FCA's Detroit Dodge Viper Assembly Plant to Close Indefinitely

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
fca s detroit dodge viper assembly plant to close indefinitely

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is abandoning Conner Avenue Assembly in Detroit, Michigan. The plant produced Dodge Vipers sporadically for over two decades, but low sales volume eventually led to FCA’s decision to remove the high-performing model from its lineup. In 2016, Dodge only sold 630 Vipers. A final, limited-edition 2017 run sold out in less than a week.

The two-seater doesn’t meet upcoming safety regulations due to its absence of side-curtain airbags. Rather than undergo a costly redesign, FCA chose to let nature take its course and placed the model in hospice care back in 2015. However, the future of the assembly plant and its employees were uncertain at the time.

Conner Assembly houses 87 employees responsible for the Viper and the model’s V10 engine. According to WDIV 4 Detroit, the entirety of the staff will be offered positions at other FCA locations, but the plant will be closed indefinitely. Formerly home to Champion spark plugs, Dodge gained ownership of the factory in 1995 and designated it specifically for Viper production. That lasted until 2010, with the vehicle reentering assembly in 2012.

The plant also built the retro-styled Plymouth Prowler for the duration of its brief, 11,700-unit lifespan.

Viper production is scheduled to end in August (before the safety regulations take hold in September), at which point the plant will be closed. While the snake could return someday, keeping it as a bespoke low-volume model was never in the cards for FCA’s long-term product strategy. Struggling to reach 700 North American deliveries in the very best of years, Viper volume was perpetually eclipsed by its mainstay domestic rival, the Chevrolet Corvette.

General Motors has annually sold 30,000 or more Vettes in the U.S. since 2014.

[Image: FCA]

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  • TW5 TW5 on Jul 12, 2017

    The story of the Dodge Viper is a sad one. The original RT/10 roadster was obscene in a refreshing way. The US car market had turned away from fullsize American V8 boats and sports cars to smart European sedans and fuel-efficient Japanese appliances. But out of nowhere, Dodge dropped the Viper RT/10 on the car market. The Viper was an exercise in pretending the era of American big blocks never disappeared; instead, it continued throughout the 80s, until it spawned the 1st generation Viper. The RT/10 had a huge visual impact. It was as wide as a country lane, with side-pipes, massive tires and giant 3-spoke wheels. The engine was 8.0L of V-10 power, and it made the run to 60 in less than 5 seconds (an amazing feat in the early 90s). It was completely bonkers in the right ways. Unfortunately, Chrysler was seemingly embarrassed by the Viper's boorishness. Worse, the attempts to civilize subsequent generations of the car were executing in all the wrong ways. The visual impact of the vehicle was impaired. The side pipes were eliminated and later hidden. The roadster variant was eliminated. NVH (character) was tuned out of the vehicle, and the cartoonish gauges and instrumentation were eventually dropped. Meanwhile, the unsustainable part of the Viper concept, the engine and awful road manners, were retained, despite changes to Chrysler's engine portfolio and new federal regulations requiring ABS and anti-spin control. Rather than make a few difficult changes to the powertrain, chassis, and suspension, which would have spared the vehicle in the long run, Chrysler decided to keep watering down the visual aesthetic while puffing up a powertrain that was being regulated out of existence. Very sad.

    • See 3 previous
    • Jack4x Jack4x on Jul 12, 2017

      @TW5 I agree that the final product has strayed pretty far from the original Bob Lutz/modern Cobra ethos that was so sensational when the concept was first shown. But then again, so has the entire supercar landscape. The Viper was the most engine focused, comfort compromised, oldest school, least gimmicky supercar available in 1992, and it is arguably still that in 2017. Naturally aspirated, manual only, fewest driving aids required by law, etc. The luxury interior is optional, although I'm glad mine has it :) Ultimately, I'm not sure if the 1992 concept would sell any better now than the actual Gen 5. Every trend in fast cars is toward easy to drive, luxury, AWD, automatic transmissions, and electric. We as enthusiasts may not like it, but the market has spoken. I intend to save my Viper for my son, knowing he will never have the opportunity to purchase anything like it. I do think if FCA could have a do over back to 2011-12, they would not have released the Gen 5 as is. It would either have been a Corvette competitor with the Hemi standard and an auto option, maybe the V10 available in a top trim, or it would have been left to die in 2010. Since there wasn't money for Option 1, and too much love and passion to settle for Option 2, we got the compromise that was Gen 5. The move upmarket was an attempt to attract a new type of customer, but by then those people had written off the Viper and cars like it in favor of modern no-compromise supercars in the >$100k market. The traditional Viper buyer balked at the large price increase and the rest is history. Ironically, now the ACR is attracting tons of (deserved) attention but it's too late. They must have known since the beginning that the car would never make it more than a few years before safety or MPG standards killed it but by god did they go out with a bang.

  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jul 13, 2017

    Nice to see senseless government meddling cost us another awesome automobile.

  • MaintenanceCosts This class of car competes hard with Chargers/Challengers and modded diesel pickups for the douchey-driving crown.
  • 28-Cars-Later Corey - I think I am going to issue a fatwa demanding a cool kids car meetup in July somewhere in the Ohio region.
  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!