By on August 4, 2016

Dodge Viper Conner Ave , Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that 2017 would be the last model year for the Viper, I suggested a wealthy collector, or perhaps a group of Viper dealers, could conceivably keep the V10-powered supercar alive.

It turns out that suggestion wasn’t too far from the mark.

According to James Glickenhaus, the former movie director, actor and financial professional who owns a significant collection of rare and unique collectible cars, a group of well-heeled enthusiasts attempted to buy Viper from FCA several years ago, but the group decided against the move after due diligence.

During the due diligence process, the group of investors engaged Glickenhaus for advice on the deal.

“A private group wanted to buy Viper and approached FCA who were receptive. This private group asked me for advice and I gave it to them,” Glickenhaus told TTAC.

But it was all for naught.

“A deal was not reached. They did have the resources to do the deal but in the end decided not to (buy Viper and its facility). I did advise them not to do this deal but why they didn’t isn’t something I know,” said Glickenhaus.

A spokesperson for FCA, who contacted Viper brand management, stated “the company is not shopping the Viper to other manufacturers” at this point in time.

However, FCA would not offer any detail on past discussions.

Like most automotive OEMs, FCA explores a wide variety of B2B opportunities on an ongoing basis.  Such discussions are made and maintained in the highest confidence,” said the spokesperson.

Glickenhaus, while attending the Concours of America at St. John’s and the related auction by Sotheby’s RM, said that any prospective buyer would need to sell about three times the number of Vipers annually that Chrysler’s been selling lately just to break even.

FCA has sold about 650 Vipers a year since it returned to production for the 2013 model year. That would mean the V10-powered sportscar’s break even point is about 2,000 cars a year, a figure the Viper has only reached once in the past 15 years, in 2003.

Those figures likely explain why FCA wants to get out of the Viper business.

[Images: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars]

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51 Comments on “EXCLUSIVE: A Group of Investors Attempted to Buy Dodge Viper, Tooling, Assembly Facility From FCA...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    If it takes 2,000/yr units to break even, and sales have only been about 650/yr…. what exactly are they hoping to accomplish with this purchase?

    Viper is great…. pretty much the Lebron of Forza; agile like a housecat but still ~3200lbs in fields of cars 500-1000lb lighter. But that’s strictly on a track. Who has the $$$ and TIME for a $100K track toy?

    • 0 avatar

      “what exactly are they hoping to accomplish with this purchase?”

      They were hoping to accomplish purchasing a product that could be made profitable, but it seems they realized that couldn’t be done with Viper, so they pulled out of the discussions.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I feel like much of what the Viper has to offer, if not more, could be accomplished for 1/2 the price in a kit car. If they could find a way to streamline the registration process and make it pass emissions it could work. $100K for this is just too much. But $40-50K for a rattletrap V10 track beast you can put plates on sounds awesome. They could (and probably should) even dial back the power some as I imagine a kit car would weigh substantially less.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I’m a little surprised that Shelby American hasn’t offered to buy the tooling and assembly fac. Afterall the Viper is basically an homage to the Cobra.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            *was* an homage to the Cobra. only the first gen really qualifies.

            nowadays, the real “homage” to the Cobra are the people stuffing LS V8s in Miatas.

          • 0 avatar
            typ901

            Ill go more with the Panoz AIV Roadster as a Cobra tribute/rehash.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “…pretty much the Lebron of Forza…”

      I like to play racing games but are you comparing the actual car to it’s digital simulacrum?

      Have you driven a gen V car? I didn’t find it to be a rattletrap but I don’t have any long term experience with the car.

      What cars are you comparing the Viper to that weigh 500 to 1000# less? The GT3, 650S, Huracan, 458/488 are all around 3200#. The R8 and Huracan are significantly more.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I was not saying the current Viper is a rattle trap. I’m saying that a car with its performance at 1/2 the price could be one, and not lose much from the current car in function and purpose.

        In Forza there are different classes that correspond to a performance index to keep races within a class even. Every mod adds to that PI. So to race in a class you have to figure out the best combo of parts to make a car competitive. For the class I like (S700), generally the cars have ~200hp/ton with race tires and full aero. Viper comes out of the box with just about 200hp/ton, but more weight, which is good in lobbies where idiots will ram you if you pass them. Most of the cars I race in that class are 2400-2600lbs; Viper is 3200lbs in race trim and it works really well.

