While there was lots of investor information announced by the Chrysler Group today, the most significant piece of news was that the SRT brand is being dissolved and while that really doesn’t make much of a difference, it does mean that we will see the return of the Dodge Viper. Since being introduced in the early 1990s, the mighty Viper has always been a Dodge, but when the newest Viper was introduced for the 2013 model year, it was the first ever product branded as an SRT model. It was widely expected that the SRT brand would get more models in the near future including the arrival of the long-expected SRT Cuda…although the decision to fold the SRT brand back into Dodge might put an end to those Cuda talks.
To some people, the decision to kill off the SRT brand comes as a huge surprise, but with the relatively sluggish sales of the SRT Viper, this move doesn’t come as much of a shock to me. What does come as a surprise is that when the Viper rejoins the Dodge lineup for 2015, it will receive some sort of refresh. Even though the SRT Viper isn’t selling as well as some people would like, there is no question that it is a remarkable piece of high performance American machinery with incredible capabilities, a plush cabin and silky smooth exterior design so it is hard to imagine just what the company will change for the debut of the new Dodge Viper. I would expect that we will see the same 8.4L V10 with output similar to the 640 horsepower that makes the SRT Viper one of the most powerful cars sold in America today. We can also expect to see the same loaded up interior layout, but I would expect that there might be a more entry-level cabin that will cater to those who care more about going fast than being comfortable with less luxury and less weight. Generally, a midcycle refresh also comes with some sort of exterior design, but the current SRT Viper has such a sporty, menacing look that it is hard to pick features that would change for 2015. I would expect any exterior changes to be very minor…possibly something as subtle as replacing the SRT badges with Dodge badges, although I would still expect to see the SRT name somewhere on the 2015 Viper. Keep in mind, the “old” Dodge Viper through the mid 2000s was badged as the Dodge Viper SRT10.
The timing as to when the SRT brand will formally be dissolved as a bit vague, today’s announcement stated that SRT CEO and President Ralph Gilles will be relieved of those duties effective immediately. Fortunately, Gilles - who has had a major hand in many of the most popular cars offered by all of the Chrysler Group brands in the past decade - will remain on with the company as the Senior Vice President of Product Design and the CEO/President of Chrysler Group motorsports.