Why Chrysler struggled to lure Viper suppliers

The Dodge Viper, on display at the 2010 Detroit auto show, was last built for the 2010 model year. The car was a monster to handle, with its 600-hp V-10 engine and 560 pounds-feet of torque. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Developing the redesigned 2013 Dodge Viper SRT hasn't been easy.

The issue? Suppliers.

Ralph Gilles, who heads Chrysler Group's design organization and SRT, the automaker's performance group, says many suppliers said "thanks, but no thanks" when the automaker knocked on their doors.

"It has been tough to get low-volume suppliers," Gilles says. "We have had a few hiccups here and there as we get suppliers. That type of fringe business has really dwindled. A lot of people are looking for big accounts now, but now that is behind us."

Blame bankruptcy and supplier consolidation.

During an interview last week at a Chrysler event, Gilles said the new Viper is on track, going well. The plan for the redesigned car is to continue Viper's niche role in the performance market.

The previous generation Dodge Viper SRT10 was the automaker's street-legal, two-seat race car. The car was last built for the 2010 model year. The car was a monster to handle, with its 600-hp V-10 engine and 560 pounds-feet of torque.

No surprise, Viper has never been a big player.

Even in its best year, 2003, the Viper racked up just 2,103 sales. Last year's sales totaled 392. Also, the steep price attracted a small group of enthusiasts: The 2010 Viper SRT-10 roadster stickered for nearly $100,000 including gas guzzler tax and transportation.

Gilles says the wraps will be taken off the redesigned Viper during the first quarter of 2012. He would not reveal specifics.

The likely venue? I'm betting January's Detroit auto show.

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