CHELSEA, Mich. – When the Dodge Viper was first approved for production Lee Iacocca was the chairman of Chrysler Corporation.
That was in 1990, well before the rise of vehicle electrification, the Great Recession and the bankruptcy of the Auburn Hills automaker that would be merged into what is now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Since its official release in 1992, Dodge has sold 28,000 Vipers, or about 1,167 of the cars per year.
“It’s a very low-volume, hand-built vehicle, very expensive to build,” Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger cars for FCA in North America, told MLive at an event at FCA’s Chelsea proving grounds this week. “But it’s been great for the brand, and we decided that we’re going to go out with the 25th anniversary on a very high note.”
That high note includes five limited-edition models for 2017, which will be the Detroit-built supercar’s final year of production.
The models include a 1:28 Edition ACR (American Club Racer), a GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR, a VooDoo II Edition ACR, a Snakeskin Edition GTC and a Dodge Dealer Edition.
Each will have a serialized instrument panel badge with the model name and can be customized with the buyer’s name.
They will be produced in very limited quantities. Kuniskis said they will not build any more than 100 units of the GTS-R, and will limit the run for the Snakeskin to 25, the VooDoo to 31 and the 1:28 to 28 units.
Orders opened up Friday.
Sales of the Viper have struggled as of late, even with a $15,000 price slash in 2014. Through the first five months of 2016, sales of the Viper fell 17 percent to 241 units.
Kuniskis acknowledged the lower sales but balked at the notion that Dodge was winding down production of the car. Instead, FCA is getting every last bite it can from the supercar.
“When you’re slimming down a vehicle you would never make a big investment to build something like the ACR,” Kuniskis said, referring to the track-ready Viper ACR introduced last year. “We said, no, we got to honor what this car has been for the last 25 years and go out absolutely on top of the world.”
The Dodge Viper ACR will also return for a final year of production. Kuniskis said the ACR has set more track records than any sports car in the world; in March Hot Rod magazine put its number of records at 13.
All Dodge Vipers come with an all-aluminum, 8.4L V-10 overhead-valve engine that’s rated at 645 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque.
The supercars are assembled by about 80 workers at FCA’s Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit.
Kuniskis said it was too early to say what will happen at that site when Viper production ends.
“We’re going to be building the car through ’17 so that’s a long ways away,” he said, adding that what happens next is “not something we’re ready to talk about.”
And will Dodge produce another high-powered halo car like the Viper?
“Don’t’ know yet, can’t talk about it,” he said. “But as far as the Viper goes we’re going out on a very high note.”