        In my experience cars in real life do drive a lot like they do in Forza. Obviously there’s a lot you don’t get from the sim, but dynamically there is carry over.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “pretty much the Lebron of Forza”

      My mind translated this from sports to car. It became:

      “pretty much like LaForza.”

      I feel this also applies.

  • avatar
    soberD

    an automatic would probably triple sales overnight

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “FCA has sold about 650 Vipers a year since it returned to production for the 2013 model year. That would mean the V10-powered sportscar’s break even point is about 2,000 cars a year…”

    How does the first point lead you to the second point?

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      ???

      Look at the preceding sentence:

      “any prospective buyer would need to sell about three times the number of Vipers annually that Chrysler’s been selling lately just to break even.”

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        That’s Glickenhaus’ conjecture – but he doesn’t know the Viper’s financial performance and there is no confirmation that 2K annual units is breakeven.

        Even if true, any buyer would need a credible plan to triple sales. How will they do it – by improving the brand? by selling aggressively in China or India? If it were easy, the Viper’s corporate parents would have done it at some point over the last 15 years.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Sorry, I should have clarified: That’s a fair amount above Chrysler’s own projections for selling the car.

        FCA’s goal had been to move about 1400 units per year. I’m not sure if the car would have been profitable at that level or whether a third party would have had the same cost structure as did Chrysler, but 2000 units is a fair bit more than 1400 units for a car of this type.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          I doubt a third, and most importantly independent, party would have the same cost structure as Chrysler. Especially as this new party would still be heavily dependent on Chrysler (who is not going to provide engines and what not for free), and, for starters, has to make back the money it spent just to buy the production. I don’t know why you find it surprising that the breakeven production would be higher than current production (which is probably not making FCA money anyways).

          I suspect the group of investors thought the breakeven number would be lower than it turned it to be once they did their due diligence, so they decided not to move forward with the deal.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A third party would not have to amortize the development, tooling costs, etc. because those have already been paid for and are being purchased at a discount. Given the nature of what it is, the car could probably be built into perpetuity with virtually no changes, essentially stuck in time similarly to an Avanti or Cobra.

            With low volume expectations, it could probably be sold on a build-to-order basis, with cars assembled with a skeleton crew and parts ordered as needed.

            So it could conceivably have lower overhead in the hands of a third party, not more. This is not a typical car.

            In any case, I can’t imagine why anyone would review a supercar operation with an eye for profit. These are mostly vanity projects that often generate losses and produce only tiny profits at best.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            While they could possibly get the tooling at a discount they would still need to depreciate it.

            However no one has mentioned the actual selling side of this occasion. FCA has a dealer network where as an independent buyer does not. So there are those costs of setting up an maintaining a dealer network that an independent owner would need to factor in.

            The other thing to consider is the price of the parts that they would have to outsource from FCA. Unlike the car itself FCA isn’t going to sell those parts at a loss like they do on the overall car for its halo effect.

            So overall the cost structure for that independent buyer will almost certainly be higher than it currently is for FCA.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    The part right before it tells you.

    “Glickenhaus, while attending the Concours of America at St. John’s and the related auction by Sotheby’s RM, said that any prospective buyer would need to sell about three times the number of Vipers annually that Chrysler’s been selling lately just to break even.”

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    For the right money, Sergio would sell his mother.

    Knowing this happened fuels a little fantasy of mine where a group of independent investors was allowed to buy the Viper and the Sky/Solstice to set up their own enthusiast company.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “Investors”

    Reminds me of the old joke, Q- How do you make a small fortune in _____? A- Start with a large fortune…

    I guess if they changed their minds, that means they were indeed investors.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Internet expert here.

    The biggest issue the Viper had was that its price wasn’t tied to the Corvette. People like Jack B. that really like the car would probably own one if it wasn’t $90K+.

    In 2013 I would have made an “entry-level” Viper with the 6.4L priced at Corvette Z51 or GrandSport level.

    Then I would have built a new V10 for the “real” Viper using the existing “HEMI” architecture. Partly to save on production cost, partly becuase I think “HEMI-10” is good marketing, and partly because I think it would have a better exhaust note.

