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Some Dodge dealers taking Demon deposits, even though they shouldn't be

Fortunately, showrooms seem to have learned from early Hellcat supply-and-demand problems.

Dodge may not have released Challenger SRT Demon pricing information or ordering instructions to its dealers, but that isn't stopping some of the automaker's franchisees from taking customer deposits on the record-setting muscle car.

Last Friday, I spoke with Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and according to the executive, "Technically, no one should be taking any deposits. They can't physically take an order, and they shouldn't be taking any deposits." That's because, as Kuniskis notes, "we haven't given the dealers the allocation methodology, the allocation numbers or opened up the order banks yet."

In other words, individual franchisees don't know how to order Demons, how much to charge, or how many examples of the limited-edition drag racer their dealerships can look forward to receiving. And yet, Kuniskis says that hasn't stopped some of them from accepting customer dollars for a place in line: "Now, 'shouldn't be' and 'aren't' is two different things, because I have heard stories of dealers that I'm friends with, dealers that I've known for years, that have been taking deposits."

Accepting early deposits proved to be a problem when Dodge last had a different hotly anticipated performance model on its hands, the Challenger Hellcat. Many dealers took deposits on Hellcat models without knowing how many they would receive, and in the end, some deposit-holders were left empty-handed and embittered.

But Kuniskis says Dodge dealers have learned from that experience: "They're much more careful because of what we went through on Hellcat. Because we had dealers take deposits on Hellcats, they would take 10, 15, 20 deposits, and then they would only ultimately get allocated 5 cars. And then they would have upset customers. So they're being much more -- or at least it appears -- that they're being much more careful this time."

Just 3,000 examples of the 840-horsepower Demon are planned for US customers, and a further 300 units are earmarked for Canada. With many industry watchers expecting demand to outstrip supply on the one-year model, it's hardly surprising that customers are lining up and dealers are eager to find ways to work with them.

Dodge expects to have Demon pricing and ordering logistics released to its dealers by June, but if you're interested in purchasing one of these wheel-lifting drag cars for yourself, you might just want to find an enterprising, deposit-taking dealer now, just in case.