Dodge Is Reinventing Its Dealerships’ Service Departments as EV Speed Shops

Ethel Walsh

With the future of Dodge performance heading towards electric power, you might be wondering how are you going to tune and upgrade your Charger Daytona EV into a high-horsepower beast. There are no fuel maps or spark tables to fiddle with, and you can’t increase the voltage of the standard battery pack to make the motors spin faster. Don’t worry, Stellantis already has a plan for scratching its fans’ itch to modify before the electric muscle car hits dealerships in a few years.

As EVs Enter Showroom Floors, You Local Dodge Dealer Will Change

This might sound like a curious starting point for a story about tuning future electric Dodges, but bear with us. Your local Dodge dealership is going to completely transform. The car sales side will remain, but the service side won’t—at least not in its current form. With EVs, maintenance servicing will (theoretically) be greatly reduced, and that’s a problem for dealers, which make a lot of money on after-sales support.

To make up for the expected decline in service revenue, and to inject some fun into its future products, Dodge has a plan. It centers around Direct Connection, the OE performance line that was reborn last year—namely leveraging it to transition local service bays into local performance shops. Think of it as a Mr. Norm’s dealership from the late 1960s, but on a nationwide, factory supported scale.

No More Red Key, Black Key

This new speed shop mentality dovetails with Dodge’s plans for its Direct Connection Electrified Performance arm. Given how the upcoming EV muscle car conspicuously lacks traditional modification pathways for owners, Dodge wants to ensure its future owners can play the same game and receive the same results. Enter “power badges,” plug-in electronic performance upgrades that come courtesy of your local Dodge dealer.

How much more performance these “badges” (pictured above) unlock will depend on the Stage you purchase and your EV’s base power level. The base Charger Daytona 400 volt EV will be labeled from the factory as a “340” with 455 hp on tap. If you hadn’t already guessed, the “340” isn’t an engine displacement but the starting output in kW. Install a Stage One badge, and that output jumps to 495 hp; a Stage Two badge ups that to 535 ponies.

The factory Charger Daytona 440 puts out 590 hp in stock form, which jumps to 630 hp with a Stage One badge and 670 hp with a Stage Two badge. There will be Stage badges for the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT and its 800-volt battery system, but Dodge wasn’t willing to disclose those power figures just yet, though it hinted the output will be significant at all three levels.

If these badges sound familiar, it’s because they work much like the Red and Black keys in SRT Hellcat models. Each key—or, in this case, badge—unlocks specific performance that’s embedded in the coding of the motor and battery controller, in this case, either regular or high outputs. Except these badges physically plug into the car’s dashboard, and are also locked to the car with the VIN and motor/battery controller being tied to that badge.

The good news for owners is that these badges can be a selling point when you sell the vehicle as they are only tied to it, not the owner. The bad news is that you’ll only get these badges from your dealer and, again because they are tied to the VIN and motor/battery controller, you can’t exchange a Stage One badge for a Stage Two between two Charger Daytonas or even use a Stage Two badge from a Charger Daytona 440 on a 340.

As an example of how this will look, the Charger Daytona SRT Banshee from Speed Week has been equipped with a Stage 2 badge plugged into its dashboard and will also feature non-functional emblems on the fenders. It will also feature a set of concept 18-inch centerlock wheels made by Lacks Enterprises. These wheels use a carbon fiber wheel barrel with an aluminum wheel face that attach together with titanium bolts. These wheels also have a set of 305 mm drag radials mounted on all four corners.

Why Lock This Down and the Aftermarket Out?

The main takeaway from Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis is that point about transforming the dealership from a maintenance and repair facility to a factory-supported modification shop. Dodge wants to ensure these dealers continue to make money without worrying about how to make up the missing revenue from the lack of regular maintenance of EVs. If this means tuning your Charger Daytona EV is limited to your dealership, so be it. “Tuning is exclusive to Direct Connection,” said Kuniskis, “We want this to funnel down to be able to work with our dealers.” Fortunately for you and unfortunately for Stellantis, the aftermarket is a persistent beast that feeds the enthusiast, no matter how hard it is initially.

“We probably won’t stop people from trying, but we want you to come into our dealerships to modify your cars.” The cynical among us will try to say that Stellantis and Dodge just want a bigger slice of the aftermarket’s business, but even Kuniskis knows that someone, somewhere will eventually break the locks and custom tune their Dodge EVs. “We love the aftermarket,” Kuniskis continued, “but the core of our business is the dealership and why we’re pushing Direct Connection. We don’t think electrification means the end of modification, we think it expands it.”

Dodge, during the SEMA Show, will also show goers will be able to participate in a Public Research to determine the sound of the future Dodge electric muscle car. As we mentioned before, the sound isn’t final from what you’ve heard during its debut and you’ll be able to help influence its final sound during the show. The SEMA Show runs from November 1-4 at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a public day on Friday.

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