Dodge picks 'chief donut maker' from 173,500 applicants
Preston Patterson of Charlotte, North Carolina, grew up with a poster of a Dodge Viper on his wall. Now, he's getting the keys to a black Dodge Challenger Hellcat company car for the next year.
Patterson is Dodge's "chief donut maker," the Stellantis NV performance brand announced Tuesday — aka "Hemi Day" in honor of the 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 built from the 1964 through 1971 model years.
He emerged from more than 173,500 applicants and 10 finalists to secure the title, $150,000, Dodge merchandise, and access to the brand's events and engineers. It's not a full-time job, but Patterson, who described himself as in his 30s and works in legal compliance, will share his experiences online at @chiefdonutmakerofficial on Instagram as an ambassador over the next year as Dodge undergoes its "Never Lift" campaign leading up to the reveal of its first all-electric muscle car in 2024.
"I'm really big into the car culture," Patterson, who's also a content creator, said during a virtual news conference, donning a Dodge Garage T-shirt. "It's my life. I remember driving my friend's Hellcat Challenger Redeye for my first driving experience and that smell of rubber and that power, I just knew I was going to own a Dodge one day."
He did. Coming from "nothing," Patterson said, he worked his way to purchase an F8 Green Widebody Scat Pack. But in some ways he's an unlikely ambassador, as he's been critical publicly about the brand and street takeovers where enthusiasts will occupy an intersection, slide, and drift, which has the potential to be dangerous. Patterson ended up selling his Scat Pack and buying a Porsche, but later returned to the "brotherhood of muscle" with the purchase of a Challenger SRT Hellcat.
"I got frustrated, because I saw a lot of the younger people just kind of doing things like takeovers and stuff like that in Dodges," the father of two said. "It pushed me away, because I felt like I didn't want to be associated with that, but I ended up coming back, because I realized that maybe people just need to see a better example of people driving Dodges. ... I ultimately came back, because I loved the brand."
That is the kind of authenticity and credibility for which Dodge was looking in its chief donut maker, especially as the brand embarks on a historic transition in technology and electrified propulsion, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said.
"Some people are excited," he said. "Some people are not so excited. Some people need to walk down that two-year plan with us in transition. They're not shy about telling us what they think, and we've all told them all: 'Relax. It's gonna be OK. We know exactly who we are. We know who you are, and we know what you want from us. We are not going to try to build you some generic electric vehicle and then try to convince you that it's a muscle car.'
"We are in a critical transition. And it's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be questioned, and that's why we need a guy like this."
Patterson said he hasn't seen anything electrified from Dodge yet, but Kuniskis revealed the brand will show a plug-in hybrid version of a new Hornet small crossover this summer.
"I'm super excited to see what Dodge brings to the table," Patterson said. "I'm sure whatever they bring to the table, they're gonna lead again, because Dodge knows muscle, so I can only imagine that it's going to have something to do with being a muscle car in the EV game."
Patterson also emphasized his hope to appeal to young people through the role, like at his children's elementary school, a children's hospital and in his greater community.
"I would love to be able to get out there in the community for more of the underserved younger people who can't make it to car shows or who may not understand how to reach out to people to be able to see a Dodge in person or attend these events," he said. "In my hometown, there are a lot of young people who are underserved, and I just want to give back to those guys and say, 'Hey, there is another route to go instead of trouble. Here's a brotherhood that we can all join and be a part of.'"
Dodge in January put out the call for applicants to submit by the end of February a maximum 2-minute video showing why they should be the chief donut maker. It promised to review the first 10,000 submissions. Judges, including champion wrestler Bill Goldberg, in March selected the finalists, who flew to Radford Racing School in Arizona for a series of challenges and eliminations that were the basis of a three-part web series viewable at DodgeGarage.com.
"It's not about being the best driver," Goldberg said. "It's not about being the best on a mic. It's not about being the most studious in the classroom as far as history on the Dodge brand. It's about putting it all together. It's about being able to be in public, represent the brand, not fall on your face, be able to drive to a certain extent, but truly live, breathe and bleed the brand."
Patterson beat out the runner-up, Lauren Frisby of Las Vegas, in a final four-stage trial that tested competitors' attitude and performance in reacting to a road light, trivia, an autocross lap without traction control and, of course, doughnuts.
Patterson will get to join a pit crew, host a livestream at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in September and join Roadkill Nights, a street-racing event sponsored by Dodge typicallyin August on Woodward Avenue in Pontiac.
"It's a blessing," Patterson said after his win. "If I can make it, anyone can make it. Keep working on what you're working toward. Keep your goal in sight, no matter what happens."