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Camaro decision coming

Australian-made: The Holden-engineered Chevrolet Camaro.

Fuel prices and sales projections factor as GM decides about right-hand drive Camaro

22 Jul 2008

GENERAL MOTORS will make a decision about whether to commence right-hand drive production for the new Chevrolet Camaro within the next three months.

A green light will almost certainly pave the way for the reinterpretation of the 1969 ‘pony car’ to head to Australia sometime in the new decade.

At least 4000 sales per year would be the minimum requirement for GM to tool up the Camaro production facility to right-hand drive production.

GM has already confirmed that left-hand drive versions of the coupe and upcoming convertible will be marketed under the fledgling Chevrolet brand in Europe from 2010, including Russia and in the UK, after US and Canadian sales start in the first quarter of 2009.

Speaking at the Australian unveiling of the production version of the Holden-engineered Camaro, GM’s Global Vehicle Line Executive, Gene Stefanyshyn, confirmed that right hand drive has not yet been ruled out.

“We engineered it for right-hand drive. We just have to make a decision now whether we should spend the additional funds that we have to buy – we have to buy a different IP (instrumentation) pack, we have to buy some different string mechanisms, we have to buy some different bits and pieces – and that’s some amount of money.

“So we have to decide now we should go out and spend those funds (to put it into production), given the size of the market and the profit we could make.

“But there is nothing from an engineering perspective that would prevent us from doing it. We’ve done that from all along to go to right-hand drive if we need to.

137 center imageMr Stefanyshyn also revealed that GM is on the brink of making a final decision it could come within a matter of weeks.

“We’ll probably do that within the next two to three months – something like that,” he stated.

However, the senior engineer warned that the case for right-hand drive will not float if GM cannot see the possibility of selling at least 4000 units per year globally.

“If we could put something together that would be about 4000 pieces a year worldwide… if we could make that a goal, I think.

“We’re looking at fuel prices and all that, and we’re hoping that people – with fuel that is a bit dearer – will still want this car, so we can go out and do it. We certainly would like to offer it.”

That annual volume figure is based on calculations that GM undertook during the Camaro’s early stages of planning.

“That was based on mathematics we did some time again, which is working out volume on pricing and fuel prices. The thing we have to test is, given fuel prices (today), can we sell 4000?” he explained.

Despite consumer fears of ever-more spiralling fuel prices, there is no diesel planned for the Camaro for the time being.

“We haven’t thought of diesel for the car – it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

“The diesel trend right now is going a bit pear shaped... in Europe diesel is more expensive than petrol... it used to be much cheaper, but now with the demand for global diesel from trucking and all that, we can see our European operations are scrambling to try and get (more efficient) petrol engines out,” Mr Stefanyshyn said.

“Hybrid Camaro? We’ve been looking at talking about that. We’re asking ourselves – as a corporation – that (Camaro) would not be the first place that we would go (with hybrid)... unless we could do it on another (related platform) car and then we could do it for free. But not specifically Camaro – we have a lot of other places where we have to work on.

“We are looking at that” is Mr Stefanyshyn’s response to speculation that Chevrolet might fit the Pontiac Solstice’s four-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine into the Camaro, adding: “It’s a question of when is the right time.”

For the time being, GM’s fuel-saving measures for the car will run to the availability of the L99 V8 petrol engine with cylinder shut-off technology (in lieu of the regular LS3 and LS7 V8 options), and direct-injection petrol V6s.

Mr Stefanyshyn believes that the ‘pony car’ market in Australia is not as clear-cut as it is in the United States.

“In Australia… I do see a lot of the pressure (we see) in Canada – fuel prices, taxation, medical (expenses) – that sees people moving into a smaller car than they do in the US and in some other countries,” he fears.

The Camaro has taken around 31 months to go from concept car to production ready the first one will roll off the Oshawa plant in Ontario, Canada in mid February next year, with US sales deliveries soon after.

Around 100,000 to 120,000 units are year is the plan.

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