Dodge celebrates 100 years of innovation, refocuses on its performance roots

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Since the brand’s inception almost 100 years ago, the Dodge brand has been synonymous with automotive innovation. Founded by brothers John and Horace Dodge in 1914, the brand is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month. The Dodge legacy can be seen in the many iconic vehicles it has produced, some of which are still on the road today thanks to the brand’s many rabid fans.

This year, Dodge is roaring into its next century refocusing on its performance roots through a purification of the brand and a consolidation with SRT.

The consolidated Dodge and SRT brands will offer a complete lineup of performance vehicles that stand out within their own segments. Dodge is the "mainstream performance" brand within the Chrysler showroom. SRT is positioned as the "ultimate performance" halo of the Dodge brand, together creating a complete and balanced performance brand with one vision and one voice.

"At Dodge, we don't make category cars. We make category cars nervous," said Tim Kuniskis, President and CEO of the Dodge and SRT brands. "Dodge strives to turn everyday vehicles into personal statements. Our vehicles are modern performance cars that deliver that visceral feel that reminds buyers why they fell in love with driving in the first place."

With 100 years of history to build on, as well as the innovative spirit of its founders, Dodge is taking the best of its innumerable successes over the years -- the technological advancements of the '30s and '40s, design evolution of the '50s, the racing heritage of the '60s, the horsepower of the '70s, the efficiency of the '80s and unbelievable styling of the '90s -- as it paves the road to its future.

From muscle cars to compact cars, minivans, crossovers and full-size SUVs, the Dodge brand's full lineup of 2015 models deliver best-in-class horsepower, class-exclusive technology, unmatched capability and a slew of cool features, such as LED headlamps, Dodge signature racetrack tail lamps, dual exhaust, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment centers and 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) customizable gauge clusters, to name a few.

For the 2015 model year, customers will be able to drive the new 2015 Dodge Charger and Challenger, as well as the Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI Hellcat. The Dodge brand lineup also includes the 2015 Dodge Dart, Durango, Grand Caravan and Journey, including the new Crossroad model, and the ultimate performance halo car, Dodge Viper SRT.

The Dodge brand's passionate fan base is huge and growing. Dodge has more than 4 million Facebook followers; the Challenger alone has more than 1.6 million fans, which is more than many entire brands. And with 278,000 Twitter followers, the Dodge social channels consistently lead the competitive set in fan engagement.

Today, the Dodge brand has a drive to innovate and a passion to engineer vehicles that are faster, better or smarter and deliver an attitude that was built into the brand by the Dodge Brothers themselves a century ago.

Actually, the company’s roots extend well beyond the century mark, with the Dodge Brothers building bicycles and piecework components for the budding automotive industry in 1901. The brothers went on to establish a machine shop that built parts for Olds, before agreeing to build parts exclusively for Ford.

Capitalized with $5 million in common stock, the brothers founded Dodge Brothers, Inc., in 1914 and began building new cars. The next year, 45,000 Dodge cars were built and sold, a record for a new car company at the time.

By 1920, the Dodge brand was the second best selling brand in America. By 1925, the Dodge Brothers’ name became synonymous with quality, selling more than one million vehicles. That same year, the Dodge Brothers ‘ widows were offered $146 million by a New York investment banking firm. After three years and intense negotiations, the bankers entered into a $170 million agreement with Chrysler to buy the Dodge brand, instantly making Chrysler one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Through the 1930s, Dodge continued to expand its passenger car line, adding contemporary options like radios and straight-eight engines. A four-door sedan built in 1935 was the brand’s three-millionth car. During World War II, Dodge-made war materials appeared in weapons, tanks, ships, aircraft and air raid sirens.

In the post-war years, Dodge vehicles evolved slowly from earlier designs and maintained a tall, boxy appearance. Pre-war Dodge model designations like Custom and Deluxe were replaced with more colorful names like Meadowbrook, Coronet and Wayfarer.

Optional at extra cost in the 1953 Coronet was the new Red Ram “Hemi-Head” engine, the first Dodge V8 in 20 years and first of the soon-to-be-legendary HEMI engines that would equate the words “Dodge” and “speed” for generations.

Beginning with the 1957 models, Dodge’s became even lower and longer, giving emphasis to their dramatic tailfins, an iconic Chrysler design feature of the era. The light-filled, curved-glass cabins and broad, flat surfaces reflected a fundamental change, quickly copied by competitors.

Dodge entered the compact car market for the first time in 1961 with the Lancer, a uniquely styled car that was almost two feet shorter and 700 pounds lighter than a full-size Dodge. This platform provided the basis for a series of Chrysler cars that were to capture 40 percent of the total American compact market in the early 1970s.

Dodge resurrected the hemispherical-head concept in a new 426-cubic-inch HEMI-Charger engine for competition use only, which soon proved capable of generating some 500 horsepower. A special Daytona Charger race car equipped with a HEMI-Charger took the checkered flag at the 1969 Daytona 500.

In 1982, Dodge introduced the compact Aries, its version of the famous Chrysler K-car. Perhaps the best-known, and certainly the most popular, of Dodge’s products in the 1980s and beyond is the Caravan front-wheel-drive minivan rolled out in 1984.

Resurrecting its performance-brand heritage, Dodge in 1992 created a stir with the launch of the Viper, a V10-powered, two-seat sports car that set the stage for an all-new mid-'90s Dodge product lineup, including the large Intrepid, the mid-size Stratus, the compact Neon and the new Ram pickup truck.

By the time it had reached 90 years old in 2004, the brand had established millions of loyal customers nationwide. Today the company continues to create new vehicles that capture the hearts and minds of the American automotive public today, including the new Dodge Dart, Challenger and Charger, each a throwback to the brand’s formidable heritage.

For the 2015 model year, in keeping with its new performance based direction, Dodge introduced the new 2015 Challenger Hellcat, the fastest muscle car ever. It recently registered a National Hot Rod Association-certified quarter mile time of 11.2 seconds at 125 miles per hour. With drag radials, the run dropped to 10.8 seconds at 126 miles per hour.

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