Pontiac GTO Forum banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Pure Speculation:
Camaro Being Readied to do Battle with Hot-Selling Mustang

April 16, 2005
by Trevor Hofmann / American Auto Press​

Does GM Need Another Muscle Car Right Now?

Being the pontificating prognosticator that I am, I just cant seem to forget about an off-hand comment made by a top-level General Motors executive while traveling in the back seat of a Chevrolet Cobalt that I was piloting during the vehicles launch program.

We were discussing the success Ford is having with its new Mustang, and the rumors being bantered about regarding a Chrysler/Dodge LX-based two-door sports coupe that might go by the name of Challenger or Cuda (rumors propagated by unscrupulous automotive journalists such as yours truly), when he asked us what we would think of GM bringing back the Camaro.

Pardon?! Yes, my ears were working properly. He wondered if my co-driver and I thought a new Camaro might experience the same success as the Mustang, or at least similar success. We, of course, couldnt pass up the opportunity to respond with a few nuggets of wisdom... well, maybe more than a few nuggets. Actually, we got so entrenched discussing it that Im sure he was glad to change cars at the next stop and never bring the subject up again.

Why this executive brought it up, Ill never know. Possibly he knew something that few others did at the time, or was merely hypothesizing, but nevertheless he was probably smarting at an opportunity missed by GM, that could have easily been ripe for the taking.

Lets just think about that for a minute. GM scrapped the Camaro in 2002 because the car wasnt capable of achieving six figure sales numbers. The less than ideal situation didnt make retooling its plant worthwhile, and there wasnt another car in the lineup that it could possibly have shared platforms with because GM only made front-drivers at the time - other than the Corvette, which wouldnt do. The European derived Cadillac Catera was dead and the CTS had yet to arrive, but both were too expensive to build for an entry-level sports car. The result, Camaro and the even weaker selling Firebird were pushed out to pasture. The irony? Pontiac started development of the rather dated looking Australian-built GTO a year later and resultantly cant even sell half as many examples as it did Firebirds at the end of the old girls product cycle.

In the meantime, Ford trundled along with its archaic Fox-platform Mustang making a decent profit on each one sold; being that the tooling was paid for so long ago its been a gravy train for the last two decades. When everybody was about as sick of the previous generation pony-car as possible, voila, the 2005 model was born and is kicking muscle car dust in every competitors windshield.

So it makes sense that GM wants to show Ford how to build a muscle car. The problem the automaker faces, however, is the same one it did back when it discontinued the Camaro/Firebird duo, a lack of rear-drive platforms. Sure, the new Kappa architecture is good, but not designed for a midsize, V8-powered sports coupe. The Cadillac CTSs Sigma architecture is good, but too pricy to build if Chevy has any hopes of competing directly with the Mustang V6.

Obviously this is what GMs recently "promoted" Vice Chairman Bob Lutz was referring to earlier this week during the Society of Automotive Engineers 2005 World Congress when he said, "Were going to take another look at high performance rear-wheel drive."

This bit of news, mind you, wouldnt be anything revelatory if you hadnt heard in March that the General suspended plans to continue development of its Zeta architecture for a new generation of rear-drive vehicles especially designed for the North American market. Like most cancellations at GM, its a dollars and cents thing. The cars that would inevitably ride on the Zeta chassis would include the Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, and possibly something similar to the stunning Buick Velite that wowed auto show goers in Detroit in 2003. No doubt, GM would optimize the architecture with yet more spin-offs, but such speculation is now moot.

Theres also an argument as to whether anything Bob Lutz says in a media scrum can be trusted. Not that the product-czar is making up stories, as hes most likely being as forthright as hes always been, unveiling highly guarded corporate secrets as usual; such as any discussions that did, or did not actually take place with regard to the potential of dropping any one of GMs "damaged" brands (see automotive news section for Mar 27, 2005: Industry Report: GMs Bob Lutz Considers Dumping One Brand to Curb Losses).

Then again, while Lutz may have been feeling bullish about the prospects of a Camaro/Firebird duo returning to GM, he probably doesnt have much to say about it coming to reality anyway. As of April 4th, he is no longer overseeing North American product development, but instead is directing global product development while money-man Rick Wagoner has been assigned to get the Generals North American operations back on course. What does this mean? Some pet projects may get axed.

