Checkered Flag: Muscle Car Guru Tim Kuniskis Retires From Dodge

Tim Kuniskis, CEO of Dodge and Ram in North America, is retiring from his executive role at Stellantis this summer. His departure marks a significant shift in corporate strategy as the automotive industry transitions toward downsized internal combustion and electrified powertrains. The last few years have been a boom for Mopar aficionados and agnostic muscle car fans.  Kuniskis took the Charger, Challenger, and Durango to the automotive fountain of youth with annual injections of youthful horsepower and then suited them up in high-impact colors.

From there, Kuniskis and his team revived hallowed names like Scat Pack, Swinger, and Super Bees and laughed all the way to the bank. Who would have thought the LX platform, the progeny of the Daimler Chrysler hookup from 1998, could have remained relevant for almost 20 years?

Mining The Past

When he took over as CEO of Dodge in 2011, he knew the path to retro gold. Kuniskis set to work immediately, steering the brand back toward its performance and muscle-car roots. In 2015, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, a 707-horsepower brute came to fruition.

It also brought us the 702-hp Ram 1500 TRX and the Hellcat-flavored Durango.  The zenith of all this was the Demon variant with as much as 1,000 factory horsepower. As other OEMs moved toward electrification, Dodge and Ram held fast until Stellantis stepped in and forced his hand. Hence the recently revealed electric Charger Daytona, the electric Ram 1500 REV, and the plug-in-hybrid Ramcharger.

Kuniskis also oversaw the development of the Hurricane family of inline-cylinder engines. These turbocharged powerplants, available in SO and HO versions, are more efficient and will be featured in the 2025 Ram 1500 and upcoming Dodge Charger variants.

The Leadership Shuffle

Kuniskis has been a key figure in the automotive world. However, he won’t be the one convincing high-horsepower V-8 muscle car owners to embrace electric power. Instead, Matt McAlear, who currently leads Dodge’s sales operations, will take over as the new Dodge CEO. Meanwhile, Chris Feuell, the current CEO of Chrysler, will assume leadership at Ram.

Kuniskis’ Legacy

During his tenure, Kuniskis made waves by featuring the beloved HEMI V-8 engine. Unfortunately, this iconic powerplant will no longer be offered in any Stellantis model. It seems like the demise of the HEMI might have taken Kuniskis along with it into the halls of muscle car history.

Sales Challenges

Despite Kuniskis’ efforts, Ram sales have declined by over 29-percent this year due to factory retooling. Similarly, Dodge’s sales are down by more than 17-percent, even with the introduction of the new Hornet SUV.

This was like predicting darkness after dusk as Stellantis killed the geese that laid the golden eggs. After Kuniskis’ grand slam hits with retro muscle, did Stellantis think a tarted-up Alfa Romeo rebadged as a Hornet would fill the gap?  This reeks of the badge engineering mentality that brought us the Mitsubishi-based Challenger from the 1970s. After Kuniskis brought us real muscle cars, this is an unbelievable misstep.

He leaves behind a legacy of performance and innovation, and his successors face the task of navigating the industry’s transformation. The new Charger with its choice of electric or ICE propulsion is a happy medium for now, but a stopgap to the inevitability of an electric future.

As Dodge and Ram move forward, we’ll be watching closely to see how they create a follow-up act for Tim. Until then, Kuniskis says to stay tuned as he might be gone, but we haven’t heard the last of him yet. From all of us at Power Automedia, we say congrats to Tim and look forward to his next chapter.

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Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an editor at Power Automedia. He digs all flavors of automobiles, from classic cars to modern EVs. Dave loves music, design, tech, current events, and fitness.
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