Chrysler: Still In Talks on Viper Line Sale

DETROIT (Reuters) – Chrysler LLC is in discussions with two to three companies for the possible sale of its high-performance Dodge Viper sports car line, but the credit crisis has slowed the process, Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said on Tuesday.

Chrysler said in late August it was exploring the sale of the Viper business as part of its effort to generate cash and ride out the deepening U.S. auto industry downturn.

“Because of the credit situation for all businesses and the market, we are still in dialogue and we have had conversations with two or three companies,” Press said. “They are still going on, but we are not in a big hurry to move Viper.”

Press said Chrysler has been in discussions with firms that specialize in making niche vehicles like Viper.

“We are not in an imminent position of selling it,” he said. “We will when the market is right, and the buyer shows up.”

Chrysler sold about 1,172 of the low-volume, hand-built, V10-powered sports car last year, a 169 percent increase from the previous year.

The privately held car company has struggled along with other automakers through a downturn in U.S. sales in recent years that has hit large trucks and SUVs the hardest.

Chrysler, which retained Lazard as its financial adviser on Viper, saw U.S. sales decline 44 percent in February.

Separately, Chrysler said it has seen a 30 percent decline in the warranty claims rate on its vehicles.

The improvement translates to $240 million in saving annually, Steven Landry, Chrysler’s executive vice president of sales said. (Reporting by Poornima Gupta; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)