• Viper production to end as Conner plant closes

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    A total of 25,400 Vipers have been built from 1992 through 2016.
    FIAT CHRYSLER PHOTO

    The Dodge Viper will end its production run this summer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit.

    The end of production for the supercar with the distinctive styling and loyal following, but small sales numbers, had been expected, but the timing was unclear until last week.

    Fiat Chrysler said production will end in August and all employees are expected to be relocated to other plants. The closure date of August 31 was included in a required notice to the state’s Workforce Development Office on June 30. The notice lists 87 positions slated for layoff.

    “The plant closing will be permanent and will involve the entire facility,” the company said in the notice.

    The plant, built in 1966, was acquired by Chrysler in 1995. Its closure leaves the Motor City with only one assembly plant completely inside its borders: Fiat Chrysler’s factory on Jefferson Avenue. General Motors also owns a plant that straddles the border of Detroit and Hamtramck.

    The Viper factory, known as the Conner Assembly Plant for the street where it’s located, has had a turbulent past. It was idled in July 2010 when the Viper was temporarily discontinued following Chrysler’s brush with death during its 2009 bankruptcy.

    Fiat Chrysler renovated and reopened the plant in December 2012 after redesigning and reviving the Viper. But sales failed to meet projections of 1,500 units per year and the company was forced to lower the price. Still, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 2017 Viper starts at $90,495.

    Over the years, the plant’s products included the Prowler, Viper 10-cylinder engines, the SRT10 Roadster and the SRT10 Coupe.

    The plant’s closure has been expected since 2015 when the company reached a new, four-year labor contract with the UAW. That contract did not include any new products for the plant to replace the Viper.

    “This is just following the law … filing the WARN notice, and it is our full intent that all of the people at Conner will be placed. They will most likely all be placed,” said Jodi Tinson, a Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman, referencing the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

    Although production of the Viper will end at the plant, the facility will have a life of some form afterward. But details of that future were not released.

    “We are still committed to the City of Detroit, and the Conner Avenue facility will remain part of that. We have nothing further to announce at this time,” according to a company statement.

    While the Viper never sold in large volumes, the car was often viewed as the pinnacle of the Auburn Hills automaker’s ability to build a supercar. The decision to end production disappointed enthusiasts.

    Altogether, the company made more than 25,400 Vipers at the plant from 1992 through 2016. The vehicle hits the end of the road on its 25th anniversary.

    “To me, it’s a great loss to terminate the Viper. It’s always been the symbol for the US car guys,” Bill White, president of Viper Club of America, told the Free Press for a story in June 2016.

    DETROIT FREE PRESS/TNS

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