Citing increased inventory due to slower than expected sales, Chrysler will cut production of the SRT Viper from 9 cars a day to just six and reassign some of the workers at the Conner Avenue assembly facility that assembles Chrysler’s V10 powered sports car.
Ralph Gilles, who runs the SRT brand in addition to being in charge of styling for the Chrysler group, said that quality control issues slowed the new Viper’s deliveries to the 443 Chrysler dealers that are certified by SRT to sell the Viper.
The reintroduced and redesigned 2013 Viper was revealed at the New York Auto Show in April of 2012 but deliveries didn’t start until a year later. ”We got off to a late start. We had hoped to begin shipping vehicles late last year, but we shipped the first 67 units in April,” Gilles said.
Priced at $104,480 for the 2014 model year, including destination charges and a day of professional driving instruction at a race track, production of the reintroduced Viper was initially slated to be limited to only 2,000 cars a year. Sales, though, have not even reached that figure, with only 426 units for the first eight months, leaving dealers with 565 Vipers in stock, which is equivalent to a 289 day supply at current sales rates.
“We’re really looking at the reality of this type of car in this economy, as well as us controlling the market and making sure that we don’t overbuild,” Gilles said, saying that interest in the Viper is strong and that the company booked 2,000 dealer and customer orders for the 2013 calendar year, which includes the new 2014 models that are now being built at the Conner plant.
Gilles also attributed slow sales to seasonal factors, saying, “We typically do very well with the Viper in early spring.” The Viper is somewhat notorious for its ability to break traction and while the new Viper now complies with U.S. federal standards that require electronic stability control, its high performance tires are not meant to be used in snow, so the car is not expected to sell well over the winter months.
To increase demand, Gilles said that SRT would organize a road show, visiting Viper dealers in the Southeast as part of a program to encourage potential buyers to take test drives. Part of the problem is the car’s reputation as a potentially dangerous car to drive. Some dealers have been reluctant to let consumers with unknown skills to test drive the Viper. “We really have to focus on putting butts in seats,” Gilles said. “A lot of people are unnecessarily intimidated by the car.” The test drive road show will be expanded to other markets early next year.