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Challenger Chief Engineer Makes the Woodward Dream Come True.

Posted in Chrysler, Dodge, Drifting, General by MrAngry | August 25th, 2010 | 5 Responses |

Every now and then I get an email from my buddy and Chrysler consultant, Scott Vandekerckhove. Scott has a pretty cool job as he is one of a select few individuals who gets to deal with not only Chrysler on a professional level, but with their customers as well, so when he sends me a story about Chrysler events I usually can’t wait to read it. As most of you know the Woodward Dream Cruise is one of the largest and most popular show gatherings of automobile enthusiasts in the United States. It’s also a chance for the manufactures to get out there and have some good old fashion one on one time with their customers, and at this years gathering that’s exactly what Chrysler did.

Challenger Chief Engineer Makes the Woodward Dream Come True: By Scott Vandekerckhove

The Woodward Dream Cruise is one of the most incredible automotive spectacles around, attracting car lovers from all over the world who celebrate all classic and current makes and models. The diversity among cars and people is truly astonishing, and while there is technically only one official day for the Cruise, activities run for weeks on end leading up to the big day. The Dream Cruise is also one of those rare occasions where a car company can find their most loyal fan base concentrated in a relatively small area. Among the crowd this year was a collection of Dodge Challenger owners and enthusiasts who reached out to Chrysler last week hoping to gain the attention of top company brass. They wanted the chance to chat with some of the “higher-ups” and ask questions about the car they love so much.

Well, Chrysler answered the call by sending out one of their finest. None other than David Cottrell. Cottrell has been with Chrysler for 25 years, spending most of his time as a Body Engineer. He was Senior Manager for Body and Exterior during the development of the 2008 Challenger, and in June 2009 was appointed Chief Engineer of the entire Challenger Program. He is definitely the real deal. Driving all the way from the Brampton, Ontario Assembly Plant behind the wheel of his Hemi Orange R/T Classic, Cottrell met with a group of about 20 fans eager to pick his brain. For nearly two hours, the Chief Engineer answered numerous questions from the crowd.

He discussed Chrysler’s logic behind the choices they make on everything from exterior colors, to interior functionality, as well as the suppliers they select for items including brakes, exhaust, and powertrain components. Other topics included Chrysler’s use of a competitive fleet in order to establish benchmarks for Challenger’s design. Cottrell even touched on the steps taken to improve quality and durability from year-to-year production. Cottrell gushed about a drift session in a Challenger R/T with Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles at the wheel. Describing his experience in the passenger seat, Cottrell said, “We were doing about 40 mph on the track and Ralph stepped the thing out, power sliding with ease. His ability to drive a car is amazing!”

But most impressive was Cottrell’s emphasis on consumer interaction. He emphatically said that listening to Chrysler’s customers is more important than ever before. “We go ride with our consumers; watching and listening for what they say. And that’s how we build a house of quality.” Cottrell continued, “I’m on the blogs. I’m on the forums. We hear everything imaginable. Listening to consumers is the key.” The 25-year automotive veteran wrapped things up by saying, “Working on Challenger is the most fun I have had in my entire career. It’s the people who buy and drive our cars that keep it that way. And while I can’t talk about the future of the Challenger, please rest assured that you’re going to be blown away.”

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5 Responses

  1. 68SportFury says:

    “Listening to Chrysler’s customers is more important than ever before,” eh? Like when we say, “Give us colors other than black, white, silver and gray without charging us extra,” or “Let us order the Hi-Impact colors on the Challenger SE,” or “How about a manual transmission on the Avenger?” or “The Challenger shares a lot with the 300 and Charger, so why can’t I get a stick in a Charger or a 300?”
    I could go on and on…

  2. Todd says:

    If you want a stick get a Challenger. The SE is for fleets and rental so why put high impact colours on them and dilute the effect of seeing a Deto Yellow SRT-8. If you want high impact colours you have to step up to the performance cars.

    Options cost extra. Get over it. Low production run colours are options. They make your car cooler and more unique. You need to pay extra. Sorry if you don’t like that.

    Everything you want is on a Challenger SRT-8. Go and buy one and be happy. Don’t moan that your SE doesn’t come with Brembos. It is silly.

  3. […] latest Woodward web post Challenger Chief Engineer Makes the Woodward Dream Come True. […]

  4. 68SportFury says:

    Todd, I see a fair number of people online saying to go buy an R/T or SRT-8 for the colors or for the stick or even because the R/T only gets 1 mpg less than an SE.

    Oddly enough, none of them have any suggestions about where the extra eight to fifteen grand is supposed to come from. Maybe they all have magical money trees out back, but every time I hit the garden shop at Lowe’s or Home Depot they seem to be fresh out.

    The Challenger SE isn’t just for fleets and rentals, it’s also for people who want the look and don’t necessarily want to spend over $30k to get it. I don’t need 20-inch wheels or giant brakes or even a V-8 for my daily commute. I would like to get a color I like for my five years of over $370 a month, though.

    I’m well aware that options cost extra. I’ve financed three cars, two of them brand new and fairly loaded. I’m not saying “give me everything for free,” I’m saying that, if the base model is going to cost $24,000 ($26,000 for a 2011, by the way), I should be able to get a red one or a blue one without paying extra. I’m even saying I’d pay the extra $295 for one of the flashier colors. Chrysler’s saying that if I want any color not aimed at the used-car market (i.e., anything other than white/black/silver/gray), I need to pay $295 for one of the two reds or the dark blue and if I want orange or purple or yellow I need to cough up $30-38k for an R/T or $40-42k for an SRT8. Oh, and I should have ordered my purple one last August or my yellow one last October, because those colors can’t be ordered anymore.

    Hell, when I was shopping for a Daytona back in 1991, the ES was only available in four colors–but one of those four was Flash Red and the other was Electric Blue, and they didn’t cost extra. I ended up with a white one because the powertrain I wanted had a low take rate and it was late in the model year, but there was none of this “Sorry, you want a blue one it’s $300 extra” crap.

    Oh, and incidentally, the issues I mentioned in my original post are all things I’ve seen other people say either online or in person. It’s not just me.

  5. Hemi Orange says:

    Putting high impact colours on an SE would dilute the status that the rest of us paid $10,000 extra for. If I ever saw Hemi Orange paint on a V6 Challenger, I would sell my Challenger and never buy another Chrysler product again. And Mr. Cottrell, thanks for coming to Woodward and being the kind of man we need at Chrysler.