There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding the launch of the new Dodge Challenger, and officials are hoping this excitement won’t die off soon after the car hits the road as is often the case with hyped up sports cars. Chrysler lags its Detroit rivals in sales by a significant margin and desperately needs halo models like the Challenger, like the 300 before it, to be a hit with the public. If initial sales are anything to go by it appears Dodge may have pulled it off.

Officials expect to sell between 20,000 and 30,000 Challengers per year once the full lineup goes on sales, a modest target it seems considering the first full year run of the flagship SRT8 model (priced at $37,995) has already sold out. The information comes from Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press, who spoke recently with the Free Press. He also revealed that a waiting list has already formed for the 2009 model.

The Challenger’s closest rival is the popular Ford Mustang but Dodge is touting that its muscle car is the better choice, pointing out that it comes standard with antilock brakes, electronic stability control, curtain air bags, six-speed automatic transmission and keyless ignition, and features a five-link rear suspension as opposed to the Mustang’s archaic solid rear axle. "We'd rather run like a thoroughbred than ride like a pony," Frank Klegon, Chrysler vice president of product development, said in a thinly veiled jab at the Mustang.

The standard Challenger models will be revealed during April’s New York Auto Show and will include lower-priced models with smaller V6 and V8 engines. There’s even plans for a convertible version further down the track.