FCA US, the third largest US automaker, previously known as Chrysler Group LLC, for the first time allowed media representatives to go on a tour of its Conner Avenue factory that takes charge of the production of its most special model – the Dodeg Viper supercar.
For an entirely profit-driven automaker it’s always a reason to be proud when spreadsheets are not the main protagonists – and financial results have nothing to do with the supercar that has been one of America’s sweethearts since its inception back at the dawn of the 1990s (production started in 1991 and Conner Avenue became its home after 1995). The Dodge Viper has never been a model to yield massive profits, hence its production hiatus that ended back in 2012. Now, each of the Vipers is manufactured by hand by 64 hourly workers that are actually called craftsmen in 400,000-square-foot assembly facility very close to the 8 Mile Road in Detroit. The plant, unlike most series-assembly peers, sits inconspicuous in the urban scenery and inside there are vast, open spaces, high tech tooling an a sensation of eerie quietness that could never be found in the run of the mill auto factories.
Each of the employees here is credited with performing the tasks of around 150 different workers in other facilities – thanks to the very slow assembly pace and the completely different strategy of vehicle construction. While in normal assembly plants a car is taken off the line every minute, at the Conner Avenue factory each Viper needs 2.5 hours. And in more than two decades of production, the plant has only finished 24,000 units – a model that has a huge impact on the overall image of the automaker, but at a tiny volume and at the cost of huge expenses.