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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 09-27-2008, 12:38 PM Thread Starter
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The Next Dodge Viper Will Be Electric

September 24, 2008

After 16 years as the iconic pinnacle of Chrysler's lineup, the Dodge Viper is being toppled by a car with a cord. A source inside the company has indicated that the 600-horsepower coupe could be replaced by the Tesla-like electric sports car Chrysler unveiled Tuesday.

"You saw the picture of the EV we announced," says the source, who spoke to on condition of anonymity. "That's the direction Chrysler is going."

For all its performance, the Viper is an anachronism. It was borne of the idea that bigger is better, and that's been enough to keep the Viper going since its introduction in 1992. But it's an increasingly difficult idea to sell in an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline and global warming, and Chrysler says it's time to move on. Even if the company wasn't looking to sell the Viper line, the supercar's days were numbered.

"The definition of sports car is changing," our source says. "People are looking at things differently now. The Viper was a throwback to the golden era of sports cars. It was all about big horsepower and small chassis. It's time for that to change."

That's not to say Chrysler's going soft.

The as-yet-unnamed Dodge EV is based on the Lotus Europa that rolls into European showrooms next month. In fact, the car Chrysler unveiled looked like a re-badged Europa with racing stripes. Specs call for a 200 kilowatt (268 horsepower) electric motor producing 480 pound-feet of torque -- just 80 less than the Viper's 8.4-liter V10. The goal is 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds and a top speed above 120 mph. "We're still going to offer products that are visceral," our source tells us.

Although those figures fall well short of the Viper -- which hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and tops out at 202 mph in base-model trim -- they put the car in Tesla's neighborhood, and possibly for much less than the $100K the Roadster goes for. "It'll out-Tesla the Tesla," says Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst with Global Insight, who predicts we'll see the Dodge EV by the end of 2010. "It's a new halo performance vehicle for Chrysler." And it even looks good in Viper green, as our Photoshopped version of Chrysler's pic shows.

Of course, Chrysler's still gotta build it. Anyone can produce one EV; it's making a lot of them that's tricky, and Chrysler's future is anything but assured. Some industry watchers were privately speculating that it could be chopped up and sold off as early as next year. After all, the company's selling just three cars per month per dealership and it's reportedly lost $400 million this year. "With those kinds of numbers, what can they do to hold on until 2010?," Bragman asks.

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