By on October 19, 2015

monoIMG_0412_rIn the past few days there has been a flurry of posts about Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ending production of the Dodge Viper in 2017 and closing the Conner Avenue Assembly facility where the v-10 powered sportscar is hand-built.

When I see a news story, I’ll try to seek out the original reporting and if possible, the original source material. Now that I’ve seen that source material, and asked Conner’s plant manager about the matter, I’m not convinced that the Viper’s demise is a certainty. Viper fans shouldn’t go hanging snakeskin* crepe just yet.

In the case of that supposed demise, all the news articles that I could find on the topic — whether from blogs or traditional automotive publications — were based on a rather sketchy report on Allpar.com, which was based on the proposed labor agreement FCA has presented to the United Auto Workers, in the section under product allocation and sourcing.

Allpar’s statement was pretty firm:

The Dodge Viper will be leaving in calendar-year 2017, according to the proposed FCA-UAW contract.

The contract wording, though, was not quoted. Now that I’ve read the proposal, I’m not sure if not quoting it wasn’t deliberate, to make the Viper’s death seem like more of a sure thing. It sure got some attention and links to Allpar.

When FCA introduced the latest iteration of the Viper ACR earlier this year in a media event at the Conner plant, I just happened to be in the group that was given the factory tour by plant manager Doug Gouin. It also happened that two decades ago my now-adult son asked for and got his fifth grade class a VIP tour of the Viper factory with a letter to then-Chrysler president Bob Lutz. When I told him the story, Gouin gave me his business card to arrange a return visit for my son for a future story here at TTAC.

Figuring that the plant manager would know the real skinny on its future, I reached out to Gouin, asking if he could comment on the Allpar report. He couldn’t, as FCA only authorizes a small number of executives to speak publicly for the company.

He sent me a gracious, but unrelated email, and forwarded my request about the Viper and plant’s future to one of their communications spokeswomen. She told me that while the contract ratification is underway, FCA will not offer any comment on anything in the proposed agreement, including manufacturing plans. She did, however, help me navigate the UAW’s website to find what it actually says about the Conner Ave plant and the Viper. She said nothing a about the Viper’s future either way.

What it does say in the proposed labor contract doesn’t necessarily bode well for the car or the factory, but what it doesn’t say is that there will be no Viper after 2017 or that Conner Assembly will definitely close. Under the heading of “Product Allocation and Work Retention” for that facility it says: “Current product build out in 2017,” and, “No future product has identified beyond the product life cycle.”

At face value, the contract is simply giving no assurances to the UAW that Conner Avenue Assembly will have work to do beyond 2017. That’s it.

Sure, it doesn’t look optimistic, but it’s also not a formal obituary for the Viper. While “current product” and “product life cycle” could mean the entire Viper program, it could just as likely mean the current Viper generation, which by 2017 will probably need a replacement to stay current in the world of 600+ horsepower sports cars. A lot can happen in the automotive world in two years.

The Viper could die, but then it also could get a last minute reprieve from the governor Sergio. If I was a Viper fan of means, I’d go ahead and take Jack Baruth’s advice and buy a new Viper while I still could, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if someday at a club meet a 2018 Viper sits next to my hypothetical 2016 model.

*I wanted to use “black mamba crepe” but apparently, mambas are not pit vipers.

Note: If any of our readers know how FCA defines “current product” and “product life cycle” and whether those terms apply to a general nameplate or a specific generation model, please drop us a note in the comments below.

Photo by the author.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

49 Comments on “Are Reports of the Viper’s Demise Premature?...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Maybe the real question becomes is the Dodge Viper still relevant?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Here’s a question, if it was priced like a Corvette instead of a Porsche would it be more relevant?

      It strikes me that it would be. However it does likely need 700 hp just to show that it can compete with the “HELLCAT”.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Depends on how big the market is for a “supercar” in the Corvette pricing range. If the Viper was priced right sure it would move more but it would either have to poach Corvette buyers or somehow attract new buyers to the segment.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Since they are moving product around and sharing platforms, why couldn’t the Viper move in with Maserati or Ferrari ?

