Patrick Rall's picture

Hellcat, Corvette Z06 Sales Display Need for an Automatic Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper sales are relatively flat and while the company is focused on the massive popularity of the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, the sales success of the automatic transmission in the Challenger Hellcat and the entire Corvette lineup makes it very clear what Dodge needs to do to sell more Vipers – with the lightning quick 8-speed transmission.
Advertisement


We have talked about the possibility of adding the 8-speed automatic transmission from the Dodge Challenger and Charger to the Viper option list, but with the strong sales of the automatic transmission in both the 707hp Challenger and the 2015 Corvette lineup, the need for a self-shifting option in the Mopar supercar seems as clear as ever.

Why an Automatic Transmission?
While there are plenty of people on the road driving cars that would struggle to run a 14 second quarter mile who will insist that every high performance car should only be offered with a proper manual transmission, the fact of the matter is that the advancements in automatic transmission technology allows owners to have a car that shifts itself without hindering performance. No longer is an automatic always a “slush box” and two great examples are the 8-speed automatics offered in the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Heck, Ferrari and Lamborghini currently don’t offer a manual transmission, so it is hard to fault Chrysler or GM for popularizing their new 8-speed autos in the Challenger and Corvette.

Like it or not, the new 8-speed automatic makes all of those cars quicker than the manual transmission models in stock form and because of that, buyers have happily snatched up those American performance cars with the automatic transmission. The manual transmission might offer more gear-bangin’ fun, but the advantages of the automatic transmission outweigh those of the manual – and sales have reflected that.

Corvette, Hellcat Challenger Sales Mix
For the 2015 model year, General Motors sold 34,240 examples of the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Z06 in coupe and convertible form. Of those, 23,232 had the 8-speed automatic transmission (67.9%). Among Corvette Stingray buyers, the automatic transmission outsold the manual transmission by better than 3 to 1 and while there were 281 more Corvette Z06 models with the manual transmission, the fact that sales figures were so close between the two transmissions in the most track-capable Corvette of all time shows the clear acceptance of the automatic transmission.

When the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat first went on sale last year, the 6-speed manual transmission led in sales early on, but as the word spread of how great the new heavy duty 8-speed automatic transmission is in every way, the tables quickly turned. At this point, there are Hellcat Challengers with the manual transmission sitting on lots around the country with price tags near MSRP, while any automatic Hellcat available still available will most certainly have a gigantic markup. On the year, Dodge built 3,420 examples of the 707hp Challenger with the 6-speed manual transmission while the other 3,748 had the 8-speed automatic.

In other words, the Dodge Viper’s biggest competitor has enjoyed great sales success with the automatic transmission, as has the mighty muscle car with which the Viper shares a showroom.

The Key Problem
The key issue with an automatic transmission in the Dodge Viper right now is that this gearbox is so popular in the Hellcat Challenger and the Hellcat Charger (the 8-speed is the only transmission offered in the Hellcat Charger), the company has run into a shortage of the heavy duty gearbox. Until the company has satisfied the demand for the 2016 Hellcat Challenger and Charger with the 8-speed automatic transmission, they are very unlikely to move to use that transmission in other vehicles.

Not only would the introduction of the 8-speed automatic in the Dodge Viper improve sales, but it would likely also include performance numbers. Considering that the Hellcat Challenger is quicker with the automatic transmission, the Viper would almost surely enjoy those same advantages when equipped with the same 8-speed gearbox.

However, once the demand for the Hellcat cars has slowed a bit, introducing the quick-shifting automatic in the Viper could play a massive role in improving sales. Even if the company only sees a similar level of interest to the ratio of the Corvette Z06, sales of the Viper could double…if not increasing by more than two times.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.

Comments

I'm sure bringing back a drop-top version of the Viper would also help sales
This article thinks an auto will make he viper sell as well as the z06.... look at how many manuel 7 speed z06s are being sold.... far more than the viper.... maybe the issue is not the transmission but the price for a Gts and a few options you're lookimg at well over 130,000 usd the srt at 89k or so is simply to un refined for that price.
First of all the 8 speed automatic currently offered by Chrysler does not fit in the viper. Second - the viper is a track car where a standard transmission has advantages over an automatic and is preferred by many expert drivers. If you just want to step on the gas, wastefully burn rubber, and go in a straight line, the viper is not the car for you anyway. Third - Dodge knows many Viper owners like to upgrade the already super engine, for instance with the new Arrow Racing supercharger that with a mild boost puts out 900hp and 900ft/lbs, which will shred the current automatic transmission. Fourth - viper owners prefer exclusivity and not one everywhere you look like the vette.
Need manufacture news Need new suppliers Bob