Dodge Magnum wagon attracting SUV and pickup truck owners By MARY CONNELLY | Automotive News (08:30 July 27, 2004) DETROIT -- In a surprise, the Dodge Magnum wagon is attracting large numbers of SUV and pickup owners. More than half of Magnum buyers are trading in light trucks, according to early sales data from the Power Information Network. That's unexpected as trucks relentlessly gobble market share from cars in the United States. But it is too early to predict whether the trend will continue, says the analyst who compiled the data. "This is a station wagon. But Dodge may be getting some of the crossover market," says Tom Libby, director of industry analysis for the Power Information Network, a subsidiary of J.D. Power and Associates. "The Magnum offers some of the functionality of an SUV but has a carlike ride." Magnum buyers are responding to the power of the Hemi V8 engine and the wagon's looks, dealers say. "People either love it or hate it," says Ben Jones, general sales manager at Ourisman Dodge in Alexandria, Va. "A lot of young, African-American, male buyers are looking at it. It's about performance and styling." Dealers say they want more 340-hp Hemi-equipped Magnum RT units that are selling at sticker price. Negotiated prices below sticker are the norm for the six-cylinder Magnum. Since hitting the market in May, the Magnum has tallied 7,226 sales. It replaces the Dodge Intrepid sedan in the mid-sized market. Dodge has nearly 40,000 orders for Magnums, Chrysler group spokesman Kevin McCormick says. In contrast, in the first six months of 2004 Intrepid sales totaled 6,434 units. One Magnum buyer traded in a Ford F-150 Lightning pickup at Prebul Automotive Group in Chattanooga, Tenn. "These are raw-performance oriented buyers," says Chris Cobb, Prebul's general sales manager. "Most people that have trucks use them as cars. The truck buyer going to the Magnum is probably justifying it by saying, 'I can put the back seat down and have all the room I need.'" In June, Cobb drove a Magnum RT to a local cruise in Hixson, Tenn. "People were walking right past the muscle cars from the '60s to get to the Magnum," he says. "This got as much attention as any car there, even Z28 Camaros." Cobb says the dealership has run out of Magnum brochures because young men in their late teens and early 20s have emptied the shelves. The Power data say 77 percent of Magnum buyers are male. In the same period, 72 percent of all Dodge buyers were male. The rear-wheel-drive Hemi-equipped Magnum RT carries a sticker of $29,995, including destination. Two all-wheel-drive models arrive this fall. The base awd Magnum SXT has a sticker of $27,900, including destination. The cheapest Magnum is the 2.7-liter V6 equipped SE at $22,495, including destination. A $1,000 discount is available if customers buy or lease through Chrysler Financial. Dodge still is filling the Magnum pipeline. Dealerships should reach allocated inventory levels in 45 to 60 days, the Chrysler group's McCormick says. Dodge expects to build about 50 percent of Magnums with the Hemi engine, a percentage consistent with other Hemi-equipped vehicles, he says. The Magnum is positioned as a utilitarian vehicle, McCormick says. "Advertising is playing to its storage ability. It is a versatile vehicle able to haul a significant amount of cargo," he says. "That is why you are seeing trucks being traded in." The Power data of early Magnum buyers show that 28 percent traded in an SUV; 19 percent traded pickups. Mid-sized cars ranked third at 18 percent. Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet were the top three brands traded. The top three nameplates traded in carried the Dodge name, a typical pattern. Owners loyal to a brand are first in the dealership door when a new model arrives in the showroom. Power analyzed Magnum sales transaction data through July 11. The data are based on information supplied by 5,100 franchises in 26 markets. Analyst Libby says Dodge still needs to capture sedan buyers. "Given the size of the mid-sized car market, they should want to appeal to more of those owners," he says. That may happen when the Dodge Charger sedan based on the Magnum's rwd chassis arrives in 2005.