The Dodge Viper has weathered two recessions, three corporate takeovers, and numerous competitors in its long history, but the Mopar supercar is finally being phased out. It was assumed that low sales stemming from high prices and increased competition was what doomed the Viper, but the real culprit might be a more bitter pill for fans to swallow.
Motor Trend reports that the Viper couldn’t meet new safety standards for passenger ejection that require the installation of side airbags. The current Viper can’t be equipped with side curtain airbags, so come 2017 when the new safety standard comes into law, the supercar will cease production.
Car enthusiasts often bemoan car safety standards and emissions regulations as symptoms of the “nanny state” and performance killers, and they’re not wrong. But in the context of how many lives airbags have saved, and clean air has improved the health of millions, the argument quickly falls apart. It’s not like today’s market lacks for high-performance vehicles that meet the government’s long safety and emissions requirements.
Unfortunately, sometimes these laws have unintended consequences, and the Viper’s classic roadster design is one of them. There is just no room to equip side airbags without cutting into the already-limited headroom offered by the sloping roof, and the engineering costs are probably more than the Viper’s limited sales warrant.
All’s not lost though, as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has also noted that the Viper may return on a modern platform, perhaps one shared with its extended Italian family from the likes of Alfa Romeo or Maserati. There are bigger questions facing FCA though, including the inevitable replacements for the Challenger, Charger, and 300, the oldest cars in the fleet at this point. Once those three are squared away, maybe FCA can get around to a new Viper, again.