As much as driving enthusiasts like to talk about the latest performance numbers and technical features, we have to remember that our favorite cars have to sell in sufficient numbers in order to stay on the market. And not just sell in their first model year, or their third, but their fifth.
To illustrate this market necessity, and because there hasn’t been much new to say recently about the Challenger, we present the Chrysler sales numbers from August which were just announced. Here is the Challenger, introduced in 2008, in its sixth year, setting a sales record for the month of August and winning a recognition award from their owners.
Chrysler Press Release follows. Challenger news highlighted in red.
Chrysler Group LLC Reports August 2012 U.S. Sales Increased 14 Percent; Best August Sales in Five Years
- Best August sales since 2007
- 29th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains
- Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge, Ram Truck, and FIAT brands each post sales increases in August compared with same month a year ago
- FIAT brand sets all-time sales record with 34 percent increase
- FIAT brand introduces the new 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo, the fourth model in U.S. product lineup
- Chrysler brand sales up 25 percent; best August sales since 2007
- Chrysler 300 flagship sedan records 65 percent increase; best August sales since 2007
- Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan sets sales record for month of August
- Chrysler Town & Country posts 30 percent sales increase; best August since 2006
- Ram Truck brand sales up 18 percent compared with same month last year
- Ram pickup truck sales up 19 percent in August as Light Duty, Heavy Duty and Chassis Cab models post sales gains
- Best Ram pickup truck August sales since 2007
- Dodge brand sales up 13 percent; best August sales since 2005
- Sales of the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart up 294 percent compared with previous month as production ramp up continues in the Belvidere, Ill. assembly plant
- Dodge Journey full-size crossover sets an all-time sales record
- Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan and Dodge Challenger muscle car set sales records for month of August
- Dodge Grand Caravan sales up 35 percent; best August sales since 2005
- Jeep brand sales increase 5 percent in August; best August since 2003
- Jeep Wrangler sets sales record for month of August
- Jeep Grand Cherokee sales up 13 percent compared with same month a year ago; best August sales since 2006
- Chrysler Group’s revamped product lineup and extensive quality investments make it the most improved automaker in Strategic Vision’s 2012 Total Quality Index study
- Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Fiat 500 win Strategic Vision 2012 Total Quality Awards
- Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger win AutoPacific’s 2012 Ideal Vehicle Awards based on owners’ ratings of their 2012 cars and trucks
The Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands each recorded year-over- year sales gains in August compared with the same month a year ago. The Fiat brand’s 34 percent increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand for the month. August marked Chrysler Group’s 29th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.
The Dodge brand produced three record-setting models while registering the largest sales volume of any Chrysler Group brand in August. The Dodge Journey full-size crossover, the most versatile and affordable crossover in America, set an all-time sales record while the sporty Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan and Dodge Challenger muscle car each set a sales record for the month of August.
The FIAT, Chrysler and Jeep brands also produced record-setting models in August. The Fiat 500 set an all-time sales record with its 34 percent sales gain while the Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan and the Jeep Wrangler established sales records for the month of August.
“Our Iron Man streak continued last month as we posted our 29th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO – Dodge Brand and Head of U.S. Sales. “Our hard work over the past few years is starting to pay some dividends in our sales growth, quality awards and profitability. Not to mention, an incredibly resilient U.S. new vehicle sales industry doesn’t hurt either.”
Chrysler Group’s 14 percent increase in August was driven in part by sales of the all-new Dodge Dart compact sedan (3,045 units). Dart sales were up 294 percent in August compared with the previous month of July, as the Belvidere, Ill. assembly plant continues to ramp up Dart production.
The Chrysler 300 flagship sedan, with its substantial 65 percent increase, contributed to Chrysler Group’s August increase, as did the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, each posting double-digit percentage gains for the month. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a 13 percent hike, had its best August in six years while the Ram pickup truck extended its lengthy streak of consecutive year-over-year sales gains with a 19 percent increase in August.
Chrysler Group finished the month with a 66-days supply of inventory (362,407 units). U.S. industry sales figures for August are projected at an estimated 14.6 million units Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR).
