Dodge Challenger going for $20K over sticker

The new performance car won't be revealed for two months, but buyers are already lining up.

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By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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Dodge Challenger concept car

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's no surprise that Dodge has an apparent hit on its hands with the 2008 Challenger, an update on the classic muscle car from the early 1970s.

What may be surprising is that some buyers are lining up to pay as much as $20,000 over the $40,000 sticker price for the earliest top-of-the-line production cars.

The Challenger has only been shown as a concept car. The actual production car won't be revealed until the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 6. The cars are slated to go on sale next spring.

But Chrysler, which makes Dodge cars, announced pricing last month for the high-performance SRT8 version of the car and allowed dealers to begin taking orders on Dec. 3.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the 2008 Challenger SRT8 is $37,995, not including an expected gas guzzler tax that could add more than $2,000.

The coupes will be powered by a 6.1-liter V8 engine capable of producing about 425 horsepower. The 2008 SRT8 version will be produced as a "limited edition" series with each car getting a numbered dashboard plaque.

Other lower-priced models with smaller engines will be produced later.

It had been reported that Chrysler would build only 5,000 Challenger's for the 2008 model year, but more than 6,000 have already been ordered. The company may increase production to meet additional demand, Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said.

The initial run of 2008 Challenger SRT8s will be offered in only three colors: Hemi Orange, Brilliant Black and Bright Silver, said Graham. So far, more than half of the orders have requested Hemi Orange.

A few individuals and dealers have listed pre-ordered Challengers on eBayMotors.com, with bids taken in terms of how much over the suggested retail price buyers are willing to pay. Winning bidders are being asked to put down deposits of as much as $10,000.

Two auctions have already ended with bidders agreeing to pay $20,000 over the sticker price.

Chrysler will only accept Challenger orders from dealers with a customer name and address. Ordinarily, car companies will allocate cars to dealers without requiring an actual customer order.

Last year, Ford Motor Co (Charts, Fortune 500). experienced a similar reception when it introduced Shelby GT500, a version of the popular Ford Mustang with a supercharged 500-horsepower engine under its bulging hood.

As with the Challenger, bidders on eBayMotors.com agreed to pay $20,000 over the car's sticker price of about $44,000.

Even now, buyers still typically pay about $16,000 over the sticker price for that car, and slightly more than that for the convertible, according to Kelley Blue Book. Ford produced about 11,000 Shelby GT500s this year.

Ford charges dealers about $40,000 for each Shelby GT500. Any additional profit from customers goes to the dealership, not to Ford. Since dealers are independently owned and operated companies, they can't be forced to honor a manufacturer's suggested price.

Ford has not raised the sticker price of the car, in part because its low retail price is part of the car's mystique, said Ford spokeswoman Whitney Drake.

Also, increasing the sticker price might only raise the ultimate cost to customers even more, she said.

"There's nothing to say that if we did raise the MSRP, the dealers wouldn't still charge more," Drake said.

A more powerful Shelby Mustang, the 540-horsepower GT500KR, will roll into dealerships about the same time the Challenger SRT8 goes on the market. To top of page

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