A few blogs back I wrote about how Chrysler is going to combine its three brands and start eliminating overlapping models. The idea is to have Dodge concentrate on trucks and work-utilities, with Chrysler exclusively selling cars, and Jeep offering only SUV-based Jeeps.
It's a bold plan, but a risky one. And while I see the logic in what they're trying to achieve, I don't agree with parts of it. Specifically, I wrote in my blog that no matter what happens, they ought to keep the Dodge Viper. Well, so much for my opinion. The word just leaked out that the Viper is going to get the axe.
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The automotive analysts at Bear Stearns report today that this is part of Chrysler's unrelenting mission to cut costs and get back to profitability. Since the Viper is built in its own stand-alone plant in Detroit, it gives the company the opportunity to close another high-cost factory and get rid of more high-cost labor. It also saves the company from having to invest in a redesign of the Viper, a redesign which was already underway.
Even though the headcount reduction doesn't add up to all that much, and even though the Viper is built in pretty low production, killing the car could save the company several hundred million dollars a year. And Chrysler desperately needs that kind of money.
But the reason I thought they should keep it is that the Viper brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in free publicity. It's an iconic car that attracts hard core enthusiasts to the Dodge brand, even if they can't afford it. I have no doubt the Viper helps sell Rams and Durangos as well as Chargers and Avengers.
So the next question becomes: what happens to the Dodge Challenger? The guys at Bear Stearns say that the pony car will stay in the line-up, as will the Charger R/T---at least for the time being. Since they're both built in the same plant as the Chrysler 300 and use the Hemi, there isn't much cost savings in getting rid of them – at least not right away.
They also say that there's a glimmer of hope that the Viper will hang on to complement the other two muscle cars. But with the car market slowing dramatically, and with Chrysler's sales and market share cratering, there's a lot more internal pressure to get rid of the Viper than to keep it.
No doubt this report is going to cause a huge public outcry against killing the car. And I've got to believe the more public and the more vocal it is, the harder it will be for Chrysler to get rid of it. So all you Autoblog readers out there, let 'em know what you think.
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