FIAT brand sales, up 34 percent compared with the same month a year ago, were an all-time sales record in August. Sales of the Fiat 500 Cabrio were up 37 percent versus the same month last year, while the Fiat 500 Abarth, the ultimate high-performance small car, recorded a 22 percent increase compared with sales during the previous month of July. The Fiat 500 was one of three Chrysler Group models to rank highest in their segment in Strategic Vision’s 2012 Total Quality Index in August. The Fiat 500 was ranked first in the Small Car segment.
The FIAT Brand introduced the new 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo in August, the fourth model in the expanding FIAT brand product lineup and one of the most affordable turbo-charged vehicles in America. The Fiat 500 Turbo features a 135-horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir® Turbo engine, sport-tuned suspension, track-proven brakes, dynamic exterior design and sport-styled interior. The new Fiat 500 Turbo answers the call for enthusiasts who are drawn to the Italian style of the Fiat 500 but want more power and performance for their daily drive.
Chrysler brand sales were up 25 percent, the brand’s best August sales in five years and its 14th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. Sales of the Chrysler 300 flagship sedan were up 65 percent, the full-size sedan’s best August sales in five years. The Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan contributed to the brand’s sales gain by setting a sales record for the month of August. The Chrysler Town & Country minivan, which offers families versatility, luxury, and convenience at a value, logged a double-digit sales increase, its best August sales in six years and second best sales month this year.
The Ram pickup truck extended its streak of year-over-year sales gains to 28-consecutive months in August. Sales of the Ram pickup truck, Chrysler Group’s volume leader, were up 19 percent in August compared with the same month a year ago. It was the pickup truck’s best August sales performance since 2007. Of the Ram 1500 sales, the regular cab pickups posted the largest percentage sales increase in August, while the crew cab trucks led in volume. The Ram Light Duty, Heavy Duty and Chassis Cab pickup trucks posted year-over-year sales increases in August. The Ram Cargo Van posted a 53 percent sales increase compared with the previous month of July.
The Ram Truck brand, which recorded its best August sales in four years, introduced its new 2013 Ram 1500 to the automotive media in August underscoring the model’s best-in-class fuel economy, state-of-the-art technology, and class-exclusive features. Production of the Ram begins this month and is expected to arrive in dealer showrooms in October.
Dodge brand sales increased 13 percent, the brand’s best August sales since 2005 and its second best sales month this year. Dodge brand sales of 47,348 units represented the largest sales volume of any Chrysler Group brand in August. Sales of the all-new Dodge Dart compact sedan soared 294 percent in its third month of sales. As Dart production continues to ramp up in the Belvidere, Ill. assembly plant, a full, multifaceted marketing campaign will launch this month, following the 90-second “How to Change Cars Forever” commercial that debuted in July.
As sales of the new Dart heat up, three Dodge models set sales records in August. The Dodge Journey, the most versatile and affordable crossover in America, set an all-time sales record with its hefty 58 percent increase in August. The sporty Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan and Dodge Challenger muscle car each set sales records for month of August. Not to be outdone by the passenger cars, the Dodge Grand Caravan had its best August in seven years. In fact, the Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans each logged double-digit sales increases in August.
The Dodge Charger took home a Strategic Vision 2012 Total Quality Award in the Large Car segment, complementing its 30 percent sales increase in August, while the Dodge brand was cited as the most improved brand in the industry.Jeep® Brand Jeep brand sales were up 5 percent, the brand’s best August sales in nine years and its 28th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. The Jeep Wrangler, the brand’s volume leader in August, set a sales record for the month of August. Sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the most awarded SUV ever, were up 13 percent, its best August sales in six years. Sales of the Jeep Liberty were up 15 percent in August compared with the same month last year. It was the Liberty’s best August since 2006.
The Grand Cherokee won a Total Quality Award in the Medium SUV segment from Strategic Vision in August. Strategic Vision’s Total Quality Index reflects all aspects of buying, owning and driving a vehicle as a holistic measure, and encompasses positive and negative experiences including reliability, driving excitement, emotional attachment and overall sales and service satisfaction.
Chrysler has released three additional SRT videos: including footage of the original showcar being revealed at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show (an unvealing we remember well), an interview with Ralph Gilles, and a visit to the Conner Avenue assembly plant. Enjoy!
Now available here: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?page_id=12138.
Click on the thumbnail in the gallery for a full-size image.
