Chrysler (FIATY.PK) announced on Tuesday that it would be idling its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, where it produces the Viper supercar, due to soft demand. As it turns out, SRT — the sub-brand that produces the car — is having trouble moving the $100,000, 8.4 liter V10-driven 640 horsepower monster at a rate that would keep its production lines open.
As a result, ninety-one employees will be laid off because of the the temporary shutdown, Chrysler said. The facility will be shuttered for the time being starting on April 14 and will pick back up during the week of June 23. Arguably the worst part of the whole situation — excluding the loss of jobs for the affected employees — is that the SRT Viper was meant to be a symbolic spearhead of Chrysler’s resurgence under the Fiat brand as its halo car. Except it’s not really living up to that role.
The last-generation Viper was shuttered in 2010 due to a lack of funds, but it was renewed under SRT’s new leadership from Fiat. Sales soon dropped to 591 in 2013 and just ninety-one through the first two months of this year, according to numbers provided by Autodata, the Detroit Free Press reports. That’s well off the target of 1,600 units the company was hoping to sell on a yearly basis.
Last fall, Chrysler cut its production of the car by 30 percent due to slow uptake and the fact that sports cars like the Viper tend to sell best in the spring, the Free Press said.
Perhaps most interesting is that the segment the Viper plays in has been doing exceptionally well. With stock markets surging, net worth and home prices on the rise, and more wealthy individuals, supercar manufacturers have never had it so good.
“The market for six-figure sports cars crashed in 2009, which is hardly surprising,” Bloomberg’s Kyle Stock wrote earlier this month. “More notable, however, is the speed with which it got back on track after a global economic crash.” Since 2010, the sales pace for supercars has surpassed that for total vehicle sales, often by a comfortably large margin.
We have no real answers as to why the Viper in particular hasn’t been able to meet its goals amid a surge for the high-end exotic market. The big question now is if the Viper can’t draw in sales now, will it ever?