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Camaro canned for Australia

Right-hook knockout: Chevrolet's right-hand-drive Camaro has been cut, UK reports say.

General Motors cancels right-hand-drive Camaro coupe to cut costs

16 Feb 2009

GENERAL Motors has cancelled a proposed right-hand-drive Camaro, according to a report in the UK – the largest of its potential export markets.

That would mean Australia would not get the new sports coupe, even though it was developed by GM Holden at Fishermens Bend on the Holden Commodore platform.

Export plans for the UK market have been slashed from several thousand right-hand drive Camaros to just 100 left-hand drive coupes and convertibles. This volume is small enough to scrape under the UK’s design rules threshold, according to Autocar magazine, which broke the story.

The RHD version could also have been sold in Japan and South Africa, but the global economic recession and the aftershock of 2008’s record high oil prices appear to have killed off the project.

Locally, GM Holden played a straight bat on the report.

“There was nothing to cancel,” spokeswoman Kate Lonsdale said. “The right-hand drive Camaro program had never been confirmed.”

Ms Lonsdale conceded that GM had always acknowledged that it would be possible to do a RHD version, given it was based on the ambidextrous Zeta platform.

Several GM executives approached at various motor shows had given the impression then RHD Camaro was a goer.

As recently as January’s Detroit Motor Show, GM’s soon-to-retire product development guru, Bob Lutz, was talking about the RHD Camaro as a live issue.

Mr Lutz told GoAuto’s Byron Mathioudakis that the Australian-developed Camaro had suffered delays as GM tried to get back on its corporate feet.

Mr Lutz said the convertible version would now arrive in 2011 while development of a right-hand drive model has also been set back by a few months – at the very least.

“Frankly, when we looked at investments that we could defer a little bit because they were non-essential or not critical to the short-term survival of the company, one of the things we pushed out a little bit was the Camaro convertible,” he said.

“It was going to initially be just one year after the coupe (on sale in the next few months in America), and now it is going to be two years after the coupe.

“And another thing we deferred was the right-hand-drive version. I’m confident it is going to happen, it’s just that it is going to happen a little later.”

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal has reported that the former world number-one car-maker is drawing up a radical survival plan to present to congress tomorrow in a bid to prove it can be viable and will be able to repay the loans.

The Journal reported that, as one of their options, GM directors are considering letting the company go into chapter 11 bankruptcy.

That would give the company protection from its creditors and also allow it to renegotiate crucial employee contracts such as those covering pensions and health care.

The Journal reported that, under the chapter 11 plan, GM would be able to assemble its best assets and most viable assets’ “including brands and international operations”, into a new company”.

“The undesirable assets would be liquidated or sold under protection of a bankruptcy court. Contracts with bondholders, unions, dealers and suppliers would also be reworked,” the Journal reported.

GM has been negotiating with its bond holders and the United Auto Workers union in a bid to wipe out $US28 billion ($A42.4 billion) of debt.

At the end of September, 2008, GM’s balance sheet showed the company had $US36 billion of long-term debt and had had made provisions for $US33.7 billion in post-retirement health care liabilities. In addition, it had made provision for $US11.5 billion in pension payments for former workers.

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