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Holden design muscle to show in next Camaro

Superhero: Next year’s thumping ZL1 supercharged V8 model will bolster the Camaro range as GM works on a developing a successor, with Holden’s help.

Simcoe confirms Holden design role in next Camaro, but Corvette lead remains in US

14 Jul 2011

GENERAL Motors’ executive director of international design operations Mike Simcoe has confirmed that Australia will be involved in the design of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, following Holden’s lead role in the current model.

Mr Simcoe, who up until late last year was executive director of North American exterior design and global architecture strategy, also confirmed Holden’s involvement in designing the forthcoming new-generation Corvette, although he stressed that Australia was not responsible for executing the super-coupe’s redesign.

The latest confirmation that Camaro will enter a new generation – due mid-decade – raises the prospect of Holden again taking responsibility for both design and engineering, and that this time around the muscle-car will be available in right-hand drive configuration, and therefore sale in Australia, from the outset.

The current fifth-generation Canadian-built Camaro has suffered a number of setbacks since production was approved in 2006 and sales commenced three years later, with the global financial crisis and GM’s descent into short-term chapter 11 bankruptcy forcing all work on new derivatives to be suspended, including right-hand drive variants.

137 center imageLeft: General Motors’ executive director of international design operations Mike Simcoe at the 2011 AIMS. Below: Current Chevrolet Corvette.

Since then, a 2+2 soft-top convertible has become available, a 241kW version of GM’s 3.6-litre Global V6 was recently announced for a forthcoming 45th anniversary edition, and early next year a 410kW 6.2-litre supercharged V8 ZL1 performance leader will join the range.

However, as GoAuto has reported, the UK’s decision to import the Camaro as a low-volume left-hook boutique model has left RHD production – which 18 months ago GM’s former product chief Bob Lutz described as a definite starter “at some point”– off the program, probably until the redesigned model turns up around 2014.

“There will be another Camaro,” Mr Simcoe told GoAuto at this month’s Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne.

“We will do sketch themes for it, yeah. We will do themes for anything we’re invited to, and more. If we know a program’s coming, we’ll generate themes for it, and that’s the expectation.” The new-generation Camaro is due around the same time as Holden’s 2014 VF Commodore.

While Holden is expected to continue in the lead engineering role – something former chairman Mark Reuss, who is now GM North America president and remains a strong advocate of the Australian operations, could ensure – overseas reports suggest the next Camaro will be smaller, lighter and will switch from the current Zeta-based architecture to GM’s rear-drive Alpha platform that will underpin Cadillac’s long-awaited forthcoming BMW 3 Series fighter.

GM’s global design chief Ed Welburn told GoAuto in January that a redesigned Camaro would need to look different to the retro-inspired lines of the existing model, which harks back to the 1967 original.

“For the next Camaro, I think it needs to be a significant step forward (visually),” he said.

“The (Ford) Mustang has always just been a series of small steps – and I can tell you that this won’t happen with the next Camaro.” While Mr Simcoe would not discuss specifics of the new-generation Camaro – or whether Australia is involved in engineering the new Corvette – he used the current Camaro as an example of the international influence that went in to its development.

“Forget Corvette for a moment, because we’ll get into a mire talking about that one, but Camaro – it was engineered here in Australia and the design was executed here in Australia, (but) the design theme was done by a Korean working in an American studio alongside Englishmen, other Koreans, an Australian ... lots and lots of nationalities were working on it.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s one studio that’s in North America, you’re still going to have an influence because you’re going to sketch and theme from outside and you’re also going to have designers from different studios in different countries.” Mr Simcoe said Holden’s designers have had an influence on the forthcoming Corvette – and virtually every other model in the pipeline – but that does not mean that it becomes an identifiably Australian design.

“We’re not executing Corvette here in Australia,” he said. “Corvette is happily ensconced in North America.” However, Mr Simcoe described the invitation for Australia’s design team to come up with a design for the next Corvette as “a nice way of getting a global perspective on everything we do – because everything we do is now global”.

“You can’t now get away with doing one vehicle in one country and having a totally different system – it’s the way to go broke,” he said.

GM delivered just under 8500 Camaros last month in North America, taking its 2011 first-half sales tally to 48,761, up 5.1 per cent on last year and well clear of Ford’s arch-rival Mustang, which is down 2.5 per cent YTD on 39,041 units.

Last year, the Camaro outsold the Mustang in the US for the first time since 1985.

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