Northstar

GM plans rear-drive family

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http://www.freep.com/money/autonews/rearwh...5e_20050815.htm

BY MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

General Motors Corp. is developing a new family of large, rear-wheel-drive cars in a multibillion-dollar program key to the company's success worldwide, three senior company executives confirmed.

The U.S. lineup could include a revival of the revered Chevrolet Camaro coupe toward the end of the decade.

The first of these big new cars will go on sale in mid-2006 as the Holden VE Commodore sedan in Australia.

But Buick, Chevrolet and Pontiac are all to get powerful new sedans that are larger than anything they sell today when production begins in the United States in about three years.

The Zeta program, as it's known within GM, is expected to eventually include cars built in plants employing thousands of people globally, including at least one assembly plant in the United States. Zeta cars are also being developed for sale in the Middle East and China.

GM expects the cars to add sizzle to its brands in much the way the stylish and powerful rear-wheel-drive 300C and Mustang have for Chrysler and Ford. One GM source said some of the sedans will be classified as large cars by U.S. standards, the same as the Chrysler 300. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because it is GM's policy not to reveal future product plans.

In addition to the big Buick, Chevrolet and Pontiac sedans, Zeta is likely to produce the successor to the current Pontiac GTO sport coupe. A large sporty coupe for Chevrolet is also in the works. Outside sources say that car could resurrect the Camaro name. Buick might get a large five-seat convertible like the brand's Velite concept car.

"If the cars have the looks, power and quality, they could be real winners," said Jim Hossack of consultant AutoPacific, in Tustin, Calif.

"There's a strong preference in the market for rear-wheel-drive for top models," he said. "There are some technical reasons for that and some image reasons. People say 'If it's good enough for Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, it's good enough for me.' "

At one time, almost all cars sold in the United States used rear-wheel-drive, but the layout fell out of favor as automakers turned to smaller front-wheel-drive cars following the oil shocks of the '70s and '80s. Front-wheel drive, in which the engine power goes to the front wheels, works well for small vehicles without too much power, but big cars with big engines are better suited to having the rear wheels propel the car.

Despite today's high gasoline prices, modern rear-wheel-drive cars are so much more efficient than their forebears that GM expects the Zeta cars to be desirable three years from now. The success of Chrysler's 300C has made a number of manufacturers "revisit the idea of adding large rear-wheel-drive cars to their portfolio," said Michael Robinet, vice president of global vehicle forecasts at CSM Worldwide in Farmington.

GM's new Zeta family of cars will use a wide variety of drivetrains in markets around the world, but U.S. versions are likely to come with V8 and V6 engines and five- or six-speed automatic transmissions. Some regions will also get all-wheel-drive models.

A concept vehicle showing what one of the U.S. production cars -- perhaps with a Camaro nameplate -- will look like could be shown as early as 2006, according to a source familiar with the program. The cars should go on sale in the United States in 2008 or 2009. It's not clear which of GM's U.S. brands will get a Zeta model first.

"Chevrolet still doesn't have the big rear-wheel-drive sedan its buyers want," said Joe Phillippi, principal of Auto Trends Consulting, Short Hills, N.J. "The cars should do well for the three brands as long as there's clear differentiation" in their appearance.

The exterior styling of at least one of the U.S. models has been set, a GM source said. GM designers from around the world are working on the project, based in the company's Australian engineering center.

GM expects to build the cars in at least one, yet undetermined North American assembly plant. GM's Australian unit will assemble the cars beginning next year, and production in Asia is also possible.

GM slowed development of the cars earlier this year to rework Zeta's model lineup and concentrate its engineering resources on getting the company's vital full-size SUVs and pickups on the market neat year.

In addition to the U.S. models, the cars are being developed with high-end luxury amenities for China and South Korea, where the Buick name has great prestige, a source said.
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Zeta comes - goes - Comes back again?? ---- ((PLEASE)) be true this time!! :( I still wish for V8 KAPPA CAMARO instead of ZETA!! Oh well!
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Excellent article. I hope the dream comes true.
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I am holding onto this dream. My other dream is that GM will one day set the trends and not always be 3 to 5 years behind...always reacting other car maker's success, letting them take the risks. I honestly sometimes I think it is a deliberate strategy, what other reason could there be? The Camaro should be here now competing with Mustang!
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That is awesome news, but I wish they would make up their mind on this one :D
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Less talk more action!!!
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so is the impala going to remain FWD and create a new caprice? or some other name for the large RWD?
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It's rumored that we will see a RWD Chevy concept sedan at NAIAS with the name "Bel Air" attached.
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really, so a camaro concept and a concept sedan at NAIAS? It has been talked about that the platform Camaro comes back on will be shared with a Chevy sedan, and be entirely different from the GTO platform, or Zeta, which also would spawn a Pontiac sedan. So two totally different lines of RWD cars, sounds good to me! Hey guys, nice to see the site back!
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;)
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That's the best news I heard for Pontiac in a long time. I just hope that the high price of GAS doesn't screw things up.
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I hope those cars will be stylish unlike the boring 2006 Impala. It would also be nice if they had more chrome than the 2006 cars
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It's rumored that we will see a RWD Chevy concept sedan at NAIAS with the name "Bel Air" attached.

[post="434"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Since I started the BelAir rumour let me set straight what I have heard. As of when I heard it a few weeks ago, there were two rwd programs. The first being a Chevy coupe and the second a 4 door sedan. The 4 door sedan project was titled "BelAir". There is more to the story but I am trying to get clarification before I post anything definitive.
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Less talk more action!!!

[post="358"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Exactly what I was thinking.

It's great to have C&G back. Did everyone have to re-register? I'm just wondering.
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so is the impala going to remain FWD and create a new caprice? or some other name for the large RWD?

[post="415"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Hey there thedriver, Is that your 76 Cutlass your using as your avatar? Edited by I hope GMRULES again
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I thought the car with "heretige baked in" (Lutz) is going to be the Camaro.... :huh: Does a retro Bel Air mean we get NO Camaro? :angry: I WANT BOTH!!!
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I thought the car with "heretige baked in" (Lutz) is going to be the Camaro.... :huh: Does a retro Bel Air mean we get NO Camaro? :angry:

I WANT BOTH!!!

[post="603"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Both are coming.
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I much prefer the Caprice name to Bel Air... but that's just me. :P
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Both are coming.

[post="613"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



As of a couple days ago the Camaro was still on hold.
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evok: Was the Camaro concept on hold or a production program? Or both?
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Unfortunately this move is probably driven by the success of the Chrysler 300 (sales of 150,000 last year) and the Dodge Charger (sales YTD of 22,500 after only 2 1/3 months of production), rather than any strong inherent belief in the marketplace. The Big Three tend to be followers after the other guy's success - rather than leaders. It was Rick Wagoner who made the final call on dropping the B-Car platform in the first place in 1996, so I have my doubts he got religion in the meantime. Still, any port in a storm........ I just hope the Chevrolet Caprice/Impala SS 4-door sports sedan breaks new ground and is really well refined and includes both the F41 sport suspension and the LS2/LS6 series of motors - in other words, continues on in the tradition of the previous-generation Impala SS. They have a lot of work to do to get past the SRT-8 versions of the 300C and the Charger. The marketplace has not stood still these last 9 years.....
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evok: Was the Camaro concept on hold or a production program? Or both?

[post="655"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Production version. The status has not changed for some time. I don't know anything about the concept and how that may or may not affect any potential Camaro program. Edited by evok
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