FCA ending Dodge Viper production after 2017 model

Michael Wayland and Melissa Burden

The Dodge Viper will once again drive into the sunset.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Tuesday announced the 2017 model year will be the last for the American supercar. Five special-edition models will be available to commemorate the car’s final year, which marks its 25th anniversary in 2017.

The viability of the car has been a discussion for some time following slow sales, price cuts and the company announcing plans to shift North American production away from cars.

It’s unclear at this time what will happen to the 392,000-square-foot Conner Avenue Assembly plant and its 75 workers, including 60 hourly workers represented by United Auto Workers Local 212.

A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman said the company is not making any announcements regarding the facility or employees at this time.

No new vehicle was outlined for Conner Avenue past 2017 under the UAW’s national four-year that was ratified in 2015. If Conner Assembly were to close, the deal says employees of shuttered plants would be offered positions at other facilities “as work they are qualified to do becomes available.”

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell on Tuesday said the union was not notified by the company about its plans.

“This is news to the UAW,” he said in an emailed statement to The Detroit News. “The UAW has not been notified and is not aware of FCA Chrysler’s plans for the Dodge Viper.”

More than 30,000 Vipers have been built in Detroit since its debut, first at the Mack Avenue Assembly Plant from 1992-1994 and at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant since 1995. The car was not produced from July 2010 to Dec. 5, 2012.

‘Labor of love’

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in January said the car was a “labor of love that has come out of the bankruptcy in 2009 and was done to preserve, sort of, the heritage of the individual brand.”

He mentioned the company, which also owns Italian brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati, has access to other architectures that could be used to develop a car with equal weight and “significantly improved performance.”

“Every economic analysis that we’ve carried about keeping that vehicle in its current architectural state alive don’t add up,” he said. “So we will not do it, as much as I love the car.”

Maurice Liang, founding president of the Viper Owners Association, on Tuesday said he hopes the company eventually decides to bring the car back.

“We kind of knew it was coming but you hope it doesn’t. It wasn’t total shock to us but it’s somewhat disappointing,” said Laing, owner of 1993, 1996 and 2008 Vipers. “My personal feeling is even if they do come back ... this will probably be the end of the hairy-chested, fire-breathing Viper.”

Several brands have started downsizing and turbocharging or electrifying engines instead of installing V-8 and V-10 engines.

“You can see the writing on the wall,” he said. “If I was a car collector I would definitely be out buying the Viper ACR and the (Dodge) Hellcat.”

Special editions

Customers beginning Friday will be able to order a special Viper in the following models: 1:28 Edition ACR (American Club Racer), recognizing the Laguna Seca single-lap record of 1:28.65 ($138,795); GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR ($140,245); VooDoo II Edition ACR ($136,095); Snakeskin Edition GTC, which was inspired by the original Snakeskin ($113,795); and the Dodge Dealer Edition, a Viper ACR special edition available through Tomball and Roanoke Dodge dealers (pricing not available).

All prices exclude a $2,600 Gas Guzzler Tax and destination charge of $2,495.

Each limited-edition Viper has a serialized instrument panel badge with model name that can be customized with a customer name.

The car, which features an 8.4-liter V-10 engine delivering 645 horsepower and 600 foot-pounds of torque, is not a big seller for the brand. Through May, 241 have been sold this year in the U.S., down 17 percent from the same months in 2015.


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