’Vette leaves Viper in dust in pop­u­lar­ity

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - By Mark Phe­lan

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.

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