Dodge Viper’s Demise Tied To Non-Compliance To New Airbag Regulations
Even if it’s headed down the path to cancellation, the Dodge Viper still can’t find a way to escape the news. Fiat Chrysler’s decision to ax the Viper was thought to have been because of its poor sales. While that’s a justifiable reason for the sports car to go bye-bye, a more telling reason behind the Viper’s demise has come to light. Anonymous sources tell MotorTrend that it’s Dodge’s inability to fit side curtain airbags into the Viper. It’s for this reason that FCA, Dodge’s parent company, has chosen to end Viper production in 2017.
The issue with the side curtain airbags points to a requirement by the U.S. government for all 2017 model year vehicles to have side curtain airbags in place. That presents a dilemma for the Viper since fitting side curtain airbags into the car won’t be possible without cutting into the coupe’s already tight headroom. This new requirement points to another flaw in the Viper – its exclusively dedicated platform. With all these issues, FCA eventually decided that fixing them isn’t worth the headache, hence the decision to end production.
It’s unfortunate seeing one of this country’s most celebrated sports cars have an ignominious exit like this, especially after the admittedly awesome Dodge Viper ACR debunked the nation that the model had become stale. Hopefully, those talks of bringing back the Viper at a later date come to fruition. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne already said that if the Viper does come back, it’s going to be dramatically different from what we’re used to, but at this point, we, or at least I won’t be picky about what the future is for the sports car for as long as it doesn’t end up six feet under the ground.
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Why it matters
This revelation puts a light on one of the major reasons behind the Dodge Viper’s dismissal. More importantly, it reveals yet another problem the Viper has in its current configuration. It’s unfortunate, but at this point, the current Viper isn’t going to meet government regulations once this new standard, called FMVSS #226, comes into play. It’s hard to fault Fiat Chrysler for its decision because if you think about it, the company’s hands are really tied. It could attempt to save the Viper, but doing so would require dramatically reconfiguring the car to fit those side curtain airbags. That or it could just install those airbags in the model and then pray that nobody complains about the dramatically decreased headroom. Either scenario comes with a lot of risks, and when you combine that with the sports car’s poor sales performance, there really was no reason to keep the Viper’s production going.
Ending the car’s production also gives FCA a chance to reboot the model entirely to fit into these new regulations and make it more attractive to consumers. The automaker hasn’t indicated if it’s proceeding in that direction but the hints Marchionne dropped recently are positive signs because FCA is at least thinking about it. That’s a lot better than emphatically putting a shovel in the dirt and start burying the Viper entirely.
I honestly don’t know what the future holds for the American sports. I’d like to see it make a comeback, repackaged and rebuilt kind of like a Viper 2.0. Whether FCA shares my sentiments is still unclear at this point, but I’m not going to lose hope that easily. The Dodge Viper is an integral part of the history of American performance cars. It would be a shame if the model dies over such an unflattering circumstance.
Read our full review on Dodge Viper here.