We don’t call competing car makers ‘rivals’ for nothing. They are ultimately trying to persuade the same buyers to part with the same cash, so you’d imagine things could get a bit tetchy. The likes of Ford and Dodge are surely not buddies.
Well, I don’t think it’s that clear-cut. In fact I’d say that Ford and Dodge are the best things that ever happened to each other. Let me explain my thinking with some examples. Take the Ram and the F-150 pickups. The Ram name pops up in Dodge history all the way back to 1932, but the real golden era for the name grew through the 1990s and 2000s. It became a class-leading, award-winning truck.
Even this side of the Atlantic the Ram name was known. Eight-year-old me knew it as the daddy of all trucks; incomprehensibly massive and powerful, capable of carrying skyscrapers on its back. Since then I’ve learned a few things about basic physics, but I still have a soft spot for the Ram.
What did Ford do in the face of the Ram’s challenge? It raised its game. Sure, it took a little while for the F-150 to get back to class best standard but it got there, and has now been one of the best-selling cars in North America for years. Would it have got there without Dodge, and without the challenge set by the Ram? Would the F-150 be as good as it is? Nope.
Now take the Mustang and the Challenger; the two-door beasts of legend that have faced off down the decades. These are proper cars, what used to be called ‘real men’s cars’ before we realised that such phrases were a bit stupid.
The Mustang has enjoyed huge dominance since day one, both in sales and reputation. It was released first, caught the people’s imaginations and it was quickly the default American choice. The Challenger challenged, but, by all the numbers, it failed. What did Dodge do in the face of total despair? It persevered. Ford had set it a target; something that let Dodge know it hadn’t done well enough, and that gave it something to aim at.
Down the decades the Challenger fought the Mustang. It turned into a case of a charismatic and disarming bad guy hunting down the all-American hero from Ford. And, as we all know, it’s now winning. The Challenger SRT Demon is an 840bhp drag strip weapon, about as subtle as a racist grandma and with enough power to alter the speed of the earth’s rotation.
It must have hit Ford like a hoof to the trouser plums. You can just picture Ford executives calling an urgent meeting, sitting at the boardroom table long into the night with crumpled suits and sweaty palms, ties undone and ‘no smoking’ rules thrown out of the window. How to fight back? How to even get near that damned Challenger?