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The Future of Dodge Viper

Good news for Dodge Viper fans? Maybe. Chrysler Group LLC has reopened the Detroit plant that manufactures the beastly two-seater after halting production during its bankruptcy. 

“The company (Viper) will continue to monitor economic indicators as it develops its future operating schedule and will announce plans accordingly,” said Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez. (1)

Gutierrez’s statement doesn’t clear much up in regards to Viper’s questionable future as the business has been for sale since August of this year. Sales are down 44 percent since last May. Amidst efforts to sell the struggling high-performance brand prior to declaring bankruptcy, Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli claimed that they had not received any bids to purchase Viper.

Details later surfaced that Chrysler did in fact receive offers to purchase the business, but refused to accept any of them. 

In particular, Scott Devin, representing Devon Motor Works, said he made three different offers to buy Viper and the Detroit plant where it’s assembled since January before Chrysler eventually declared bankruptcy. In March he offered $20 million in cash when Chrysler was only asking $10 million. Yet, Nardelli said in a bankruptcy filing that no bids had been made to satisfy their asking price. (2) 

“They didn’t respect us,” said Devon. (2)

Devon is also CEO of Cole’s Foods, a Michigan-based frozen-baked-goods company worth $100 million per year, or as a Cole’s receptionist described it, a maker of frozen garlic bread and toast. 

With the Viper purchase, Devon Motor Works was hoping to benefit production of a car they already had in under development that borrowed considerably from the Viper’s design called the Devon GTX (pictured above). The GTX rides on a modified Viper Chassis, uses a 700-hp version of the Viper’s V10, and has a lightweight Kevlar body. (2) From AutoWeek: 

“According to Devon, although a broker handling the Viper sale was encouraging about his offer, Nardelli personally rejected it, demanding $30 million or more in cash for Viper. Devon said a subsequent offer of $30 million that relied on government financing also was rejected.” 

When Chrysler declared bankruptcy still holding onto Viper, Nardelli said that no bidders had been able to offer enough. From AutoWeek:

“Chrysler spokesman David Elshoff said Nardelli’s comment referred to the lack of post-Chapter 11 bankruptcy bids and that all prebankruptcy bids--including Devon’s and a $35 million offer from David Draper, who once owned Cars & Concepts, a Michigan-based car-conversion company--failed to pass muster. “

"A source familiar with the Viper situation said Devon failed to prove his ability to raise the money needed to buy the brand." (2)

That’s quite the back and forth, but as of today Viper has yet to be sold and instead has been absorbed into the new Chrysler LLC (Fiat/Chrysler). Still, its expected Viper will be sold for some amount of money, to someone, eventually. 

Devon still seems to be on the prowl, but after Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing he is only offering $5.5 million. 

“I think it’s worth a lot less now than it was two months ago,” he said. 

Whether or not the Detroit businessman is able to acquire the rights to Chrysler’s premiere sports car, he still plans to introduce his GTX at the Pebble Beach Concord in August. 

For the time being, Chrysler is currently producing healthy new Vipers once again. How long they’ll keep it up remains to be seen. 


Sources:

(1) http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601209&sid=aYwBTyD2zI3Q

(2) http://www.autoweek.com/article/20090610/CARNEWS/906109992




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