Chrysler Group LLC says the new Dodge Viper sports car is going to be “drop-dead beautiful” and is meant to draw buyers from Porsche SE's cars and General Motors Co.'s Corvette.
The new Viper's look was inspired by “a naked woman on the beach,” said Ralph Gilles, the head of Chrysler's design. The car will be released next year as a 2013 model-year vehicle, Gilles told reporters at the Automotive News World Congress Thursday in Detroit.
“It's an icon, and as a performance brand, it's important for me to have a performance vehicle,” Gilles, who also is head of the Dodge brand, told reporters after the event.
Chrysler, managed by Italy's Fiat SpA, wants to draw buyers from competing vehicles such as Porsches and the Chevrolet Corvette, Gilles said. The new Viper will be profitable, and its sales volume isn't important, he said.
Chrysler sold 392 Vipers last year, down from 482 in 2009 and 1,172 in 2008, according to researcher Autodata Corp., a researcher in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
Dodge needs to do more to make the Viper an aspiration to consumers and the redesign gives them a chance to “make it a renaissance of that vehicle,” said Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive.
“There are not a lot of younger people, and by younger I mean under 45, who aspire to own a Corvette or a Viper,” she said.
While production of the sports car ceased in July, the automaker's five-year turnaround plan included the possibility of bringing it back in 2012.
Gilles has overseen the redesign or refresh of 16 vehicles since Chrysler exited bankruptcy in 2009. After such a busy time, Gilles said he worried that his staff had grown stagnant and told them to halt work and take some time off. He declined to say which vehicle they were working on when they stopped.
“We've been working so quickly and so fast that we're not innovating like we used to,” Gilles said.
The new Viper won't use engines from Fiat's Ferrari brand, Gilles said. Dodge will be able to sell a small number of Vipers in Europe, he said, without being specific.