demons are still scheduled to be built, with production scheduled to be complete before the end of the second quarter." 

2018 Dodge Demon
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2018 Dodge Demon

Dodge's Challenger SRT Demon hits 60 mph in 2.3 seconds.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

That's not a particularly large number of new cars in the grand scheme of things, and unsurprisingly, demand has led to dealers and resellers finding some creative ways of asking for more money than the manufacturer's suggested retail price. This, despite Dodge's best efforts to squelch speculators.

Just how have people been speccing out these elusive Demons? Of the vehicles ordered, Starnes reports that TorRed and Pitch Black have been the most common paint colors ordered, while Maximum Steel has been the least-popular selection.

In terms of the options sheet, the most frequently ordered extras included the black leather interior, trunk carpet kit and the Comfort Audio Group, which includes leather seats and an upgraded sound system. The least popular option? An engine-block heater. Reading between the lines, these most-popular options suggest that a great many buyers will have their cars regularly pulling up to street lights, not just drag strip Christmas trees.

You don't drive the 2018 Dodge Demon, you survive it

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Right now, demographic data as to who is purchasing these $86,000 and up coupes ($84,995 plus $1,095 destination) is tough to come by, but the majority of Demon sales have originated in Texas, Florida, California, Michigan and New York.

So why did Dodge invest so much time and money into developing a car that it only ever intended to sell a few thousand of? Well, it wasn't just about potential profits from the model itself -- Dodge officials were always hoping that the Demon would have a positive sales effect on the rest of the Challenger line, too (much like how the Hellcat seemed to do so before it).

It's hard to know definitively whether consumers have been lured into dealers to buy less-expensive Challengers while under the Demon's influence, but Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge/SRT, Chrysler and Fiat for FCA North America, has no doubts: "The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon has had a tremendous halo effect on the entire Dodge/SRT brand, and specifically, the Challenger lineup," he told Roadshow. "Challenger had its best sales year since 2015, and retail market share was up nearly 5 points compared with 2016. In fact, the entire Challenger lineup saw the lift, with Challenger SXT V6 sales up 13 percent compared with 2016," he said.

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Dodge says the Demon has cast a halo on sales of lesser Challengers, and their sales would seem to agree.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Those numbers are hard to argue with, especially in today's car market, where buyers are moving away from coupes and sedans and into SUVs in droves. 

What's more, despite having the oldest underpinnings among its competitive set, the Dodge Challenger line has actually been outselling its muscle car rivals in recent months, putting the hurt on the far-newer Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang

As it turns out, while the Demon may be best known for its otherworldly quickness, its biggest legacy could end up being that it's helped Dodge learn how to play the long game.