Could the iconic, but slow-selling, Dodge Viper be headed for its final off-ramp? That’s the implication buried in the proposed FCA/UAW contract, which has the boisterous muscle car’s Detroit assembly plant shutting down in 2017.
The news about the Conner Avenue facility, where the Viper is largely hand-built, comes from the obsessive Mopar watchers at Allpar. Conner Avenue has been the home of the Viper since its launch in 1992 and also built the Plymouth Prowler.
No apparent replacement in the pipeline for all-American sports car
The Viper, Dodge’s all-American exotic sports car launched nearly a quarter-century ago to much acclaim, will end production in 2017, according to details contained in FiatChrysler’s new contract with the UAW.
The product plan is included in the agreement that will be voted on by UAW members next week. It also indicates that FCA will upgrade its eight-speed automatic transmission.
The original Viper went into production in 1992. It was updated in 1996, 2003 and 2008, before Chrysler’s bankruptcy ended its run in 2010. A redesigned version debuted in 2013, but a big price increase and improved competitors hurt sales.
The 650-hp sports coupe is built at FCA’s Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit. The company’s $5.3 billion product plan indicates no replacement vehicle for the small factory where Vipers are built by hand by about 80 employees.
FCA has struggled to sell the Viper since its relaunch. Through September, just 503 Vipers were sold in the United States, down 7.9 percent from the same period a year before. Dodge sold just 760 Vipers in all of 2014.
In addition to other product changes first reported by Automotive News in September — such as Ram 1500 production moving from Warren Assembly in suburban Detroit to Sterling Heights Assembly 10 miles away — the plan also shows that FCA plans to squeeze more efficiency out of its current eight-speed automatic.
The transmission — used in almost all of FCA’s rear-wheel-drive based cars, crossovers and SUVs — will switch from a current “Gen1” to “Gen2,” according to details given UAW members about FCA’s Kokomo, Ind., transmission complex.
No timeframe was provided for the transmission upgrade, however.
The eight-speed was designed by ZF Friedrichshafen and licensed to FCA. In its current configuration, the eight-speed provides a 9 percent boost in fuel economy over a six-speed automatic, according to FCA’s securities filings.