Chrysler Group LLC is taking aim at the competition with the new Dodge Viper, specifically conceptualized to go head-to-head with the Porsche SE line and the General Motors Corvette. With a look the Chrysler chief of design, Ralph Giles, admits was inspired by "a naked woman on a beach," the Viper is intended to be "drop-dead beautiful."
Set for release in 2014, Giles, speaking with reporters at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, said the Viper is "an icon, and as a performance brand, it's important for me to have a performance vehicle." Giles is also head of the Dodge brand for Chrysler.
Saying that sales volume is not an issue, Chrysler, managed by Italy's Fiat SpA, expects the Viper to be profitable. In 2010 the company sold 392 Vipers, down from 482 in 2009 and 1,172 in 2008. With the automotive industry gaining in strength overall and the effects of the recession lifting, Chrysler expects buyers in this highly specific genre to welcome the new Viper when it reaches showroom floors.
Since Chrysler came out of bankruptcy in 2009, Giles has overseen the redesign or refresh of 16 vehicles in total. He's taken a cautious approach to keep his team's ideas fresh given that high volume and said he'd encouraged his key designers to take time off in the interest of keeping an innovative edge.
The new Viper will not use engines from Fiat's Ferrari brand, Giles said, but he does expect a small number of Vipers to be sold in Europe.