SRT mulls over new models

2007 Dodge Demon conceptIn happy news for performance enthusiasts, Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division is growing. The group responsible for the Viper and Chrysler’s other performance models is developing into its own brand, with two unique models and possibly a third on the way.

SRT launched the revived Viper at the 2012 New York Auto Show; the V10-powered sports car shed its Dodge badge to become SRT’s first dedicated model. By 2015, SRT hopes to add a second model, the Barracuda, which will replace the Dodge Challenger as Mopar’s rival to the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro.

The Barracuda will be built on Chrysler’s new rear-wheel drive LA platform, a shortened version of the LY platform that underpins the 300 and Charger. Also known as the ‘Cuda, the original Barracuda was a twin of the Challenger sold by Chrysler’s now-defunct Plymouth division.

Now, Motor Trend reports, SRT is thinking about a third model, and there are two possibilities. One is a revival of the Ram SRT10, a pickup truck with the engine from a Viper. At one time, the Ram SRT10 was the fastest production pickup in the world, hitting an average 154.587 mph in testing. Given Ford’s success with the Raptor, it’s possible that a new Ram SRT10 could be more focused on off-road performance.

The other possibility is a small sports car, similar to the 2007 Dodge Demon concept. The sports car would give SRT a three-tiered lineup, but it would also be competing with corporate cousins. Fiat and Mazda recently agreed to codevelop a sports car, which will morph into the Alfa Romeo Spider and Mazda Miata. The Demon was meant to compete against the Miata, so Chrysler-Fiat would essentially be fighting itself for sales.

These plans are pretty ambitious, considering that SRT hasn’t been building its own cars for very long. The division started out as an in-house tuner, like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or BMW’s M. It still does that, building the Chrysler 300 SRT8, Dodge Charger SRT8, and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

Under Fiat’s leadership, SRT became a separate brand. The Italian company reorganized each Chrysler brand to target a specific niche: Dodge is the baseline, Chrysler sells luxury cars, Jeep sells traditional SUVs, Ram sells trucks, and SRT sells performance cars.Dodge Ram SRT10 quad cab

Is that the best way to do things? By placing all performance models under the SRT brand, Fiat is negating the “halo effect.” Performance cars don’t sell in large numbers, but people notice them; the Corvette isn’t a volume seller for Chevy, but it brings attention to the brand. “Halo” models help people remember that a brand exists. Not every brand has them, but Chrysler does, so why not use them to promote the rest of its line?

Fiat’s brand compartmentalization also comes at a time when other companies are narrowing things down. GM lost Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer in its bankruptcy. Ford is down to Ford and Lincoln. Niche brands seem like a thing of the past.

Hopefully the plan will work, so the world won’t be deprived of Chrysler’s (or SRT’s) next great car.