    Just use their platform and small production volume knowledge. Would allow the Viper to move upscale.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Viper is already better than any current Ferrari at a number of things, and why would FCA want to sell small volume, high production cost cars to people who are both price sensitive and have higher expectations than their Ferrari customers?

      • 0 avatar

        Uh, how many did they sell last year? HOw many Corvettes are sold?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          They aren’t selling. I’m not denying that. I’m just saying that there is little reason to come up with ways of making them more expensive by diverting resources from Ferrari. Ferrari doesn’t want Vipers setting track records at Fiorano, or reminding people what it was like to drive instead of riding in a simulator. Their interest is in letting Viper die, which might even explain the painful Italian chairs they’re cursed with now.

          • 0 avatar
            Polishdon

            I need to clarify what I meant by “upscale”. I’m not referring to price, since that was a disaster.

            What I was trying to say (and it came out wrong) was that it would allow them to upscale production (better utilize factories).

            Just because it would compete with Ferrari, etc. does not mean it would be replace Ferrari. Sell it as more of a budget performance car (in comparison to Ferrari). I don’t think people car going to cross shop Ferrari and a Viper. So it shares a lot of the same parts (Maybe even hard points). So what? It would increase profits at Ferrari and/or Maserati if increased production get lower part cost.

            I would hate to see the Viper die.

  • avatar

    I for one won’t miss it.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s hard to see the business case anymore. Cheap shot first: how many 60 year old men of means looking to go beyond Viagra are still interested in Viper? How many FCA dealers really know how to sell and service these nowadays? Within the FCA stable is Maserati, Alfa etc. to grab the megabuck/supercar crowd. In American brands, the Corvette and Mustang GT 350 scaling new heights for less $.

      Finally, these aren’t driven daily and tend to last a long time.

      Maybe like Cobra and Lotus Seven, FCA could sell the tooling to someone who could produce Viper on a small scale, license it out and market it as a specialty, with only top FCA dealers authorized to work on it.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s like a $100,000+ Corvette that offers no real benefit over the Corvette. Sure you can satisfy your mid-life crisis/ male-pattern baldness…but you need twice as much money to do so.

        Get a Model S P90D instead. Far more practical.

        (O my God…I’m becoming a shill for TESLA now…)

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        Pete,

        Maybe you should stay in Coney Island. Hinting that a GT350 is anywhere close to a Viper shows you’ve been inhaling one too many Nathan’s coneys.

        Just so you know, they’re not even in the same state.

        • 0 avatar

          Ah, regional prejudice – last-resort insult of those who are outta ammo.

          As for the GT 350′ none have hit the streets to see how well — or poorly — 650-hp matches the world-class Mustang chassis. Stating that it can’t touch an anachronism shows your bias completely, not just for Viper but against my great hometown.

          I have nothing against the Viper. It did wonderful things for the old New Chrysler Corp. I hope enthusiasts enjoy them for decades to come. I just think that as a new car sold by a large company, their day has come and gone.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I didn’t know this, but Viper was another Maximum Bob production:

    “The Viper was initially conceived in late 1988 at Chrysler’s Advanced Design Studios. The following February, Chrysler president Bob Lutz suggested to Tom Gale at Chrysler Design that the company should consider producing a modern Cobra, and a clay model was presented to Lutz a few months later. Produced in sheet metal by Metalcrafters,[6] the car appeared as a concept at the North American International Auto Show in 1989. Public reaction was so enthusiastic that chief engineer Roy Sjoberg was directed to develop it as a standard production vehicle.”

    or this

    “The team asked the then-Chrysler subsidiary Lamborghini to cast a prototype aluminum block for the sports car to use in May. The production body was completed in the fall, with a chassis prototype running in December. Though a V8 engine was first used in the test mule, the V10, which the production car was meant to use, was ready in February 1990.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_Viper

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I thought is was common knowledge XD
      On the other hand I never understood why they kept insisting it was a modern Cobra when it looked like an E-type with a modern bodykit, right down to the insanely long flip forward hood and the ‘longer-than-a-v8’-engine.
      They should chop some inches out of the wheelbase, put a Hellcat motor in it. And then charge more for the increased power and improved weight distribution.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was never into them and thus did not know this. I think offering Viper as more of a customized car is an interesting idea, but to set this up would cost more money and I wonder if it is a profitable model as it is.

