RICK KRANZ

Key to selling the new Viper? Customization

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News

Customization and higher profits per unit are key elements of the business plan for the next generation Dodge Viper. A considerably higher volume product is not.

During an interview last week, I asked Chrysler's Ralph Gilles if the automaker will try to double Viper sales. Viper's best sales year was 2003, when 2,103 vehicles were sold.

Gilles heads Chrysler Group's styling team and SRT, the automaker's performance organization that's also responsible for Viper SRT development.

Asked if 5,000 annual sales is the target, Gilles said, "If it happens, it happens. I will not chase volume with the Viper. I would rather be exclusive and make them more custom."

Gilles said the strategy created to sell the last Viper SRT10, the 2010 model, will be adapted.

"We learned a lot in 2010 as we tried to figure out how do we sell these last 10s," he said. "We actually made them the most customed Vipers we ever made. There were only two Vipers that were the same out of the 500 we built," he added. The 2010s were limited due to an abbreviated model year.

The 2010 line was available with stripes, special interiors and wheels, "and the customers loved it. They said, 'I want more of that next time.' Unfortunately, it slows down the cadence a little bit."

But "I would rather make a little more money on each car and make them more special than try to pump out as many as I can put together."

Said Gilles: "I am not going to do the Corvette business model. There is no need to."

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