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Dodge Viper production: how the muscle cars are made (2007)

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Dodge Viper production: how the muscle cars are made (2007)

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In October 24, 2007, Dodge issued the following:

In a time when most manufacturing plants utilize hundreds of state-of-the-art robots to assemble vehicles, a unique plant in Detroit is producing hand-built performance vehicles.

At the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, workers hand-build the new Dodge Viper SRT10 and all-new 600-horsepower 8.4-liter SRT V-10 engine. Utilizing 26 work stations on a 705-foot-long assembly line, 48 hand-picked UAW workers assemble each vehicle. Each vehicle remains stationary for up to 49 minutes per work area as the craft people make any necessary adjustments. This process eliminates traditional repair stations with all procedures verified by team members.

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Each Dodge Viper is primarily made of seven component modules (instrument panel, fuel tank, suspension corner modules, wheels and tires, cooling module, lift gate assembly and full dressed engine). With the exception of the engine, all modules are shipped to the Conner facility from other locations. Stamping, casting and welding all take place off-site with body panels arriving already painted.

In a process normally performed only on race cars, an alignment machine sets caster and camber at normal ride height, at jounce and at rebound (upward and downward travel of suspension). Typical factory alignments set caster and camber in the normal ride height position only. The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 is the only U.S. production vehicle set up for such alignment at the factory.

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"Our assembly process is just as exceptional as the car," said Melissa Holobach, Plant Manager - Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, Sterling Heights Vehicle Test Center (SHVTC) and Pilot Operations. "The process of building these vehicles by hand has allowed us the freedom to produce race-inspired performance without the constraints of mass production," Holobach said. "Our workforce is committed to producing the best vehicles possible and it shows in their commitment to detail."

The 600-horsepower 8.4-liter SRT V-10 engine is built next to the vehicle on a 24-station circular line by nine craftspersons. These nine workers assemble and certify each engine before they are installed in the chassis.

Each Dodge Viper is tested in place on the assembly line utilizing special rollers. At this stage the vehicle is a rolling chassis without its body panels. During this "roll test" it is driven through all six speeds of the transmission, up to 90 mph to verify vehicle function.

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Since its introduction as a concept car at the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Dodge Viper has captured the hearts and imagination of enthusiasts around the world. The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 is offered in both Roadster and Coupe versions. With its dramatic styling and 600 horsepower, the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 is the ultimate American sports car.

With 600 horsepower - 90 more than before, and 0-to-60 performance in less than four seconds, the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 sets a new benchmark for the ultimate American sports car.

The new 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 will arrive in Dodge showrooms in North America this fall with a new level of customization options, including five new exterior colors, four new interior color combinations and a new wheel design.

Old material from 2003

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In 2003, a plant worker told us that Viper staffing has been reduced, and there has been sizable turnover in the upper reaches of plant management. More troubling are changes in plant management and what appears to be condescending treatment of the skilled craftsmen who build Vipers (and who used to build Prowlers).

A factory worker sent us copies of several plant announcements which fundamentally change the way Vipers have been built since their introduction over ten years ago. Originally, they were made by craftsmen who controlled the line, which did not move until each person had done their job. This ranged between an hour at most, 37 minutes at present - the shortest time so far. Now, the line moves automatically, unless a stop button is pressed - and people have been advised not to press the button. This might sound reasonable, but the Viper is not a full production car; the parts are at a prototype level of fit, with holes sometimes containing flash, brackets sometimes not bent correctly, and formed parts sometimes needing to be tweaked.

Management has benchmarked the Corvette and other vehicles and is trying to build a car with prototype level parts but production-car times; despite the fact that the Corvette is built as a production car, with much higher volumes.

Operations have reportedly shut down due to lack of parts on many occasions, though breakeven is at 12 cars per day and average is about 11 per day. Management's stated goal is to produce 13 per day.

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