As the Chrysler Group's undisputed "halo" car, one would believe that the Detroit-based carmaker would want most of its U.S. dealers to be able to show and sell the new 2013 SRT Viper, but that's not the case.
An Autonews report back in July, quoted Ralph Gilles, CEO of the SRT brand, saying that around 15 to 20 percent (or roughly 340 to 460 showrooms) of Chrysler's more than 2,300 U.S. dealers will carry the V10-powered sports car, but according to USA Today, Gilles has now lowered that number even more to only about 100 to 150 shops or 4-6%.
Gilles told the newspaper that the No. 1 requirement, "Is first of all, to have the fire, the passion. That's the unofficial requirement -- that you have a love affair with the cars and you just love fast cars."
Chuck Eddy, owner of Bob and Chuck Eddy Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram near Youngstown, Ohio, explained to the USA Today why it's important for him (and evidently, other dealers as well), to have the sports car in his showroom: "It's the image. I want to be able to say I have Viper."
While all Chrysler dealers can sell and service all other SRT models, those handpicked to sell the Viper, will have to pay the company a one-time fee of $20,000 and another $5,000 to buy a base agreement for tools, equipment, training and signs along with preferential ordering and additional allocation of special models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Gilles told Automotive News.
There are two basic reasons why Chrysler is being fussy about the Viper. The first is that only about 2,000 examples of the 640-horsepower sports car will be built each year, therefore, there are not enough cars to supply each U.S. dealer with one.
The other reason is that the company wants to elevate the SRT brand in general. "The SRT cars are starting to pull in a very, very interesting demographic -- much higher income, much higher education levels. The customer is becoming more sophisticated," Gilles told the news site.
Peter Grady, Chrysler's vice president of network development and fleet, added that dealers opting into the SRT brand agreements must meet certain criteria and customer satisfaction requirements in order to qualify for the preferential ordering and extra allocation of cars.
"This is a different kind of a customer, a different approach, and it requires a different sort of commitment," he said.
The new 2013 Viper will go on sale in the States later this fall with a starting price of $99,390 (roughly €77,000 at today's exchange rates), including a destination and handling fee.