      • 0 avatar
        TheBlueSoap

        I believe the modern Cobra tag was to do with the ‘back to basics’ mentality of the Viper when it first came out. The first gen SRT/10 had no roof or side windows -just a ‘tent’ you assembled and put in place, no electronic nannies to help keep you out of trouble. And large engine in relatively lightweight frame.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        It already has a short wheelbase and ideal weight distribution. I am sure they could coax more power out of the engine, but it is already one of the fastest street legal track toys on the market.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Another good entry, Ronnie.

    Your post says as much about journalism as it does about the Viper. Electronic media are just as good at promulgating error as they are the truth.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    This is like learning some old 1950s actor is still alive.

    Won’t much change anyone’s life.

  • avatar

    What a shocker—a bunch of people who’ve never driven a Viper don’t like it.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Like it or not, the Viper is the only torchbearer of the American supercar genre.

    The Corvette Z06 absolutely possesses supercar performance (albeit for about a lap-and-a-half), but it’s based on a relatively common sports car.

    Same with the top-shelf Mustangs. Like the BMW M3/M4, these are amazing cars, but they don’t carry their own bodywork.

    I would be very sad to see the Viper die, but there is little demand at the $100k+ price point that these cars are hitting.

    I would very much like to see a modernised powertrain. How about a high-revving 5-6L V10 based on one of the current Hemi blocks? Better fuel economy, better supercar sound, doesn’t compete with Ferrari’s V8s and V12s. A choice of MT or DCT.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “the only torchbearer of the American supercar genre”

      They’ll come back. Supercars are historically a symptom of massive wealth imbalance and rigid socioeconomic barriers so you shouldn’t have long to wait.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Like the people of the planet-building planet Magrathea, the builders of supercars will slumber until such a time as the galactic economy has once again grown strong enough to afford their hyperluxurious wares.

      • 0 avatar
        Chan

        Sure, but I would also argue that supercars have existed in continuity since the 1970s, when the term was invented by the media to describe cars of superlative design and performance.

        The Viper model is a relative veteran, having been around (with breaks) since 1992 or so with basically the oldest supercar recipe still in production (huge V10, manual).

  • avatar
    hubcap

    It’s a shame that so many who’ve haven’t driven a Viper are so down on it. We all have out opinions, but isn’t it better to have one that originates from your own experience vice hearsay.

    FWIW, the Viper is one of the best performing cars at any price. Why would an enthusiast want to see it go? Having more choices is a good thing. And as an enthusiast, why wouldn’t you miss it?

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      People are blinded by the Hellcat, and Americans in general are blinded by straight-line performance.

      I like both the Challenger and the Viper. Both are on my bucket list of cars to own, although neither of them is at the top. But I know what each of them is and is not.

      The Challenger is NOT a sports car.

  • avatar

    It’s clear that there’s a cohort of car enthusiasts who aren’t fans of the Viper. I wonder how much of that distaste for the Viper is class based, due to the car’s popularity with blue collar entrepreneurs. Cue the jokes about tanned, bald heads and gold chains.

    I paid Baruth a get-well visit yesterday and since he’s an unabashed fan of the car I gave him a Viper wall plaque I got at a car event. He thinks the Viper’s fate is sealed by reduced opportunities for those blue collar entrepreneurs. Those kind of businesspeople don’t thrive when cronyism reigns.

    I had the opportunity to watch a couple of people take delivery of their COPO Camaro factory built NHRA drag racers. One of them was from West Virginia. I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d be regarded by our Ivy indoctrinated elites, maybe just a “dumb hillbilly”. Starting with a used wrecker, he’s managed to build a small automotive empire, with a junkyard, a collision shop and more modern wreckers. Done well enough that he can afford a $100,000 toy.

    When your toilet’s overflowing with crap, a Harvard degree won’t do you as much good as a plumber.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m familiar with West Virginia and despite its earned reputation, it is a unique place filled with interesting people.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      I heard someone’s in the process of inventing a smart phone app that will unclog your sewage system.

      On a serious note, kids are raised to worship and seek fame (to be accurate, they are actually NOT being taught to regard fame for what it is–a byproduct, not a lifestyle).

