Production of Dodge Viper to end with 2017 model year – Detroit Free Press
Editors note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Viper production will end this year. In fact, Viper production will cease at the end of the 2017 model year, which is expected to be sometime next year.
The Dodge Viper super car, loved by enthusiasts and collectors, will die again at the end of the 2017 model year but it will go out in style.
The decision, while highly anticipated, was still heart breaking for Viper nation.
FCA said it will start producing the 2017 model year versions at its plant later this year and will continue building them into next year until the model year runs its course.
“To me, it’s a great loss to terminate the Viper. It’s always been the symbol for the U.S. car guys,” Bill White, president of Viper Club of America told the Free Press.
“Even though we knew it was coming, I was so not ready for this,” a member of the Viper Owners Association said in a post on the organization’s Facebook page.
The Viper, with its dramatic, curvy styling has always been a much bigger deal than its modest sales volumes. The car has always exemplified the bold spirit of the Auburn Hills automaker and is coveted by street racing enthusiasts and car collectors. Powered by a 8.4-liter, V10 engine that produces 645 horsepower, the low-slung coupe has had a reputation for being difficult to control on the road throughout its 25-year history.
“A Viper owner is a very unique individual,” said White, who lives in Warren, Ohio. “You are basically, handling a very high-powered car, and they can get away from you. We call it snake bite.”
But White said the number of Viper enthusiasts, largely consisting of aging baby boomers, have diminished over the years in part because of the price of the car and because Dodge failed to expand its appeal.
After several years of disappointing sales Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Tuesday it will offer five limited-edition models to commemorate the final year of production and celebrate its 25th anniversary of the Viper. Each model will be inspired by historic Vipers from the past and produced in very small numbers.
“The Dodge Viper has had a great run and, 25 years after it was first introduced, it leaves the super car world reaching for the records it continues to set,” Tim Kuniskis, FCA’s head of passenger cars and the Dodge brand, said in a statement.
The car, which debuted in 1992, was discontinued in 2010 in the midst of the Great Recession and the automaker’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, causing the plant where it is built to be idled.
But the Viper rose from its grave just three years later in a project spearheaded by FCA head of design Ralph Gilles.
“The history of Viper runs deep. The private equity guys tried to snuff it out, but it’s like the weed that keeps growing back,” Gilles said at the New York International Auto Show in 2012 as he took a swipe at Chrysler’s previous owner, Cerberus Capital Management. “It was done in the darkest hour you could imagine … I threw this project to the designers to keep them motivated.”
FCA also overhauled its 400,000-square-foot Conner Avenue Assembly plant just south of 8 Mile Road on Detroit’s northeast side. Workers there custom assemble the car in a plant that is unlike any other operated by the automaker.
Unfortunately, sales of the Viper failed to meet even modest expectations of about 1,500 units per year. FCA dropped the price in 2014 by $15,000 and introduced a new custom ordering Web site in 2015. Customers can use the Web site to buy a Viper in any color, wheel, interior and aerodynamic kit combination they want.
Both moves failed to boost sales. FCA US sold 676 Dodge SRT Vipers in 2015, down 11% from the 760 sold the prior year.
Today’s announcement was not a surprise. The UAW’s new four-year contract with the automaker that was ratified last fall lacked any product plans for the Conner Avenue plant. But even without a specific product commitment the UAW wasn’t necessarily expecting the plant close or the Viper to go away.
“This is news to the UAW. The UAW has not been notified and is not aware of FCA Chrysler’s plans for the Dodge Viper,” UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell said in statement.
The company did not say today exactly when production will end or say how many Vipers it hopes to produce this year.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne hinted in January that the automaker, which also owns Italian brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati, has access to other platforms that could be used to develop a car just as dynamic as the Viper.
“There is a possibility a new Viper may eventually surface,” Marchionne said at the time, but “every economic analysis that we have carried out for keeping that vehicle alive in its current state doesn’t add up.”
So what is on tap for current Viper’s final model year?
Starting Friday, customers can begin ordering special edition Vipers. They include:
Viper 1:28 Edition ACR: This version pays tribute to the current production car single lap record of 1:28.65 set by champion driver Randy Pobst in a 2016 Dodge Viper ACR at the historic Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., in October 2015. Production will be limited to 28 cars.
Viper GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR
This Viper is designed to pay tribute to one of the most distinguishable and iconic Viper paint schemes of all time – the white and blue combination of the 1998 Viper GTS-R GT2 Championship Edition. Production will be limited to 100 cars.
Viper VoooDoo II Edition ACR: Modeled after the original 2010 Viper VooDoo, this version (yes, VoooDoo is correct) features a black exterior and a graphite metallic ACR driver’s stripe. Production will be limited to 31 cars.
Viper Snakeskin Edition GTC: This Viper features a new Snakeskin Green exterior with a custom snakeskin-patterned SRT stripe. Production will be limited to 25 cars.
Dodge Dealer Edition ACR: This version is only available through Dodge’s highest sales volume Viper dealers, Tomball Dodge of Tomball, Texas, and Roanoke Dodge of Roanoke, Ill.
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.