Since the Viper’s splashy reintroduction at the 2012 New York auto show, the two-seat sports coupe has moved fast everywhere except where it matters most: off dealer lots.
In fact, Viper sales have been so low for so long that some Chrysler Group dealers mockingly refer to the car as the “Vedsel,” a reference to Ford’s ill-fated Edsel.
Dodge said it has a plan to boost Viper sales.
The brand will cut $15,000 from the sticker price of the more than 600 unsold Vipers on dealer lots. It also will offer $15,000 coupons to recent Viper buyers to trade in their 2013 or 2014 Viper on another one or to buy an additional Viper, and it will open Viper sales to all Dodge dealers.
In addition, Dodge will market Viper with the rest of the brand’s lineup, treating the 640-hp, V-10-powered car as a halo vehicle.
Dodge will start taking orders for 2015 Vipers this month, although it will temporarily suspend production of the top-end GTS and TA trims.
Instead, the brand will introduce a GT trim level just above the base that will have the most popular equipment sought by Viper customers, Dodge brand head Tim Kuniskis told Automotive News.
“I think the current car is so much better than any other Viper we’ve ever built, but we’ve got to fix the one last piece: We’ve got to fix the retail equation. We’ve got to fix what’s going on in the dealership, in the showroom,” Kuniskis said. “It’s the dealer network, it’s the inventory, it’s the pricing, and it’s how we sell the car. We have to fix all of that.
When the re-engineered Viper arrived in the second quarter of 2013, the base price was more than $100,000. Some dealers tacked on market adjustments that boosted prices even higher.
Since April 2013, the Viper has averaged just 60 U.S. sales per month, according to the Automotive News Data Center. In August, dealers nationwide sold just 38 Vipers, down 38 percent from a year earlier.
On Sept. 1, dealers and Chrysler had more than 600 unsold Vipers in stock — a 434-day supply — and about one-third of those vehicles were unsold 2013 models.
Chrysler’s Conner Avenue plant in Detroit, where the Viper is built, has worked just 10 days since April 14 and has been idled since July 3.
Given the slow sales, some dealers and outside observers have questioned whether the car that debuted in 1991 should be retired.
Chrysler executives have defended the low sales, saying that the Viper is an exclusive, exotic car that is better compared with Ferrari and Lamborghini vehicles than with the much higher-selling Chevrolet Corvette.
Kuniskis said the Viper must be saved because of what it means to Dodge and its enthusiasts.
“It’s a hugely important car to the brand. It sends a big message about who we are, especially now with the way Dodge is positioned as a performance brand,” he said.
Kuniskis said it’s important to get the Conner Avenue plant working again because, despite hundreds of days of unsold inventory, he has orders for new Vipers that can’t be filled because the plant is down.
“We want to bring the plant back up. We want to get our people working again,” he said. “We want to get the suppliers back up and running and get this thing humming along again. I’ve got some inventory out there still, so this should take care of some of that inventory.”