Press video released by SRT today:
An index to our posts covering the unveiling today of the 2013 SRT Viper.
We’ve got notes taken during the presentation by Ralph Gilles, the images presented to the press in the presentation, and the full set of press materials including the 2 press releases, press video, and high-res images.
Click on the following links for our coverage:
- Press conference: our notes and live images: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?p=12082
- Two Press releases from SRT: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?p=12104
- Press video: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?p=12121
- Full gallery of 61 high-res press photos: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?page_id=12138
- And three more videos! http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?p=12693
At the New York Auto Show today, simulcast live over the web, SRT unveiled the new and highly anticipated Viper. The Viper is now branded SRT – no longer Dodge.
SRT is currently running at 20,000 sales per year. SRT (as Ford’s SVT attempted and ultimately failed) brings customers into the showroom that Dodge and Chrysler wouldn’t otherwise see.
Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – Street and Racing Technology Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC. made it clear that the Viper was designed and will be built in the United States (Conner Assembly re-opened but reconditioned). However, he also said that Ferrari and Maserati “friends” helped SRT better understand how to build low-volume products.
According to Gilles: the new Viper is all about evolution. The Viper shows that Chrysler has a soul, that it has returned as a “real automobile company”.
Features and specs:
- Engine is 28 pounds lighter, and more powerful
- Chassis 50% stiffer
- 7 different wheels
- Brand new Pirelli tires 295 and 355 – with unique compounds front/rear
- Superformed aluminum on the doors and sills
- Carbon fiber for the hood, roof, and deck. Rest of external body parts are aluminum.
- Overall the car is 32% lighter in the body alone. 3354 lbs. With optional track pack, 3297 pds.
- Clamshell hood brought back – a required “Viper” feature. Underhood purposefully beautiful.
- Slight changes in existing V-10: 640 HP – 40+ Torque up 40 pds - 600 ft-lb. Highest torque output of any naturally aspirated engine in the world. Dual intake path continues, but manifold is now composite for lighter weight.s
- Side exhaust behind/under drivers door (as before, no word on routing or crossover)
- Dry weight HP/pounds = 4.91. Third best in the world (ahead of ZR-1).
- Launch control
- Stability control (fully switchable off)
- Cruise Control
- 2-mode adjustable suspension on the GTS model (push button)
- center screen between dash gauges – included shift light – actually a “shift snake” light
- center screen for navigation & controls
- Seat built by Sabelt – same as Ferrari (6′ 7″ can now drive comfortable)
- Interior can be had with a multitude of customizations. Premium leather package – red, tan, black. Note shoulder belt pass-thru holes in seat
- 2 models: SRT GTS Viper (up-market) and SRT Viper (base). Coupe only.
- Race model (because quote ”we can’t afford to go racing”) featured in Microsoft Forza. However, immediately after he said this he rolled out a race-prepared car was pulled onto the stage. They will be re-entering the American LeMans series.
Join driveSRT.com for marathon coverage of the 2013 SRT Viper reveal, including a live webcast from the New York International Auto Show at 11:30 AM Eastern Time and a live webcast from the exclusive owner-only SRT Viper Gala at 6 PM Eastern Time.
Invite your friends to this virtual event. Then, pack some snacks, lower the lights and host a viewing party for your SRT club as the next-generation SRT Viper captures the world’s imagination.
SRT has provided a “teaser” photo of the new Viper, showing part of the console and passenger seat. If you look very closely, and use photo enhancement software, you’ll find a QR code with an invitation to the event!
Given all the excitement in the big game, you may vaguely remember Chrysler’s commercial with Eminem.
It surprised us because we would have expected something with this type of message from hard-case GM, not Chrysler. And because it featured the Chrysler 200… which is a product with a lousy past and a questionable future (being a “top hat” rework of an extremely poor product).
Tough stuff, from a tough city.
With the Viper now out of production, and rumors flying about an all-new Viper in 2012 (or at least something based on a platform from parent Fiat), it’s time to remember our own time with a Viper that was representative of both the start and the finish of the line.
Our 400-mile road test of a 1997 Viper GTS in August 1998 gave a friend and I an opportunity to get familiar with the personality of the car, it’s driving characteristics, and it’s livability.
This was a new 97, immaculate and carefully cared for, and with only 1100 miles on the odometer when we started our trip from Austin to Texas World Speedway and back.
