The third quarter of 2021 was one of the worst in the past few years for the American muscle cars, with the Dodge Challenger, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang combining for their worst sales quarter since the companies went to the quarterly reporting method in late 2018.
Only 28,312 American muscle cars (and pony cars, for those who prefer that wording) were sold during the months of July, August and September, which is roughly 10,000 units less than the same quarter last year. All three automakers have been plagued with production delays due to component shortages, but that didn’t stop Dodge from selling nearly 14,000 Challengers in 2021 Q3 – accounting for nearly half of the segment sales during that period.
More importantly, with this big advantage in the third quarter, the Challenger has now pulled into the top spot in the segment sales race for 2021. In the 10+ years in which I have been covering muscle car sales, the Challenger has never lead the annual sales race and, unless Ford sells a ton of Mustangs in the fourth quarter, Dodge has a very real chance of claiming the muscle car sales title for 2021.
Ugly Sales Numbers in 2021 Q3
July, August and September of 2021 combined to make for an ugly group of sales figures for the segment comprised of the Dodge Challenger, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. We call them muscle cars, some people prefer to call some of them pony cars, but in either case, they are in the same industry segment. As mentioned above, the entire segment was down sharply in the third quarter of 2021, due largely to production constraints caused by component shortages. However, the Dodge Challenger saw the smallest decline compared to the same period last year.
During the third quarter of 2021, Dodge sold 13,994 examples of the Challenger. That number represents a decline of 14% from the year before along with a decline of a little over a thousand units compared to the second quarter of this year, but they are still the best numbers in the segment. Dodge doesn’t offer monthly breakdowns, but the Q3 total averages out to roughly 4,665 units per month – which are pretty average numbers compared to the July, August and September numbers from the past few years.
The Ford Mustang was a distant second in sales during 2021 Q3 with 9,115 units sold, down 34% from the same three-month period last year. The Mustang is clearly getting hit the hardest by the component shortages, as two of the three months last quarter saw sales of 2,263 and 2,728 units, which both represent massive declines compared to the same months in any year in the past decade.
The Chevrolet Camaro posted only 5,203 units sold during the third quarter of 2021, which is absolutely terrible, but when you consider the fact that the company sold just 2,792 Camaros during the second quarter, the Q3 numbers are somewhat promising. The Camaro was down 37.8% compared to the same quarter in 2020, but at least the Chevy muscle car rebounded a bit from its abysmal second quarter. The best news for GM fans is that the Corvette was up 60% in 2021 Q3, so the C8 production is continuing to push through all sorts of roadblocks.
Dodge Challenger Takes the Annual Lead
The Dodge Challenger beat the Ford Mustang in Q3 sales by a margin of 4,879 units. At the end of the second quarter, the Challenger trailed the Mustang by 1,801 units, meaning that at the end of the third quarter, the Dodge Challenger leads the annual muscle car segment sales race. I have been covering muscle car sales for more than a decade for various websites and in that time, the Challenger has won plenty of months and quarters, but Dodge has never held the annual lead. Dodge now leads the race by 3,078 units, so the Mustang will need to rebound in a big way in the final three months of 2021 to hold onto the sales title.
For those wondering, while covering the segment sales race for the past decade, I have kept a running spreadsheet of sales numbers, so I can easily look back to see how the Challenger and Mustang have sold during the final quarter of the year – keeping in mind that Ford needs to outsell Dodge by more than 3,100 units to hold onto the segment sales title. In 2020, the Challenger outsold the Mustang in the third quarter by over a thousand units. In 2019, the Mustang outsold the Challenger by 2,826 units. In 2018, the Challenger outsold the Mustang by 180 units. In 2017, the Mustang beat the Challenger by more than 7,000 units.
In short, the Mustang certainly has the potential to sell enough units in the third quarter to pull back ahead of the Challenger, but with all of the current production issues right now, it isn’t going to be easy. Realistically, Ford needs the Challenger to have its worst quarter of 2021 and the Mustang will need to have its best quarter since 2019 to keep Dodge from taking the title of the bestselling muscle car in America.
Meanwhile, Chevrolet has sold 15,084 Camaros during the first nine months of 2021, down 32.1% from last year.