For Sale By:Dealer
Warranty: Vehicle does NOT have an existing warranty
Exterior Color: Blue
Interior Color: Blue
Cuero, Texas, United States
You've got to hand it to Dodge for having the gumption to put the original Viper into production in the first place. It was, after all, much more of an emotional decision than a practical one, and a move which saw the first production V10 engine placed in a road car - long before the advent of the Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8, Porsche Carrera GT or Lexus LFA, not to mention the other Ford, BMW and Volkswagen Group models that used such engines.
It's now been 22 years since the first Viper entered production and the Viper still rolls on several generations later, but we're sad to say that courageous decision has not always been met with overwhelming sales success. In fact parent Chrysler was forced to idle the Conner Avenue plant where the Viper is made back in April due to slow sales. And while production resumed again as planned on June 23, it apparently didn't do the trick.
As a result, Chrysler corporate communications chief Shawn Morgan revealed to Autoblog that the assembly line has been shut down again for another two weeks. The line was up and running for nearly two full work weeks from June 23 until the holiday weekend that started on Thursday, July 3. But instead of coming back online today as planned, it's been idled again for the weeks of July 7 and 14. That means it will be July 21, at the earliest, before the serpentine supercars start slithering down the assembly line at Conner Avenue again. Once it does, however, production is set to resume at the same pace it was before the shutdown.
Striving for improved fuel economy, we already knew that Chrysler will begin using a nine-speed automatic transmission in some of its new products this year, but what we haven't known is that volume at which this gearbox will be used. According to Bloomberg, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has been quoted as saying that the automaker expects to sell close to 200,000 units equipped with this new transmission in 2013. Those gear-rich trannies will be spread out across three models, consisting of the redesigned Chrysler 200, the still-unnamed Jeep Liberty replacement and the Dodge Dart.
This transmission should play a pivotal role in making Chrysler vehicles more competitive in their respective segments. Just for comparison, one of the Dart's key competitors, the Toyota Corolla, still uses a four-speed automatic, and a previous report indicates that the next-generation 200 could get up to 38 miles per gallon on the highway, which is better than most non-hybrid midsize sedans on the market. Marchionne says that the new Jeep model is expected during the second quarter of this year, but there is no word as to when the new 200 or nine-speed Dart will debut, but clearly Dodge would like to have the transmission in its compact yesterday. As for that volume figure, it definitely doesn't seem out of reach since the Dart, Liberty and 200 combined for a total of more than 225,000 units in 2012.
How many more gears can we expect in future cars? Probably not many more, since the CEO of transmission-builder ZF, Stefan Sommer, previously stated that nine speeds was the "natural limit" for transmissions.
It's fascinating the way that one change to a complex system can have all sorts of unintended consequences. For instance, there are hundreds of new Chrysler Town and County and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans built in Windsor, Ontario, sitting in lots on the Detroit waterfront because of the energy boom in the Bakken oil field in the northern US and parts of Canada.
The huge amount of crude oil coming from these sites mostly use freight trains for transport, and that supply boom has resulted in a shortage of railcars to carry other goods. According to The Windsor Star, North American crude oil transport by train has gone from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 434,032 carloads in 2013. Making matters worse, some North American rail infrastructure is still damaged because of this year's harsh winter, and that's slowing things down even further.
Chrysler admits to The Star that it has had some delivery delays due to the freight train shortage. In the meantime, it's using more trucks to deliver its vehicles. Trucking is a far less economical solution, partially because a train can carry so many more units at one time, but alternatives are slim. The Windsor plant alone has a deal for 33 trucks to distribute the minivans around Canada and the Midwestern US.