Viper convertible may come in 2015
Feb 17, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Look for an SRT Viper convertible in 2015, if not sooner.
Chrysler broke with past practice when it introduced the latest snake with a hardtop. Past generations started with the convertible, followed by a coupe.
The fifth-generation Viper was developed for both body styles, but because the car will compete in the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in France in June, the automaker had to get the coupe on the road first.
As for timing of the convertible, the company's revised five-year product plan showed the ultra-performance car being refreshed in 2015.
It's not a refresh, said Ralph Gilles, head of the SRT brand. "It's a model addition," he said.
Gilles smiled when asked to confirm that the model is the convertible -- executives are not allowed to talk about future product. He then hedged by calling it a "placeholder for an additional version of the car" and a "potentially interesting derivative."
The all-new 2013 Viper, with a 640-horsepower 8.4-liter V10, is an image car that also serves as a symbol of Chrysler's recovery.
The first allocation of 800 Vipers are spoken for, and Chrysler will ship those soon. Chrysler will take orders for another 500 to 700 in a few months. Workers at the Conner Avenue plant are building 12 vehicles a day. Chrysler hopes they can keep up if demand grows.
The SRT team is excited about returning to Le Mans.
"It puts us on a world stage," Gilles said. "Everyone inside the SRT brand and the marketing team is very humbled and honored and excited."
Chrysler has not competed in the endurance event for the last 14 years.
"The brand is kind of in a rebirth so it's perfect timing," Gilles said. "We picked the right place to come back and the right time."
The Viper "is really a race car in disguise," he said. Successful winter testing and the comfort level of the six drivers, all with different styles, provides confidence the car will fare well against such competitors as Porsche and Aston Martin.
As for the future of the performance brand, another SRT will be added in 2016, according to the five-year plan.
Gilles declined to talk about it or speculation that the compact Dodge Dart will get an SRT package. Past compact cars -- the Dodge Neon and Caliber -- had SRT4 versions.
There are already SRT versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300. Last week, Chrysler showed SRT8 derivatives of its 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger at the Chicago Auto Show.
More Details: 2013 SRT Viper
Fifth-generation Viper returns after being discontinued in 2010.
Introduced as a coupe with the roadster still to come.
Powertrain: 8.4-liter V10 generates 640 horsepower
Milestone: Returns to Le Mans in June after 14 years
Detroit made: Assembled at Conner Avenue plant
Current production: 12 vehicles a day
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