Conner Avenue is closed, folks. A few select women and men are using their hands to do any number of things this morning, but they aren't using them to put together Vipers. If I used my hands to put together Vipers last week, and did anything other than that this week, I would be sad. I would be even more sad if on my way to do whatever mundane task my life had become, I happened to be passed by a new Corvette.
Viper sales have slowed since the introduction of the newest SRT model, the first Viper not sold as a Dodge. You see, it doesn't matter who builds the car anymore. It doesn't matter what factory it comes from, who the people were that designed it, or what history or pedigree it carries. All that matters is the marketing, people, and SRT sounds snazzy.
The Viper concept was supposed to re-orient what the Dodge brand was all about. Jim Julo, Vice President of Dodge motorsports said, "We wanted to come up with something that was so outrageous, so cutting edge, so purpose built that it said we still had a lot of car nuts around here; people with the know-how to put the most outrageous street car ever on the road."
The people at Dodge certainly knew how to be outrageous. In 1968 they took their smallest car (The Dart [see, heritage must mean SOMETHING to you people if not just the ability to recycle]) and stuffed in their biggest engine. They slapped in some plastic for windows, some fiberglass for fenders, added a little Hurst magic and VOILA! The Dodge Hurst Hemi Dart was born, and it was insane. This brings me to my main issue with the current car. The engine.
Big engine, small car... it sounds perfect. That was 1968. That was a long time ago. The current Viper is configured with 8.4 Liters of displacement. Yeah, you get 640 horsepower. It's still massively inefficient. Edmunds says the newest aluminum V10 iteration of Chrysler's LA series engine comes in at around 15mpg average.
You know about hybrid systems, you know about overhead cams and variable valve timing, you know about direct injection... Viper has none of these. Viper needs to grow up under the hood. Consider smaller displacement, more efficiency, and maybe, just MAYBE - finally convincing the Viper faithful to let go of the V10. Yes, 10 is more than 8, and that gives you a stick to wave at that Chevrolet (as it passes you.) Yes, you love how V10 sounds when you say it out loud. Instead of grasping that number so tightly, look for newer and better things. You don't need ten cylinders, anymore. You just don't. If your company has a bunch of money to waste to develop a car that you have room to lose money on (LFA,) fine. Chrysler is not in this situation.
The Viper is at risk of dying off all together. Chrysler still clearly has a long road ahead of it to become truly successful again, especially in Viper's niche market. Bot the Viper and the Challenger come up short in comparison to their competition... let's not even talk about the Challenger.
I think Chrysler needs to really look at this car with a fresh perspective. I think Ralph Gilles needs to take a step back. I'd never heard of a CEO calling out a Motor Trend test driver as a wussy before. Mr Gilles, I'm sorry to say the car just isn't as good as you wanted it to be. You race them, they're fun, I get it. That's not the point. I thought the point is to sell the car to other people. Trying to preserve the voracious nature of the Viper isn't helping it at all. If you want to sell us a car that looks the same as it did twenty years ago, that's just fine by me when it's something that looks like a Viper. I'm not fine with you selling something that acts and works like a twenty year old car. Yes, it finally has traction control and a few other comforts. It's not enough. I know you think that wasting money running around the country with Vipers for test drives will help. It won't. If someone seriously wants a Viper, you think your dealerships aren't going to do anything they can to move the car? I think Viper simply deserves more. If Chrysler isn't willing to make some major changes in modernization, we're going to lose this car to poor sales completely. I don't want that to happen. Unless you bring us a new ME-412...
Viper is a just a car for a poster. I want it to be more than that.