What American Muscle Cars — Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet–are Lemons?

 Is Your American Muscle Car a Lemon? The Downside of Cool Cars: Camaro, Charger, Challeger

The newest lineup of American muscle cars are fast, fun, and smoking hot, but some buyers are outright furious when their hot rod winds up stuck in the repair shop. Owners of the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Charger, and Challenger sports cars report various issues that take these fun cars off the road.

The new versions of these iconic cars may look sweet on the outside, but under the hood of that cherry red paint job might be the makings of a lemon.

These muscle cars are among the fastest and coolest American cars on the road,. So leaving the car at the repair shop not only puts a dent in the fun but in a person’s pocketbook. Here’s a look at some issues affecting four of America’s favorite muscle cars. The information comes from records obtained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Chevrolet Camaro

 Chevrolet Camaro

The Chevrolet Camaro debuted in 1966 to compete with the Ford Mustang but ended production in 2002. It gained renewed attention as the fictional character Bumblebee in the 2007 film, Transformers, and then returned with its new 2010 models. The Camaro began its sixth generation beginning in 2016. However, some of these cars have reportedly experienced powertrain malfunctions. Owners have complained the car’s transmission lags, is non-responsive, and or may violently shudder. So far, the manufacturer has issued two recalls, however, these do not directly address the transmission problems.

In one NHTSA report, an owner of the 2021 Camaro RS6 2-liter V-8I told the federal agency their car experiences power surges and choppy acceleration as the vehicle changes gears. As the driver accelerates through its gears, it feels like the vehicle is losing fuel or “falling on its face for a brief second several times.”

Another owner of a new 2021 Camaro Lt1 RS complained to the NHTSA about a valve clatter sound coming from the driver’s side of the engine.

The transmission is “all over the place when shifting, engaging, and taking off,” complained yet another owner. The brand-new Chevrolet Camaro began having problems after just 426 miles on it. The car reportedly shuttered and the transmission was slipping and had rough shifting. One time the car’s transmission slipped and stopped in the middle of a turn narrowly avoiding an accident. It is so bad that the owner doesn’t think the car can be driven safely. General Motors is already in litigation on this issue.

A 2021 LT1 Camaro with just 724 miles lost motor power and sounds more like an old beater that’s been ridden hard than a brand-new sports car. Problems observed by one owner include engine valve clatter, surge when shifting in low gear, and a clanking sound when driving normally from about 4th to 5th gear, but a total loss of half the power. The dealership told that the problems it was having are not under warranty.

Yet another issue owners complain about is a burning oil smell. In one reported case, however, the dealership could not find an oil leak.

Dodge Charger

 Dodge Charger

Twenty years after the automaker rolled out its last Dodge Charger, this iconic muscle car re-entered the market in 2006 some forty years after its first model in 1966.

The 2021 Dodge Charger has one recall issued in July 2021 because the windshield may separate from the vehicle if there is a crash.

There are only a few complaints on the NHTSA website. One is for the rear camera that suggests it is too dark in most conditions. The report states it is impossible to rely on and could lead to a collision.

Another complaint involves the vehicle shutting off or stalling while driving or failing to start after being parked. 

Also, Chrysler issued a recall in November 2023 for certain 2022 Dodge Charger and Durango vehicles. The problem is the shifter assembly was not properly heat-treated. Drivers may find that they cannot move the shifter properly from engaging in the “drive” position.

Unfortunately, the Dodge Charger is also popular with thieves and due to a security issue they are an easy target. Stellantis, the brand’s parent company, is aware of widespread theft of 2015 to 2021 Dodge Chargers due to the security issue. Professional car thieves are able to easily duplicate the key fobs in these vehicles. Also, to make matters worse, these cars are also fast enough to easily outrun a police patrol car. The automaker has since created a double verification security system to crack down on the problem.

Going forward, car buyers can expect the first all-electric Dodge muscle car out in 2024.

Dodge Challenger

 Dodge Challenger

The latest Dodge Challenger models have a retro edge coupled with a modern design and even four doors for comfort. Touted as a “man-made muscle masterpiece,” people who buy this car have the need for speed, style and don’t want to slow down for problems.

However, just like the Dodge Charger, the 2020 Challenger has a recall for potential windshield detachment in a crash. This model year also has eight complaints for everything form air bags not deploying in a crash to the car completely shutting off while driving at freeway speeds. Other complaints the NHTSA received involve the powertrain.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Dodge Challenger also has a windshield bonding recall as well as a recall to fix the safety system status indicators that fail to illuminate sufficiently in both daylight and nighttime driving conditions.

In Feb. 2024, Chrysler issued a recall for its 2023 Dodge Challenger vehicles. The problem is the parking brake could be improperly adjusted and is at risk of rolling away.  

Dealerships will adjust the parking brake at no charge to owners.

Ford Mustang

 Ford Mustang

The popular Ford Mustang has remained in continuous production since 1964. Most of the Mustangs sell in the range of $36,000. However, muscle car lovers who can afford it may opt for 2021 Shelby GT 500 that starts at $72.900. The most recent 2021 Ford Mustang, however, has had multiple issues. One is a recall for side curtain air bag inflators, but there are also problems with the engine cooling system, power train, electrical system and brakes.

One complaint to the NHTSA involves the clutch and brake pedal, causing the engine to rev up from 900-1500 rpm. The owner said they nearly crashed the car twice as the vehicle surged forward changing gears in the manual car.

2021 Ford Mustang Recall

Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling certain 2021 Mustang vehicles. The side curtain air bag inflators may have been manufactured with the incorrect amount of compressed gas. This can result in improper air bag inflation. Dealerships will replace the side curtain air bags, free of charge.

2021 Sales for American Muscle Cars

Sales in 2021 were highest for the Dodge Charger with 78, 399 vehicles sold, slightly more than 77,425 in 2020. Dodge Challenger with 54,314 vehicles sold, up 3% over 2020. Meanwhile, Ford sold 52,414 Mustang coupes and convertibles down 14.2% from the previous year. It was the worst performance in its history. The Chevrolet Camaro managed to sell just 21,893 last year.

California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson

 California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson

If you purchased one of these defective muscle car lemons with a major safety issue, you may need legal help. Or, was your vehicle is in the shop for 30 days or more? If that’s the case, you may have a cause for legal action.

California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson will review your case and let you know if it qualifies as a lemon.

We recommend that you obtain an invoice for all repairs and recall visits from the dealership. These documents will support your potential case. Should the vehicle experience repeated issues or become a safety risk, these documents support the Lemon Law Claim. Contact us for a free case review at 800-558-1087.

James Johnson ESQ