Viper-like 2-seater could make a comeback, Marchionne hints

Dodge Viper production is expected to end in 2017, but will a new version follow?

DETROIT — The Dodge Viper — a version of which set production-car speed records at 13 American racetracks in the 12 months through October — is set to end production in 2017, killed by a mix of economics and regulation. But Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the nameplate could stage a comeback in different form.

“Every economic analysis that we’ve carried out about keeping that vehicle in its current architectural state alive don’t add up, so we would not do it, as much as I love the car,” Marchionne said this month at the Detroit auto show.

Even with rock-bottom fuel prices that make the 645-hp V-10 almost affordable to drive, Viper sales were down 11 percent in 2015 to just 676 cars. And according to Motor Trend, the current Viper can’t meet a federal safety requirement that all new cars be outfitted with side curtain airbags by the 2018 model year. The vehicle won’t accommodate the technology, a source told the magazine.

The production schedule delivered to UAW members during negotiations last year indicated that Viper output would end in 2017 at FCA’s Conner Avenue plant in Detroit.

But Marchionne says a new Viper could emerge, thanks to its high-performance Italian cousins, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.

“Given the architectural developments that we have going on inside the group … there is a possibility that a new version of a Viper will eventually — may eventually — surface,” Marchionne said.

“Whether it surfaces within a reasonable period of time or not is unclear to me,” he added. “But certainly there is access to architectures that will deliver a car of equal weight as the Viper and with significantly improved performance and handling of the kind that Viper provides. But I don’t think we’ve made the decision.”

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