To recap the technical aspects:
- A 2-dr. hatchback GTS model (also available in an open-roof coupe “R/T”)
- Front engine, rear wheel drive
- 8 liter V-10 (aluminum-block version of a Dodge truck engine), but only 450 horses, 490 torque. Oddly (with visible results at a certain SCCA Runoff!) there is no windage tray or baffling in the oil pan!
- T-56 6-speed.
- Michelin 17″ wheels: 335s rear, 275s on the front.
- Bright red w/chrome wheels (thankfully not the orange-yellow painted wheels some Vipers have). No stripe on this car.
- 13 inch brakes all around – 4 piston front calipers, single piston rear – NO anti-lock.
- Costs range from $60-70k (used GTS: typically under 60)!
The temperature on the day of the road test peaked at almost 120 degrees, bringing out the worst of the car, and showing us what the inside of the car during a fast session on track would be like. In a word: “FAIL“.
We found that the Viper was a very poor ”car” and a not very proficient “toy”. Tons of power, awesome and phenomenal horsepower. But tricky handling, and absolutely unlivable. An expensive lesson is here to be learned, best summed up with some words from classic Star Trek: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true”.
I’ve driven a wide range of different performance cars over my years of racing and instructing and I was really expecting a lot more from this car. At the start of the day, we hoped to enjoy the drive. But as we drove further and further, the car’s real problems came out and we began to feel let down.
Body & Interior
Walking around and looking under the car, you’ll notice a couple of things. First, the factory build techniques aren’t very sophisticated and the quality is terrible - even a period Taurus is built far better than this car. The joints are mostly all straight, the hood (semi-clamshell) fits well. However, there are lots of panels bolted on – instead of bonded. The hood “fluttered” at speed. It seemed to have a “wave” pass thru it when going over short choppy bumps. The rear window is bonded onto a crossmember between the two hinges, and it was already loose – when the bond lets go altogether (soon), the rear window will fly off the car. Closing the hatch stresses the bond and makes it even worse – a very poor design.
Inside, there are leather high-back buckets, very low on the floor, with little side support or bolstering. Soft padding – not like the best Recaro seats would provide. They adjust fore/aft roughly 4 inches, and recline just a very few degrees. A very high console runs up the middle of the interior, and the sole interior storage is a very small lockable box just behind your elbows. Several mesh nets around the cabin – on the seats, roof, above the lockable storage. These nets were a smart idea that I’d like to see elsewhere.
The drivers position is so poor that your head ends up resting right on the section of roof above the window. I’m about 5’11″, and if it wasn’t for the slight bulge in the roof I couldn’t wear my helmet inside this car. You right leg has to rest against the console – the gas pedal is right up against it. Your left leg has to be held above the clutch – there isn’t room for a dead pedal! Both knees are therefore resting right on the steering wheel. Driving in this weird position, I was only able to last about 80 miles before I had to literally get out of the car because of a huge leg cramp. Strangely, the passenger seat is a lot more comfortable.
The steering wheel is big, fat, leather wrapped, and tilt-adjustable. It really needs a telescoping feature: it angles off somewhere the right; you are jammed in the seat towards the left; and it just gets worse given the terrible pedal position.
The pedals use a trick system where they can be adjusted fore/aft. However (and you’ll see me use this word a lot in this report), they needed to be farther forward for me to fit. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be adjusted any further forward – the clutch pedal has to be pushed in so far that the pedals couldn’t be moved any farther forward. Worse yet, the pedals are not in the same plane; there is no dead pedal; and there is an enormous gap between the gas pedal and the clutch pedal.
The air conditioning system is completely insufficient, ridiculously so. There are three small rectangular vents in the middle of the instrument panel, and a round vent on each side of the panel underneath (none on the sides of the dash). The slightest acceleration cuts the air conditioner out – which means it is very often blowing hot air. There is also a tremendous amount of hot air coming into the interior from the transmission, the exhaust on each side, and from the engine up front.
The factory stereo is terrible, and can’t even be heard at any engine RPM or speed. Forget about speakers – wherever they were they didn’t work at all. The antennae is built into the windshield (GM style) and also doesn’t work very well.
