SCHAUMBURG, Illinois — The American muscle car is experiencing a resurgence in the market as sales of the latest versions of some classic nameplates have risen 35.4 percent over the past nine years, according to a new study from Experian Automotive.
Experian looked at new registrations of six high-performance models and found that the Ford Mustang took the top spot with 77,000 new registrations, followed by the Chevrolet Camaro (66,000), Dodge Charger (55,000), Dodge Challenger (50,000), Chevrolet Corvette (32,000) and Dodge Viper (1,000).
"The love of the Mustang combined with the reintroduction of the Camaro, Challenger and Charger has sparked a resurgence of the muscle car," said Brad Smith, Experian's director of automotive statistics, in a statement. "While the growing popularity might run contrary to conventional wisdom, consumers are continuing to show their appreciation for a part of American history and not steering away from raw horsepower to focus solely on fuel efficiency."
He's not kidding about Americans' love of performance.
The 5.0-liter V8 in the Ford Mustang GT puts out 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, while the 5.2-liter V8 in the limited-edition Mustang Shelby GT350 cranks performance up to 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque.
The Camaro SS comes with a 6.2-liter V8 rated at 455 hp; the Charger and Challenger can be ordered in Hellcat versions that boast supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8s that make 707 hp; the Corvette Z06 has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that puts out 650 hp; and the Viper's standard 8.4-liter V10 is rated at 645 hp.
In addition to compiling sales statistics for these six muscle cars, Experian looked at consumer purchasing trends and found that those who bought a Corvette or Viper were more likely to pay cash than the other models, while Chargers were leased more often.
The study also found that of the models that were purchased with a loan, the Charger and Challenger were the most likely to have been bought with extended terms. Nearly 52.4 percent of consumers who purchased a Charger and 49.6 percent of those who purchased a Challenger had loan terms between 73 and 84 months.
Said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance: "With the Viper and the Corvette being on the higher end of the muscle cars reviewed, it's not that surprising that a higher percentage of consumers paid for them in cash. Our findings show that those buyers had the highest credit scores (with the average a full 26 points higher than the other models), which could indicate that they have more disposable income."
The Experian study found that geography played an interesting role in muscle-car purchases.
Buyers in Texas were 79 percent more likely to choose one of these models than those in other areas, followed by Oklahoma (75 percent), Louisiana (67 percent), New Mexico (63 percent) and Nevada (53 percent).
On the other hand, New Englanders tend to shy away from the performance models. Those in Vermont were 70 percent less likely to purchase an American muscle car than buyers in other states, trailed by Maine (68 percent), Massachusetts (67 percent), Connecticut (61 percent) and New Hampshire (59 percent).
"Given the regional disparity between the top and bottom states for muscle-car preference, one could deduce that weather played a significant role in the buying process," explained Smith. "While I am confident that there are people in those states that have love for American muscle cars, the slippery winter roads of the Northeast and the rear-wheel drive of muscle cars does not make for a safe combination."
Finally, Experian's analysis found — perhaps unsurprisingly — that men were 21 percent more likely to buy an American muscle car than women, and those under 40 were 11 percent more likely to purchase one of these models than drivers of other ages.
Edmunds says: The love affair between car shoppers and American muscle cars continues.