By Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT -- As Chrysler prepares to launch the new Viper, only about 100 to 150 of more than 2,300 U.S. dealers will be approved to sell it, said Ralph Gilles, CEO of the SRT brand.
Dealers are receiving letters this week that outline how they can qualify to sell the car that will have an 8.4-liter V10 engine with 640 horsepower.
The No. 1 requirement "is first of all, to have the fire, the passion," Gilles said. "That's the unofficial requirement -- that you have a love affair with the cars and you just love fast cars."
While the car will sell in low volumes, most dealers are eager to get their hands on it.
"It's the image. I want to be able to say I have Viper," said Chuck Eddy, owner of Bob and Chuck Eddy Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram near Youngstown, Ohio.
The base price is $99,390, while the more-refined 2013 SRT Viper GTS starts at $122,390.
Introduced as the Dodge Viper in 1992, it was sold through 2010 when the automaker's financial crisis caused Chrysler to put the brakes on production. The all-new Viper will be sold under Chrysler's SRT, or Street and Racing Technology, brand, overseen by Gilles.
Dealers can start ordering the Viper in November, and a handful are expected to reach showrooms by Christmas, Gilles said.
To qualify to sell Viper, dealers must pay $5,000. In return, they get SRT signs, logos and training for SRT models along with a full day of track time with professional drivers for three of the dealership's staff members. In addition, dealers must be willing to pay $20,000 for additional signs and logos, a special showroom kit and comprehensive training with engineers.
While Viper will be the highest-profile SRT vehicle, the lineup also includes the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Chrysler 300 C SRT and Challenger SRT. Gilles said Chrysler will sell more than 13,000 SRT models in North America this year and expects that number will climb next year.
"In terms of orders, we have more orders for cars than we are going to be able to build this year," Gilles said.
Dealers have until the end of September to apply, Gilles said.
Once they apply, Chrysler will meet with dealers and review the number of Vipers they might get if they are approved.
It won't be many.
Chrysler plans to produce only about 2,000 SRT Vipers per year, Gilles said. Allocations will reflect demographics of a dealer's area such as population and average income, as well as the demand for other exotic cars.
"I want the person coming in to shop for an SRT product to meet someone who knows more about the product than they do," Gilles said. "That's really what I am l