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2016 Dodge Viper ACR : Concept Cars

Snake lovers were rejoicing Friday as Dodge announced it will produce a 2016 Viper ACR as part of an ongoing offensive to reignite interest in the supercar.

Tim Kuniskis, CEO of the Dodge brand, promised that the Viper ACR will be the fastest track-ready car ever built by the automaker as he unveiled one on Friday at the automaker's Conner Avenue Assembly Plant.

The new Viper ACR and the rare media access to the plant are part of Kuniskis' effort to reposition the Viper and generate renewed interest in the car following disappointing sales.

The commitment by FCA US, the automaker previously known as Chrysler, to make an additional version of the Viper also comes amid a surge of new performance cars by automakers ranging from Acura to Ford and General Motors.

"This is the fastest, street-legal Viper track car that we have ever built," Kuniskis said. "This car is the halo of the track-side of the brand."

The decision to bring back the ACR is one of several actions Kuniskis has taken over the past several months to generate renewed interest in the Viper.

Last fall, the automaker dropped the entry-level price of the Viper by $15,000. And, earlier this year, the company launched a new website allowing customers to custom order their own Viper with any color, stripe, wheel and interior combination. The company also developed a 20-minute video already viewed 250,000 times.

FCA US sold 760 Dodge SRT Vipers in 2014, up 29% from 591 the prior year. But that's still only a fraction of the nearly 1,600 per year the company originally hoped to sell.

Is Viper competing with Hellcats?

Kuniskis said the company's recent moves are more about positive marketing than boosting Viper sales.

"You have a car like this because it has exponential impact on the marketing of the brand and the positioning of the brand," he said.

But he is aiming to define the Viper as the automaker's top performance vehicle.

These days, Kuniskis said, the Viper must compete for attention with the Dodge Charger Hellcat and Dodge Challenger Hellcat, the 707-horsepower muscle cars the automaker launched last year.

In March, FCA US was forced to stop taking orders for the Hellcats because demand exceeded the automaker's ability to build them.

A Dodge Challenger Hellcat SRT starts at just over $58,000 compared to a while a Dodge Viper SRT coupe starts at $87,095 with the GTS Coupe version jumping to $110,095.

"What we are seeing is people with Vipers buying Hellcats," Kuniskis said. "If you look at the cross shopping on the car, there is a natural cross shop between the Viper, Charger and Challenger."

The Viper also will face additional competition from the Ford GT unveiled at the Detroit auto show and launching in 2017.

Meanwhile, General Motors is working on the Chevrolet C8 Corvette that enthusiast publications say is Zora, a mid-engined GT-fighter thought to be coming for the 2017 model year. Acura plans to begin selling the NSX this year.

177 m.p.h.

Bill White of Warren, Ohio, said the introduction of the Viper ACR, which goes into production later this year, will excite thousands of Viper owners.

"The way it's been built for the track and racing, I think they are going to have problems getting enough of them made because there is a huge quantity of ACR owners out there, but not with the capability that this one has," said White, who is the regional director of the Viper Owners Club of America.

The 2016 Viper has an 8.4-liter V10 gasoline engine rated at 645 horsepower — up by 5 — and 600 pound-feet of torque.

While the new ACR has more horsepower and torque than the model that preceded it, Kuniskis said most of its improved performance comes from the attention to aerodynamics and the 2,000 pounds of downforce created by its huge rear wing and front splitter.

The top speed of the Viper ACR is 177 m.p.h., which is technically less than the Dodge SRT Viper at 204 m.p.h.

But Dodge officials say the aerodynamics and highest downforce to date, combined with more powerful brakes, allow the car to complete a lap on the track faster than any other Viper.

Viper's Detroit heritage

Part of the mystique of the Dodge Viper is how the supercar is made.

Each car is hand-built by 64 hourly workers the company refers to as craftsmen at a 400,000-square-foot plant just south of 8 Mile Road on Detroit's northeast side.

Unlike most auto plants that are visible from interstate highways, it's easy to be a block or two away from the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, which is tucked behind an extended-stay hospital, without even seeing it.

Each worker performs a range of tasks that the company says are comparable to what 150 different workers do at a normal assembly plant.

That's possible because the pace is glacial compared with a normal assembly plant and the entire approach to building the vehicle is completely different from the mass-production process used to make higher-volume cars.

At most most modern assembly plants, finished cars pour off the line every minute. But at the Conner Avenue plant, it takes 2.5 hours for cars to cycle through the plant.

Over its 20-year history of making Vipers, the the Conner Avenue plant has produced 24,000 Vipers. That is a volume that is tiny by almost any measure. FCA US sold more than 37,000 Ram pickups last month alone.

But the fate of the plant and the Viper have been in question several times. The car, which debuted in 1992, was discontinued in 2010 in the midst of the Great Recession, causing the plant to be idled.

And last year, the plant was also idled for several months because sales of the Viper were slower than expected.

For his part, Kuniskis is determined to keep the Viper tradition alive — even if it has historically had little value as a practical car.

"How did the car exist? Who thought this was a good idea?" Kuniskis said of the original 1992 Viper. "It was absolutely insane, but at the same time, made perfect sense to me."

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Sources : 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Photo | 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Article

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