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2013 Viper Won't Be A Dodge

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On: Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 11:13AM | By: Chris Weiss

2013 Viper Won't Be A Dodge

It's been a tumultuous couple of years at Chrysler. The company was in some deep trouble about two years ago, pulled out of the depths with the help of US government and Fiat investment, and has been on a mission to get things right in its second life. One of the major moves that Chrysler has done under Fiat rule is better delineate and define its individual brands. Now that strategy takes a drastic turn.

If you really think about it, Chrysler has been the most poorly defined auto group in the US, possibly the world.

Over at Ford, you know that Lincoln is luxury and Ford is mainstream. It got rid of Mercury because it was just too redundant in the present time. Basically, you know what you're getting at your Ford/Lincoln dealership the minute you eye the badge on the hood.

GM minus its previous hoard of brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Oldsmobile, etc.) is similarly well-defined with Cadillac as a luxury brand, Chevy as a mainstream brand, GMC as a utility/truck brand and Buick...well, I'm not exactly sure what Buick is supposed to be outside of an old person's brand. I believe it occupies the "almost luxury" rung between Chevy and Cadillac.

The waters have been a little muddier over at Chrysler. Chrysler, apparently, was born as the luxury brand of the group. However, it stretched itself thin, particularly after the group ditched Plymouth, by offering everything from cheap, entry level models to premium cars like the 300. I've personally never viewed Chrysler in the same way as Cadillac or Lincoln and have thought of it more like a Ford or Chevy.

Meanwhile, Dodge has traditionally been part performance brand (think Viper, Charger, etc.) and part truck brand (think Ram, Durango, etc.), two images that are a bit at odds with each other. The only thing that's really clear at Chrysler is that Jeep builds jeeps.

As part of its Fiat-ruled 2.0 makeover, Chrysler worked to rectify its brand murkiness. In 2009, Dodge was split into two separate brands: Dodge (performance and consumer cars and vans) and Ram (trucks and SUVs). This move helped to better define each brand.

Around that same time, Fiat said that it planned to transform Chrysler back into a legitimate luxury brand. Indeed, Chrysler products have become more cohesive and upscale, helping to provide more of a unified image of luxury (though Chrysler has a lot more work and time before it is ever thought of as a Caddy or BMW rival).

Chrysler followed up earlier this year by spinning SRT (Street and Racing Technology) off into its own brand within the group. SRT has long been responsible for racing and tuning efforts within Chrysler, but will now also have at least one of its own vehicles. Chrysler announced this week that the next generation Dodge Viper, which will debut next year, will no longer be a Dodge Viper at all. It will be an SRT Viper, helping to distinguish the performance flagship from lesser performance vehicles.

I'm glad Chrysler has better distinguished its brands and products, but I'm not sure this one is productive. I'm no marketing guru, and I'll assume that Chrysler knows exactly what it's doing, but it seems strange to take a car as well known as the Dodge Viper and change its branding. SRT has long been more of a niche performance company that's not really that recognizable to the average consumer. "SRT" Viper just seems like it will leave folks saying "What the heck's an SRT?"

But I guess the Dodge Viper is really a niche vehicle not geared at the average consumer, so maybe Chrysler has nothing to lose.

Whatever the case, get used to it now: the SRT Viper. Production on the 2013 Viper will begin late next year. Dodge has said that the car won't debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, so the New York Auto Show seems most likely at this point.



Stephy21 | 9:22AM (Mon, Dec 19, 2011)

I agree with the article i don't think that they should change the name of the Dodge Viper. I bet they wont sell as many with this new name change.

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