Speaking with CarAdvice at the Detroit auto show last week, SRT president and CEO Ralph Gilles said customers loved the Hemi but the company’s internal research showed they would accept change.
“We are in a very interesting time at SRT,” Gilles started. “Obviously we are still investing in our Hemi, it’s a great powerplant for us, it’s elegantly simple and makes phenomenal power and I think it’s still relevant today.
“Obviously it’s not lost on us what everybody else gets up to in different ways of [delivering] power. [But] I look at centre of gravity and contact patch, that’s what makes the car go fast and we are as competitive as any and I am very proud of that.”
The American performance brand does exceptionally well in Australia, with 28 per cent of all Chrysler 300s sold wearing the SRT badge, while 21 per cent of local Jeep Grand Cherokee buyers opt for the top-spec performance model.
Gilles said the reason SRT continued to stick with the Hemi was entirely based on customer demand.
“We are only making it because our customers want it. They love it. They love how it sounds, how simple it is, the elegance of it, it’s so reliable, and the torque.”
Nonetheless, he conceded the Hemi is likely to be replaced by the end of the decade and that its replacement may not be a naturally aspirated V8.
“I think it’s wide open after that. After the era of Hemi is over, there are all kinds of ways SRT is going to make power. We are going to look at all kinds of things, we would be foolish not to.”
He defended SRT’s timing, considering Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, BMW’s M division and many other performance brands have all transitioned from naturally aspirated V8s to turbocharged powerplants.
“Everybody has their own schedule we don’t walk to the same drum as everybody else. In a way I am happy that we are further distinguished by our difference. You’re buying an entirely different proposition.”
No doubt the possibility of changing from a Hemi has been on SRT’s mind, with the brand monitoring its fans and customers to gauge potential reactions.
“We have already engaged them [via] social media or commentary as they debate these things on forums. They are pretty open-minded, the modern day muscle car enthusiast is becoming more and more open-minded. As you see, the most premium supercars in the world changing the way they do propulsion, that clearly makes it [changing from a Hemi] that much more digestible.”
Do you think SRT should stick with the Hemi? What kind of powerplant would fit the SRT brand?