August 17, 2017 is a sad day for the Dodge Viper, its fans, enthusiasts and its admirers. It is the day when the last Dodge Viper rolled off the assembly line, thereby effectively ending the tumultuous run of the brand’s beloved serpent.
This bittersweet event was witnessed by no other than Ralph Gilles, FCA’s head of design. Gilles has played a big role in bringing the Viper back to life in 2012 when he was the president and chief executive of SRT. In his Instagram account, Gilles posted a number of images showing him posing alongside two examples of the fifth generation of the Dodge Viper at FCA's Connor Assembly Plant, which has been the home of the two-seat sports car since 1995.
One of these images feature a Viper wrapped in red finish, which Gilles disclosed in the comments section of his Instagram post as the “ultimate last one.” As the very last example of the Viper, this unit is considered as something special. This could be the reason that Dodge wouldn’t deliver this example of the Viper to any customer, and would instead take it as a keepsake as part of its heritage collection. Another Viper was shown to be wrapped in yellow and black finishes, and it would be delivered to one of Gilles’ friends.
With the last of the Viper finally rolled out of the production line, there would be no need for FCA’s Connor Assembly Plant. FCA has already announced that it would be permanently closing the assembly site. The plant was built in 1966 and was acquired by Chrysler in 1995. It became idle in July 2010 when the Viper was discontinued, albeit temporarily, as Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 in 2009. After reviving the Viper, FCA reopened the Connor Assembly Plant in December 2012.
The closure of the Connor Assembly Plant has already been expected since 2015, when FCA agrees to a new, four-year labor contract with the UAW. However, the labor contract didn’t include new products to be built at the plant after the Viper. FCA will close the Connor Assembly Plant on August 31, 2017.
When the Viper was revived, FCA expected to sell at least 1,500 units annually. In 2014, only half of the expected annual sales were realized. That prompted FCA to slash $15,000 off the price of the Viper – form some 2014 models and all MY 2015 units -- and even commenced offering customization options. By October 2015, FCA had enough and announced that the Viper would end production in 2017, citing poor sales.
However, it was well-known that poor sales didn’t really seal the Viper’s fate. Rather, it was the impending impossibility for the great serpent to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 226 (FMVSS 226), which would require the Viper to be fitted with side curtain air bags.