0312 Knott 2

The 2004 Dodge SRT-4.

AM: If you guys think that doing it with displacement as opposed to supercharging is the way to go, how much more room do you have in that engine, say if Coletti comes out with a bigger bottom end?

DN: Well our V-10's been a around a while, and in '03 we bumped it up. It's a very capable engine and it's got a great history. I think the performance level we have in the truck will be very competitive and we'll stay there and see what goes on in the future.

AM: The segment is interesting: I don't really consider the Chevy Silverado SS a player just because its horsepower is so far off you and SVT. But it seems like it's high time that trucks started spawning new expressions of themselves.

DN: That's why we're thinking there's room in the market for something like this. And we bring to it a piece that most people can't bring to it, which is the Viper V-10. It would have been one thing to come out with a truck with performance cues and then put a hot engine in it. But our hot engine is one nobody else can do.

AM: And it originally started life as a truck engine. Shifting gears a second, are you predicting that Nissan and Toyota will come after you, too? Or is this primarily an American muscle phenomenon?

DN: It's hard to say, but part of this whole issue with the enthusiast market that all of us are tapping into, is that this is where people are making their money nowadays. We don't have incentives. The first time we do have incentives means I didn't do my job with the credibility of the product. And some of my competitors do have incentives on their performance vehicles and when you stand back and look at it and say maybe they didn't quite deliver on all of those things. But I think that the competitive market could drive some of those guys to come out with their own entry. I don't see anything on the immediate horizon other than the Lightning.

AM: How much high-horsepower expertise was drawn on from your Mercedes-Benz colleagues?

DN: In the case of the truck, not a significant amount. We and AMG have similar kinds of objectives. And we continue to have discussions with them about how to leverage each other's knowledge base. We'd be fools if we didn't. So we continue to learn from them, and I think they're learning some things from us. And they don't have a Viper type of product, with this level of raw horsepower [without super- or turbocharging.]

AM: Yet you seem to be matching each other horsepower for horsepower. I don't want to stretch this point too much, but what are the things that separate you and AMG? Besides the fact that one is Mercedes-Benz and the other is Dodge? What's the difference in approach?

DN: I think there's some level of refinement that a Mercedes brand has versus an SRT at this current point. The markets are different, so the expectations from the consumer are a little different. That's not to say that we have any less refinement, it's just a different type. I think we're going to grow to that place over time. Secondly, AMG has a fair amount of resources that they can leverage, and my resources are a little bit less. But I'm going to leverage them for as much as I can and vice versa.

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