    Finally, instead of supercharged Hellcats the top-speed Charger, Challenger, Ram, Jeep, etc. Would use the V10.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      Ajla – I was thinking about the same thing, but why not use the Hemi V-8 and dump the V-10 completely? They could use the Hellcat at the top engine option and an automatic would be available off-the-shelf for any of the V-8s. A base Viper with a 6.4 could easily be competitively priced with a base Corvette, while a Hellcat version could be priced with Z06 Corvettes, and I suspect they could easily sell 5,000+ globally with those prices and an available automatic. Using off-the-shelf engines and gearboxes would also lead to much lower production costs while also getting rid of that unbalanced V-10 noise maker, which has just never had a very good sound.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        The Hemi V8 doesn’t fit in the Viper.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          They could have designed the third-gen “VX” so the V8 would fit.

          I definitely wouldn’t have released the VX without the ability to take a V8. That also would have been a good excuse to make an all-aluminum Hemi.

          And I wouldn’t have dropped the convertible.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “why not use the Hemi V-8 and dump the V-10 completely?”

        It might just be my personal bias, but even though I own a Hemi right now, I think GM V8 >>>> Mopar V8.

        The V10 gives the Viper something unique over the Chevy.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think the biggest problem with the Viper vis a vis the Corvette is that the Corvette is, and always has been, a far better car overall. And when you’re looking at stuff in the Viper’s price range ($100,000 or so), you’re talking Porsche 911. No way I’d buy a Viper over a 911.

      Yes, the Viper is a monster on the track, but what’s the market for that? Most guys in this market are middle aged and looking for poon-tang, and the 911 and ‘Vette are far better suited for that mission.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The Viper’s biggest problem is simple: it started as a Dodge, a brand with no cachet, and from the beginning, it was noisy, unrefined, and not particularly well made. I’ve never driven one, but every one I’ve seen or sat in seemed junky – even the new ones. And if a guy’s rich enough to buy a Viper, he can also buy something like a Porsche 911 or Cayman, the Nissan GT-R, and those cars ain’t junky-feeling Dodges.

    Meanwhile, you can get a Corvette from the Chevy store down the street that costs less, and offers about the same real-world performance…and comes with an automatic. Besides…Corvette. I mean, what brand has more cachet than that? It’s the ultimate newly-divorced-Cialis-enhanced-man-of-a-certain-age car. And these guys aren’t going to be pleased when the ladies-of-a-certain-age and future-trophy-wife types that this car was meant to trawl for end up burning their legs on the side pipes when they climb in. Double plus ungood, folks.

    (Yes, I know they fixed that in the current gen…but it’s still a hard car to live with.)

    Still, sorry to see the Viper go…but if Chrysler had made it less junky, and more refined, I think it’d still be around.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I feel like we’ve buried the lede here, Mark,

    Ronnie got an exclusive interview with Glickenhaus, and all they talked about was an attempt to buy Viper from years ago?

    Spill the neans, Ronnie!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I suspect the real reason they bailed wasn’t because the current Viper couldn’t be profitable, but rather this: It would be monumentally difficult and expensive to design and tool a subsequent generation of Viper.

    There’s a big difference between hiring some assembly talent to build cars using existing tooling, and actually entering the car business from the ground up.

    With such a short-term prospect for their investment, it just made no sense.

    Maybe these guys would like a package deal instead: Viper + Dart + 200!

  • avatar
    raph

    Just as well, it would have ended badly. Just look at Cerberus wiyh Chryslet and to lesser extent when Saleen passed the torch to some investors.

    Like racing, how do you make millions as a boutique vehicle manufacturer? By spending billions.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. No one buys the damn things. I love just the idea of a Viper. But it doesn’t make money. Never made money. Never will make money.

    I live 20 minutes from where they make them. And I have seen exactly 1 on the roads in the last 5 years. I saw one at a dealer. Marked down $30k. And it sat there for months. That’s it.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    The Viper is an anachronism , a car like that with all that power and a truck transmission is not going to sell.

    No available automatic so they eliminated 90% of their target market, somewhat forgivable back at the original launch but not now, when even Ferrari probably sell more slush boxes.

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