The trend is well known. As consumers continue to switch to SUVs (globally) and trucks (in North America), traditional segments continue to lose new customers. Saloons, estates, hatchbacks, MPVs, and sports cars no longer appeal to the majority of motorists.
Such is the case with pony cars, an American classification for affordable, compact, high-speed coupes and convertibles with a performance-oriented image. The folks who love these cars are basically seeing them succumb to a slow death as global sales decline. In 2020, during the pandemic year, worldwide registrations of the last three remaining models – the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Chevrolet Camaro – totalled 169,500 units.
A year later, when the industry was hit by the semiconductor crisis, the three cars collectively sold nearly 151,000 units. And in 2022, as many consumers grappled with the pressure of inflation and a lack of new vehicles available at dealerships, volume dropped to 147,500 units. In 2019, right before this crisis began, the trio sold 223,000 units.
Stars And Stripes Phenomenon
Global data for 2022 indicates that the US continued to be the safe haven for pony cars. Information shows that more than 86 percent of global demand was concentrated in the US market, amounting to 127,300 units. However, volume is down 1 percent from 2021. The remaining sales come from operations in Canada at 7,425 units, and Europe at 4,347 units. The volume increased by 6 percent in the first case and decreased by 3 percent in the second.
Since pony cars originated in America, these figures are commonplace. After all, these are petrol cars with massive engines and large dimensions that are perfectly suited to North American roads. However, the rapid adoption of other body styles and the impending big push from the government to boost electric car sales are likely to continue to complicate life for these iconic coupes.
The Challenger Challenges The Mustang
Despite the difficulties, the 2022 sales ranking presents interesting data. Although the Ford Mustang continues to be the leader and the most popular sports car in the world, it has lost significant ground to the Dodge Challenger.
In 2019, there were 1.6 Mustangs for every Challenger sold. At the same time, only 1.2 Challengers were sold for every Camaro. Last year, the Mustang-Challenger ratio went down to 1.1, while the Challenger-Camaro ratio went up to 2.2. In other words, Dodge was the only model to hold on and increase its share within the segment.
Between 2019 and 2022, Ford's sales dropped by 40 percent. Chevrolet posted an even worse decline of 50 percent. Dodge, on the other hand, was down 11 percent, but volume has been growing since 2021. In fact, it was the best performer if sales are broken down by body type (coupe and convertible) since it is only offered as a coupe.
The future for these three pony cars isn't entirely clear. Rumours have long surrounded the Camaro, saying it will die in 2024 or become a new EV. The Dodge Challenger in its current form will end this year and its famous Hemi V8 engine will disappear along with it. A Dodge spokesperson confirmed with Motor1.com that the next-generation Challenger will be electric, but there have been consistent rumours that some form of internal combustion will stick around, possibly in the form of a turbocharged inline-six recently introduced for Jeep.
Meanwhile, Ford launched the next-generation 2024 Mustang last September with new styling and technology, while keeping it purely internal combustion with engine choices of a 5.0-litre V8 or a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. Rumours say it will be the last petrol-powered Mustang, with an eighth-generation model possibly arriving by the end of the decade as an EV.
But, going by the numbers, it's reasonable to expect the Dodge Challenger will continue challenging the Mustang through the end of this year, if not longer.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.