While it’s easily to believe that the Dodge Viper was discontinued due to low sales, that’s not really the truth. Ultimately, the mighty Viper was bitten by a bigger snake: The Feds. By law, Dodge could no longer legally sell the Viper in its (final) form.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards regulation #226 states that all vehicles must feature side curtain airbags by 2017. But the Viper, with its already restricted ergonomics, didn’t have the headroom to fit the required safety system. And while a cost figure was never made public, FCA found the business case to completely redesign the roof of the Dodge Viper to be unviable. This forced the American sports car to meet an untimely end.
“It went out on a high,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of FCA Passenger Cars, pointing to the track records set by the Dodge Viper ACR, several of which are still standing. “Will be ever see another? I don’t know. TBD.”
Kuniskis was on hand to reveal the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show last week.
Last summer, head of FCA Design Ralph Gilles mentioned that he’d simply like to see the Viper come back “in his lifetime,” which paints a bleak picture for anybody holding out for one.
A few years ago, then-CEO Sergio Marchionne suggest that the Viper could return on a new architecture that’s compliant with arbitrary safety standards that new vehicles must adhere to. But it’s been a few years since, and things don’t seem to have gone anywhere. Moreover, Dodge has been able to focus its efforts on its one-two punch muscle car offering: the two-door Challenger and the four-door Charger.
By no means will they ever stand in for the Viper, but with as much as 797 horsepower available, strong sales, and strong margins, the Challenger and Charger continue to carry the performance torch for the brand. Holding the same theme is the Dodge Durango, which currently comes with as much as 475 horsepower, three rows of seats, and a towing capacity of 8,700 pounds. The American performance brand is expected to reveal the Durango SRT Hellcat at the 2020 New York Auto Show, which will be the fastest three-row SUV from any automaker.