Chrysler to idle Viper plant for two months on slow sales

Through January and February, U.S. dealers had sold just 91 of the 640-hp Vipers, and had 756 vehicles unsold on March 1, a 412-day supply.
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DETROIT -- Chrysler Group has suspended production of its SRT Viper sport coupe for at least two months because of slow sales.

As a result, 91 hourly workers at Chrysler’s Conner Avenue Assembly in Detroit will be laid off, a spokeswoman said. The Detroit Free Press reported the production suspension earlier today.

“Chrysler Group confirms that its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant will be down, beginning the week of April 14. Production will resume the week of June 23,” the company said in a written statement.

Through January and February, U.S. dealers had sold just 91 of the 640-hp two seaters, and had 756 vehicles unsold on March 1, a 412-day supply. Vipers have traditionally not sold well in winter in part because its specialized tires do not grip well in cold weather.

Chrysler said the Viper "is a hand-crafted American exotic car that is designed for a specific consumer that values performance, style and exclusivity. It has never been intended to be a mass-production vehicle as less than 29,000 vehicles have been produced in the past 20 years.  The ability to increase and decrease production at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant allows the company to continue to our consumer’s desire to keep these special cars exclusive."

SRT brand head Ralph Gilles launched a new marketing campaign for the Viper late last year in which factory teams visit Viper dealers to allow consumers to test drive the hand-built sport coupe.

Gilles said that many dealers keep the expensive cars, which list for over $100,000, locked in their showrooms, limiting sales. The test drive teams started their marketing push in the South over the winter, and will expand north as warmer weather returns.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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