’Vette leaves Viper in dust in popularity
IT’S no shock that sales of Chrysler’s new Viper are a fraction of Chevrolet Corvette’s. The differences between the Viper and ’Vette are profound, and they say a lot about conditions at Chrysler and General Motors when the companies developed America’s top sports cars.
The Viper costs more, has a shorter history and is built virtually by hand. ‘Vette prices start at about half the Viper’s sticker price. Corvette has 60 years of equity and its factory can produce 10 to 20 times as many vehicles annually as the Viper plant on Detroit’s east side.
Despite all that, it’s troubling the Viper didn’t even approach its modest goal of 2,000 sales in the new car’s first model year.
The 2014 Corvette Stingray has a new architecture, engine and transmission. It’s a thoroughly modern sports car on par with Porsche and Ferrari.
The 2013 Viper is a raucous, brutally powerful throwback to the days when sports cars were fast, uncomfortable and hard to drive, and if you didn’t like it, too bad. It’s vastly better than the old model that went out of production in 2010, but it uses modified versions of that car’s platform and engine.
Even in GM’s darkest days, work on the 2014 Corvette never ceased. If GM survived the Great Recession, the Chevrolet Corvette would too. The company and the car were indivisible.
In contrast, Chrysler considered selling the right to build Vipers to another automaker. Production ceased for more than two years until SRT boss Ralph Gilles and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne resurrected the car to boost morale and cash flow. They leaned on Fiat’s Ferrari and Maserati brands to add comfort and luxury, but the Viper got a fraction of the time and money that went into the new Corvette Stingray.
The difference shows in the cars and their sales prospects.
Although the new Dodge Viper is a brutally powerful sports car, it has never reached the popularity of the Chevrolet Corvette.