After two years of hibernation, the first 2013 SRT Viper emerged from its "new" lair at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit on Jan. 10.
Following the hibernation and a massive renovation since its shutdown in 2010, the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant delivered its first, new generation, 2013 SRT Viper (#001) to owner Scott Thomas during a ceremony at the plant to celebrate the start of production.
Thomas purchased the first production Viper for $300,000 at the Barrett-Jackson Orange County (Calif.) Auction in June 2012, with the proceeds benefiting the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer.
The event was attended by Chrysler Group LLC Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne, SRT Brand President and CEO Ralph Gilles, who, along with the 150 employees of the "new" Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, presented the 2013 SRT Viper (#001) to Thomas in a ceremony that also honored the memory of former Chrysler Group Senior Vice President Dan Knott, who passed away in 2012.
A plaque was unveiled in Knott's honor with the quote, “Today, we are a real car company again.”
Knott, who served as Vice President of the SRT Product Team and was instrumental in the development of past generations of the Viper, made that statement on Aug. 22, 2010, the day the 2013 Viper program was approved.
The new generation 2013 SRT Viper returns to the market with more power and performance from its all-aluminum, mid-front 8.4-liter V-10 engine that delivers 640 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque, to go along with superior craftsmanship, new technologies and creature comforts. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the 2013 SRT Viper model is $97,395 (excluding $1,995 destination).
The Conner Avenue Assembly Plant has a long legacy of building cars in Detroit going back to its opening in 1966. Chrysler purchased it in 1992 and moved production of the Viper to Conner Avenue in October of 1995. It retains many of the vestiges of its heritage on the outside, but inside it is full of state-of-the-art technology integrated with handcrafted workmanship to build the new generation 2013 Viper.
A sign above the front door of the Chrysler Group LLC facility just south of 8 Mile in Detroit says, “Home of Viper. Detroit. Handcrafted. Horsepower.,” which seem to be perfect words to characterize what is happening inside as the dedicated team of 150 specially-selected employees handcraft the new generation Viper at a rate of 12 cars per day.
Idled in July 2010, the Conner Avenue plant has spent the past year refurbishing the 400,000 square-foot facility. Although the plant now looks like a modern, state-of-the-art assembly plant, it still maintains the handcrafted build process that added to the mystique of the Viper when it began production in 1992.
With the decision made to reopen Conner, the team went to work beginning in the fall of 2011 to implement World Class Manufacturing (WCM), Fiat’s production system that Chrysler adopted when the two companies joined forces in June 2009. WCM is a methodology that makes employee safety the number one priority, focusing on eliminating waste, increasing productivity, improving quality, and restoring dignity to the employees.
As part of the journey, every inch of the facility has been refurbished and improved, including the lobby, where a historical Viper timeline now hangs, to the 14 restrooms, to the shop floor, which is now hospital-clean, bright and more organized to increase the efficiency of each operation.
With all of the improvements, the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant now looks like a modern, state-of-the-art facility, even though it bows to its coach builder philosophy.
Just as important as the changes to the assembly line are the changes that have been made to the building itself.
For the first time, eight Andon boards, common place in larger assembly plants, have been incorporated along the line to report the status of daily production to line operators. Additionally, 27 TV monitors are now located throughout the plant to support improved plant communication.
The signage throughout the plant reflects the racing heritage of the Viper. Aisles are named for famous racing venues like Sebring and Nürburgring, and are color coded to match the columns. The walkways have checkered flag decals indicating pedestrian zones.
To brighten the appearance inside the plant, more than 2,000 light bulbs were replaced with energy efficient T-8 fluorescent bulbs and the ceiling was painted white. Twenty-four giant ceiling fans provide air circulation, eliminating the need for personal cooling devices that could present safety hazards.
The administration building was also completely refurbished with new carpet, tile, and bathroom cabinetry and countertops made of materials that contain more than 40 percent recycled content.
At the suggestion of an employee, the plant turned 4,922 square-feet of its green space into a produce garden that includes cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, cantaloupe, green peppers and beans.
The plant partnered with Operation Get Down, a nonprofit, community-based agency serving the east side of Detroit since 1971, to support those in need in the community. In its first year, the plant donated more than 1,500 pounds of fresh produce plus more than 2,200 pounds of non-perishable food items.
“While the Viper put this plant on the map, it is the people that make it come alive,” said Doug Gouin, Head of Viper Operations.
“Their passion for the customer, the community and each other is what makes this facility and the vehicle we build, unlike anything else in the industry," he added.
Production of the flagship performance machine of SRT began on Dec. 5, 2012. Regular shipments to customers will begin in February 2013 to ensure that every SRT Viper meets the Company’s stringent quality standards before it leaves the plant.
The Viper is back and so is the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant that produces it.