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Chrysler Reopening Viper Plant

Will produce next-generation Dodge sports car.

by on Dec.13, 2011

An older Dodge Viper rolls off the line at the Conner Ave. plant before it closed in 2010.

The Dodge Viper will return to production late next year – and it will roll off the same small Detroit assembly line that built the original “snake” sports car.

A release going out later today will confirm the long-anticipated revival of the distinctive, low-volume sports car, with Ralph Gilles, CEO of Chrysler’s SRT Brand and Motorsports revealing, “The next generation Viper will make its return to the product lineup in late 2012 as a 2013 model.”

The sports car, in turn, will be produced at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, on Detroit’s east side, a specially designed facility able to handle the largely hand-built Viper.

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“We’re extremely excited that our ultimate American sports car will continue to live on and be produced exclusively here in the Motor City,” added Gilles.

The original Dodge Viper.

The development is significant for both Chrysler and the Motor City.  Once the center of the American automotive universe, Detroit lost most of its car plants in the post-War years, with only two major assembly lines still operating within the city limits: one building Jeeps the other a mix of General Motors products including the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

With relatively little manufacturing in the city, Detroit’s unemployment rate hovers at nearly 20%, about double the national average.

The Viper, meanwhile, has played a significant role for Chrysler and its Dodge brand.  It was conceived as a “halo” car, underscoring the maker’s technological and design renaissance when it first debuted two decades ago.  Though it never generated more than a few thousand sales annually Viper was able to lure potential buyers into the maker’s showrooms, according to Chrysler officials.

And that is why CEO Sergio Marchionne decided to approve a new version of the Viper even as it was pulled from production two years ago – leading to the closure of the Conner Avenue plant, which had been producing the Dodge Viper since 1995.

The new Viper will remain a two-seat sports car.  But rather than developing the replacement model on its own Chrysler is working with its Italian partner, Fiat.  The new Dodge sports car will be based on a platform reportedly borrowed from Fiat’s Maserati division – though it is expected to feature a unique-to-Viper engine.

The new Dodge Viper will be a 2013 model and it is expected to initially appear in roadster form with a coupe model to follow – an approach the Dodge brand took with the original line, which debuted in 1992.

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