But before I crush your hopes, Jim Queen, GM vice president of global engineering, corroborated Lutzs words when he told The Detroit News in an interview this week that GM is working on a rear-drive platform designed to be more cost-effective than Zeta, something that could underpin the future Camaro/Firebird duo.

"Theres a Camaro hook in all of us," Queen commented. "It may not be a Camaro, but theres a lot of us inside our company and outside our company that feel very passionate about it."

Queen added that the new chassis architecture could be formed from the Zeta or the Sigma rear-drive architectures, but that it wouldnt be as sophisticated as either of these.

Lutz reiterated this sentiment, saying that "its going to be something I sort of call Zeta-light."

While many inside and outside GM may feel passionate about resurrecting the Camaro, its difficult to say what good it will do to improve the automakers financial outlook overall. Does GM really need halo-type performance icons such as the Camaro, Firebird and Velite, for its separate brands?

Of course, if each could be made at a profit, without taking valuable development time and money away from products that could help dig GM out of its massive financial hole, they have value. Even if the new models dont make money, sometimes halo vehicles can be justified, but GM is in no shape to build niche vehicles on the whim that some trickle-down effect of a new Camaro will somehow help sell more Impalas, as if the Chevy brand didnt already have the Corvette to do that; or by some unforeseen miracle parking a Velite on the showroom floor will bless the LaCrosse with Camry-like sales figures. Its not going to happen.

But theres also internal morale to consider, and the need to satisfy dealers who are asking the question, "Why dont we have something as cool as the Mustang to drive showroom traffic?" In other words, theres an argument for building a Camaro that even Rick Wagoner can justify if he really wants to.

Of course, theres another way that GM could look at it. Why does the new Camaro have to be as big a sales hit as the Mustang? Chances are that it wont be anyway, because the bowtie coupe never sold as well as the pony-car despite offering more power, at times, more gadgets and sometimes, more attractive styling. Rather than build a mass-market muscle car, why not come to the game with a premium-level player. Only offer a powerful V8, and why not mix it up with a fully independent suspension system? At least then a new rear-drive platform doesnt need to be developed. If Camaro were to go upmarket, just a bit, it could also offer better interior quality too, a cabin that doesnt punish the 50-something boomer whos giving up his Bimmer in order to relive his teen years and the muscle car era all at once.

In other words, let the Camaro be an icon to the Chevrolet badge in the same way the Corvette already is, not by being a big seller but rather by being the best it can be while still offering superb value compared to European or Asian imports. A Camaro would satisfy bowtie aficionados craving for a four-seat muscle car, delivering power and sporty styling to those who still have the need for a back seat, while restoring pony-car pride within the boardrooms and factory lunchrooms of the worlds largest automaker.

Bowtie coupe never sold as well as the pony-car despite offering more power, at times, more gadgets and sometimes, more attractive styling. Rather than build a mass-market muscle car, why not come to the game with a premium-level player. Only offer a powerful V8, and why not mix it up with a fully independent suspension system? At least then a new rear-drive platform doesnt need to be developed. If Camaro were to go upmarket, just a bit, it could also offer better interior quality too, a cabin that doesnt punish the 50-something boomer whos giving up his Bimmer in order to relive his teen years and the muscle car era all at once.

In other words, let the Camaro be an icon to the Chevrolet badge in the same way the Corvette already is, not by being a big seller but rather by being the best it can be while still offering superb value compared to European or Asian imports. A Camaro would satisfy bowtie aficionados craving for a four-seat muscle car, delivering power and sporty styling to those who still have the need for a back seat, while restoring pony-car pride within the boardrooms and factory lunchrooms of the worlds largest automaker.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
410 Posts
Concur! BTW. The Firebird sold mostly low-end V-6s. The GTO is selling better than the TransAm from what I can see.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
237 Posts
Diddo.

However, did anyone else notice how in his bid to define the perfect Camaro, he technically described the current GTO? Although (even though he forgot to mention it) I'm sure he sees his wet-dream having the styling that little boys & girls would go gaga over as well.
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top