      Until that is fixed, blue-collar entrepeneurship will always be less idolised compared to higher-profile industries. And the Viper will continue to be a perceived as a second-rate supercar (despite its first-rate performance) for similar reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Ronnie, that makes a lot of sense. BTSR’s comments pretty much confirm it; look at how often he brings up mid-life crisis, balding, etc. Funny he chooses not to add “fat ton of crap” to his stereo types…wait, he IS a fat ton of crap. Now it makes sense. Need a HELLCAT to drag all that blubber around.

  • avatar
    callmeishmael

    People can certainly get meta about things. I have driven two Vipers, one a first-gen. And, I don’t like them. I was a machinist for more than twenty years, difficult to get more blue collar than that, so it wasn’t any prejudice. To me, the Viper’s styling tries too hard and its performance derives from the big-engine-small-car principle that was already old news in 1910. It’s a blunt object. You can buy or build your own blunt object for far less then $100K.

  • avatar
    NoID

    “current product” and “product life cycle” mean what they sound like and are pretty much boilerplate terms for any OEM. Or for any company that trades in “stuff.” “Current product” refers to anything rolling off the line for public consumption right now, and “product life cycle” refers to the planned production span of that product. I wish I could say there is some hidden meaning in those terms, but there isn’t.

    Now, another known fact in the automotive world is that what the public identifies as nameplates such as “Viper” and “Edge” are known within the walls of the OEMs as program codes such as “ZD” and “CD4.X”. The nameplate may bridge multiple programs, but you can be assured the OEM is referring not to the nameplate but the program.

    The beauty of all of this is that plans are just that – plans. Plans are by their very nature subject to change at any time, based on a multiplicity of factors ranging from market demand, cash flow, executive and/or popular pressure and contractual obligations, to the number of blood moons in a calendar year, the divination of Sergio’s sweaters in his closet, and whether the shade of Katy Perry’s hair and shoes are matching on the 5th Friday of those months blessed with an extra TGIF. But most importantly is, of course, the business case. Whatever “it” is, if a business can justify “it” with the numbers and “it” adds enough value relative to the alternatives (go go gadget opportunity cost!), you can expect to see “it” become reality. Maybe. Such is the nature of free market economics. If you don’t like uncertainty, go buy a license-built Lada in Iran.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    You say blunt instrument, I say big effing hammer. There’s undeniably beauty in an elegant and efficient use of minimal materials to achieve a worthwhile goal, but some tasks actually are most efficiently performed by a big effing hammer stroke. Killing a flea with a mallet may seem wasteful, but if its got lymes disease…. BANG! Overwhelming force can be beautiful too.

    The Viper is a very big hammer, and I wish I had one.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    The problem with the Viper is that its too much of too much. Not helped by the likes of Jay Leno and the so American, the eagle is crying.

    The Corvette is 95% of the Viper’s capability but its civil and 28mpg when you’re driving home. Both are too much car for its avg. buyer.

    And although Americans dont think its a ‘supercar’, the reality is a 6.2 v8 450hp $55k USD thing is out of reach to 95% of non Americans.

    I would also argue that the Corvette has turned the page as far as luxury and quality goes and the Viper is not more ‘luxury and quality’ than the Corvette.

  • avatar

    The Viper is like the GT-R. Both are brutally fast. On a track, your face will melt from the G forces, and braking is such that only F1 drivers will know what you mean.

    Driving home from that track, the car is borderline useless.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “Borderline useless”? Not really. It’ll likely get you a lot of stares, and sometimes a police escort. If someone hits you, the police are right there, so there’s that.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • KOKing: 72 was a half-year for the Datsun; the (mechanically pretty identical initially) 620 was a mid-year...
  • NormSV650: Honda’s Takata is your momma!
  • PeriSoft: I agree with a couple of other posters here: Genesis G90. Get a new one for the price of a year old MB, 5...
  • Michael S6: Ultimately it is the quality and performance of the product that matters, not the name. Cadillac is...
  • Art Vandelay: “these junk solid-state things.” LOL…My Pioneer SX-1980 Amplifier My Dad got new in...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States