By on July 12, 2017

2017 dodge viper gts

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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24 Comments on “FCA’s Detroit Dodge Viper Assembly Plant to Close Indefinitely...”


  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    I honestly had no idea the Viper was still in production.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Kind of sad…I was the first non-Chrysler person that was allowed to drive my own personal vehicle into that building and down to the production line for the Prowler. I was taking in gages for the front fender supports. At the time, I owned my late father’s Dodge Ram, so maybe that was part of the reason why they didn’t object (too much) to my request to be able to drive the gages straight to the line versus having to hand-carry them. Of course, on a subsequent follow-up visit (without the need to carry gear down to the line), I had my new puppy with me and he piddled outside on the lawn by the factory, so there’s that, as well.

    Either way, a little sad to see it shutting down (even if “indefinitely”).

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Not surprising, but I am glad that Chryco had the stones to build the Viper as long as they did. Corvette aside, what other vehicle when parked next to a Ferrari screams “F-YOU….Merica!”

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      When originally started, Viper was something like under $60K. Who wants to pay >90K for a Dodge? I like to look at it but it is astronomical money for Dodge. But yea, it ain’t Miata

      • 0 avatar
        NoID

        Adjusted for inflation, the base price today is line to line with the base price in 1992.

        That said, the original base price in 2012 was a joke. It should never have launched above $100k.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Who wants to pay >90K for a Dodge?”

        people who can afford to pay $90k for a Dodge. Same as the people shelling out almost $400k for a Ford.

        i.e. people with enough money where they don’t care what you think they should spend their money on.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        That concern is why they spun off the short lived SRT brand (my 2013 doesn’t say Dodge anywhere on it). However, I can promise you that when driving one, the badge is the furthest thing from your mind.

        The only real downside of the branding is having to share a dealership service department with Darts, Compasses, old Sebrings, etc. I consider this a small price to pay in exchange for Ferrari performance at 1/3 the price. It’s also an incentive to do maintenance myself (try that in a European exotic)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That thing got a Hemi?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Viper volume was perpetually eclipsed by its mainstay domestic rival, the Chevrolet Corvette.”

    While these cars were in the same segment, I don’t think they directly competed against each other. The Corvette is fast, but it’s got all the creatures comforts of modern cars, where the Viper was always all about raw power and speed, without the comforts.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      The Viper has always had the performance level of the top dog Corvettes, which were the direct competitors and always sold in much more comparable (still higher) numbers.

      Gen 1 Viper 400 hp $60k vs C4 ZR1 375 hp $58k

      Gen 3 Viper 505 hp $80k vs C6 Z06 505 hp $66k

      Gen 4 Viper 600 hp $85k vs C6 ZR1 638 hp $130k

      Gen 5 Viper 645 hp $90k vs C7 Z06 650 hp $80k

      The trade off has always been less features for more exotic looks and exclusivity, until Gen 5 when the features became comparable.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        The problem with your comparison is that there was never a base Viper, while you could always get a base Corvette for considerably less money and more than enough performance for 95% of the sports car buying public. I always though a Viper with the 392 Hemi would have been a nice “base model”, but I’m told the Hemi wouldn’t fit.

  • avatar
    NoID

    I wonder what SRT could be working on as a replacement…

    Pentastar Fiata?

    Demon Challenger that can turn?

    Durango Hellcat Widebody?

    Real Life SRT Vision Gran Turismo?

    So many options!

  • avatar
    mrentropy

    They should use it to build the Chrysler Chronos and SRT Barracuda.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The way to save the Viper would have been to soften and “Corvette-ize” it, soften it, drop the price, and offer an automatic. Position it as a direct competitor to the Corvette. There could have been some hard-core special editions to satisfy the purists.

  • avatar
    TW5

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This should be an op/ed.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      The 5th generation Viper (2013-17) still has prominent side pipes. It still has the Viper lines from the Gen 2 GTS. In ACR form it has the biggest, most outrageous wings and carbon fiber splitters available on a street legal vehicle. The tachometer has a giant red snake graphic that lights up as you approach redline for gods sake. If that is not a cartoonish gauge cluster, I’m not sure what is.

      If your complaint is that the car has awful road manners and an outdated engine, I’d suggest you haven’t driven a Gen 5 vs its competiton. If your complaint is that the aesthetics are watered down, I’d say look at an ACR with all the aero equipped, it looks like nothing else on the road and is probably the most visually striking vehicle available for sale today.

      The 5th gen was designed by a skunkworks team on the cheap, in the dark days of early Fiat ownership. That is why the chassis, suspension, and engine are little changed from the Gen 4. Nevertheless from that baseline, they managed to create a car that has set track records everywhere it has gone.

      Do I agree with everything the Viper team has done to the car over the years? No, of course not. But given the limited resources, slow sales, multiple ownership changes, etc. I think the product they put out is pretty f’in good. I’m sad that it’s leaving too, but at least they stayed true to the end.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        You’re right. There were signs that Dodge realized an impending existential crisis for the Viper, and they took some steps to bolster the Viper’s image; however, most of it was contrived. As you point out, Dodge maintained the cartoonish image with bolt-on aerodynamic pieces and flashing lights, neither of which have anything to do with the original design.

        I suppose you could argue that the entire Viper concept was a contrived engineering exercise, but the uncompromising steps taken by engineers and the passionate response from drivers indicated the RT/10 was more than just a contrived vehicle concept.

        My point about the powertrain is that it was meant to be ridiculous. The Phase-1 and Phase-2 vehicles could easily break the rear wheels loose under heavy throttle, despite the engine being aggressively detuned to 50hp/liter. Unfortunately for Chrysler, the government basically outlawed this sort of driving dynamic, and CAFE 2016 and 2025 were essentially going to outlaw the Viper’s V10 powerplant. Rather than accept the prohibition of Viper’s powertrain formula and driving dynamics, they actually doubled down. By the time they realized the problem, Chrysler was awaiting government bailout.

        The Viper project was badly mismanaged before and after the FCA merger. Sales tanked during the Great Recession, but they never recovered. FCA’s decision to put a luxury interior in the vehicle, rather than returning the car to its conceptual roots was folly to say the least.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          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.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

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

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