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GM kills Holden’s US Caprice dream

Confusing messages: The Pontiac G8 won't return to the US as a Caprice, but might still make it as a law-enforcement vehicle.

Caprice export hopes bite dust in Lutz about-face, but US police car program lives

20 Jul 2009

THE on-again, off-again plan to resurrect a high-volume export program for Holden’s ill-fated Pontiac G8 by rebadging the Commodore-based vehicle as a Chevrolet Caprice appears to finally have been cancelled for good.

The bad news was relayed on the official General Motors web blog late last week by GM product and marketing chief, Bob Lutz, who a week earlier had revealed the Chevrolet plan, along with confirming GM was investigating a potentially lucrative plan to employ the same vehicle for law enforcement work in the US.

That scenario was backed last week by GM CEO Fritz Henderson, who pre-empted the axing of the Chevrolet plan when he told US website Autoblog: “We've been looking at it for police applications. As for whether or not it’s broader than police applications, I am not a believer in re-branding and re-badging.

“We've been talking about in terms of potential police applications and we'll leave it at that.” GM Holden would not directly comment on the failed Chevrolet export bid this week, and remained coy about the Commodore’s export potential as a law enforcement vehicle.

196 center imageFrom top: Commodore-based concept police patrol car in Los Angeles Police Department livery and GM's Bob Lutz unveils the Pontiac G8.

“I think when Bob floated the possibility of the G8 being rebadged as a Chevy Caprice we said we had nothing to add and, well, nothing's changed on that front,” said spokesman Scott Whiffin.

“There’s obviously plenty of balls in the air for GM in the US at the moment and they are understandably putting the resources where they are most needed.

“In terms of export opportunities, we've said all along we're active on that front but just now we have nothing to announce.” Holden’s profitable export deal to export the Commodore as the Pontiac G8 in the US and Canada ended when GM pulled the pin on its historic Pontiac brand in April.

Mr Lutz put the final nail in the G8/Caprice coffin July 16, when he blamed current market conditions and future corporate fuel consumption requirements on the plan’s demise.

“Okay, I have some late-breaking news for you from the world of GM, where things are indeed moving quickly, and what I’m about to say is proof,” he said.

“In fact, we’re moving so fast, we’re going back in time to, oh, about four or five days ago, when the Pontiac G8 was going away and was not going to become a new Chevrolet Caprice.

“And therein lies the news: The G8 will not be a Caprice after all. I’d mentioned it, and said we were studying it, giving it a serious look, because a car like the G8 was just too good to waste.

“That’s all still true. But I have to say that, with my new ‘marketing’ hat on, upon further review and careful study, we simply cannot make a business case for such a program. Not in today’s market, in this economy, and with fuel regulations what they are and will be.

“I know that we’ll get a lot of complaints from G8 lovers, because I’m one of them. And the product guy in me is complaining as loudly as anyone. But the marketing guy says there’s no case. With budgets being what they are for the time being, the resources must be allocated elsewhere.” The newly-appointed GM vice-president stressed the still-born Commodore/Caprice deal did not spell the end of other current or future rear-drive models from GM – nor of future US export models from Holden.

“In no way, and this is very important, in no way does this mean we are backing away from performance, or backing away from rear-wheel drive,” he said.

“Look no further for proof than the Corvette, the Camaro, the CTS or many other present and future Cadillacs. We have a strong line-up of RWD vehicles already and we will continue to have it.

“And we have a tremendous RWD team in Australia that gave us the beloved G8, a team that we will tap into at some point again in the future for its expertise and sheet metal. Just not right now.”

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