Porsche Lovers May Be Lured to Next Dodge Viper, Designer Says

Naked Woman Inspires Chryslers New Dodge Viper
A model poses with a Chrysler Dodge Viper sports car during the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker run by Fiat SpA, said the next Dodge Viper sports car is going to be “drop-dead beautiful” so it can take buyers from Porsche SE’s cars and General Motors Co.’s Corvette.

The new Viper’s look was inspired by “a naked woman on the beach,” Ralph Gilles, the head of Chrysler’s design, said at an event on Jan. 12 in Detroit. The car will be released next year as a 2013 model-year vehicle, Gilles told reporters at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

“It’s an icon, and as a performance brand, it’s important for me to have a performance vehicle,” Gilles, who also is head of the Dodge brand, told reporters after the event.

Chrysler wants to draw buyers from competing vehicles such as Porsches and the Chevrolet Corvette, Gilles said. The new Viper will be profitable, and its sales volume isn’t important, he said.

Chrysler sold 392 Vipers last year, down from 482 in 2009 and 1,172 in 2008, according to researcher Autodata Corp., a researcher in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The convertible version starts at $90,255 and the coupe at $91,005, according to Edmunds.com, a website for car shoppers.

Dodge needs to do more to make the Viper an aspiration to consumers and the redesign gives them a chance to “make it a renaissance of that vehicle,” Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“There are not a lot of younger people, and by younger I mean under 45, who aspire to own a Corvette or a Viper,” she said. IHS is based in Lexington, Massachusetts.

While production of the sports car ceased in July, the automaker’s five-year turnaround plan included the possibility of bringing it back in 2012.

Design Break

Gilles has overseen the redesign or refresh of 16 vehicles since Chrysler exited bankruptcy in 2009. After such a busy time, Gilles said he worried that his staff had grown stagnant and told them to halt work and take some time off. He declined to say which vehicle they were working on when they stopped.

“We’ve been working so quickly and so fast that we’re not innovating like we used to,” Gilles said.

Chrysler said on Jan. 12 that global sales rose about 21 percent to 1.6 million cars and trucks last year. The closely held automaker is working toward an initial public offering in the second half of the year.

The new Viper won’t use engines from Fiat’s Ferrari brand, Gilles said. Dodge will be able to sell a small number of Vipers in Europe, he said, without being specific.

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