Engine & Driveline
Modern engines are quickly moving towards 100 horses/liter. Today’s well tuned naturally aspirated engines are making at least in the neighborhood of 80 horsepower/liter or more (pushrod engines less), with one or two exceptional standouts making over 120 horsepower/liter. Not this throwback – it has a horsepower per liter rating lower than a Neon. Throwback isn’t even the right word. Oddly this engine is tuned for mid-rangepower – not low end and not top end. It doesn’t feel like a “tractor” 4.9 liter Mustang engine at all – you have to slip the clutch a bit to get it moving. You’d think it would have massive low-end torque, but it doesn’t. It’s midrange tuning makes this engine very strong in the 60-120 range: passing slow moving cars on the way to TWS was, ahem, “not a problem”.
This engine runs extremely hot – it started at 195 degrees and spent most of it’s time at 220 (going as far as 240). The temperature will raise sharply if you decelerate and drive at normal speed thru a town, or get stuck in traffic. As the engine got *very* hot, it started to detonate slightly between shifts. The engine did not loose any fluid.
An idle speed of an indicated 500 RPM means a lot of rumble and noise while sitting in your driveway or holding the clutch in at a stoplight. Don’t take this to mean it has a wild cam. Because of it’s tuning, at part throttle it’s actually docile.
The Viper has an absolutely terrible exhaust system – I’ve heard it referred to as a “Miata on steroids”. It doesn’t sound like a proper V-10 or V-12 and it certainly doesn’t sound like a V-8. Just like the original Viper RT/10, the exhaust system is routed along the sides of the car immediately below the side door sills – but in this case it exits out the back. It is so hot after any amount of driving that Chrysler felt they had to warn occupants against touching the sill by placing a sticker on the passenger side door opening. Excellent advice, too, because it will burn you.
Lets talk brakes. The fr/rr brake balance is very poor – the owner had even locked it up in the front a couple of times. The pads created an incredible amount of dust: the wheels were literally black from this short drive. The brake pads became seriously hot, leading to the wheels getting burning hot to the touch, resulting in a noticeable amount of brake fade (noticeable, not dangerous).
The T-56 transmission was as good as they came back in these days, but seemed a bit more vague than usual. It definitely needed an aftermarket shifter – trying to shift into 5th after passing somebody in 4th was very difficult. Surprisingly, there was a lot of driveline slop, with a noticeable degree of take-up in the differential at speed – very much like a worn solid-axle Mustang.
We started the drive happy with our fortune – it isn’t every day you can borrow a Viper to go see a race. As the day went on, we got less and less enthusiastic about the car. It was hot, it was a huge pain in the neck (and legs, and lower back), and it was a fight to keep it pointed straight down the road. This isn’t a car that could be used for a daily drive, much less any kind of touring drive. You certainly couldn’t stand to drive it to the track, it would have to be trailered. Once on the track, you’d find that the very poor driving position would be a serious detriment to concentrating on your driving. Nevertheless, if you can avoid it’s inherent tendency to spin, you can turn excellent lap times.
Now for the obvious un-PC question (the one that matters to the owners) – was it a “babe magnet”? Yes, unquestionably, and more so than just about anything else you could drive (ok, a Lambo would have been better). Needless to say, there were any number of “opportunities” today. We had to stop several times to get some cold drinks (dehydration being a major problem in this car), and many people came walking up to the car to look it over and imagine themselves inside it. In the early morning, while stopped at a McDonalds, a lady stopped in her Jaguar Vanden-Plas to admire the car! Oddly, she was wearing a fur coat – and it was already 100 degrees outside.
What single factor about this car that makes the biggest impression? The engine of course, but it’s also a weak point of the car. Couple that with the terrible interior and you can’t even drive this car as fast as it could be driven.
Verdict – spend your money elsewhere. Your can easily find one of these for $35-40k (at the time of this writing), but you can also find a C6 Z06 for $40k. And you can live with a Corvette a lot easier than you can with this.
The “new” Chrysler has been flirting with a new Viper, even showing a development mule to journalists. The intent is to use a V-10 again, even though Chrysler has access to Ferrari technology through Fiat. Either way, couple an improved engine with a modern interior and ergonomics, better build quality, and you’d have a truly modern American supercar. And please get rid of the silly snake emblem – this shouldn’t be a kiddy car.