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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chrysler may sell of Viper brand

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — In a stunning announcement, Chrysler on Wednesday confirmed it will "explore strategic options for the Dodge Viper business." The move signals a potential sale of the hand-built Viper, an iconic American sports car inspired by the legendary AC Cobra.

"We have been approached by third parties who are interested in exploring future possibilities for Viper," said Bob Nardelli, Chrysler chairman and CEO, in a statement. "As the company evaluates strategic options to maximize core operations and leverage its assets, we have agreed to listen to these parties.

"We will do so keeping in mind the best interests of those who have shown tremendous support for the vehicle — including employees, suppliers, dealers and a worldwide group of loyal Viper owners and enthusiasts."

Nardelli added: "Viper is an integral part of this company's heritage. While this is a strategic review, our intent would be to offer strong operational and financial support during any potential transaction, in order to ensure a future for the Viper business and perpetuate the legacy of this great vehicle."

Chrysler underscored that it has not set a timetable for completion of the Viper review and noted that no "final decision" has been made with regard to the Viper.

Getting rid of the Viper would allow the automaker to focus on its "core business," Chrysler said.

In January, Inside Line reported that with new owner Cerberus accounting for every penny, there was increasing pressure to do something about the Viper. Supplier sources told Inside Line that Chrysler is prepared to "make an instantaneous decision" to discontinue the Viper, especially if it "no longer can deliver the desired halo effect."

What this means to you: Uncertain times for Viper loyalists as Detroit gets ready to sell off yet another piece of its automotive heritage.