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GM VP: Z/28 Coming, Cadillac Gunning for BMW, next-gen Camaro to Alpha

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GM VP: Z/28 Coming, Cadillac Gunning for BMW, next-gen Camaro to Alpha

Posted Today 04:30 AM by Edward Loh

Filed under: New Cars, The Lohdown, Cadillac

“Our goal is Cadillac against BMW -- very clearly. We will bring performance to these cars…and be on par or better than BMW. That is our plan.”

Those fighting words came from Karl Stracke, GM’s Vice President of Global Vehicle Engineering, who stopped by this week for a meet-and-greet and to check out the Motor Trend HQ in El Segundo, California.

A mechanical engineer of German extraction, Stracke is the type of auto exec who makes auto journos happy and PR guys cringe. Five minutes into the nickel tour of our facilities and out of earshot of his PR handler, Stracke casually served up unprompted confirmation of the return of the Camaro Z/28. Not exactly breaking news -- while GM has yet to officially confirm it, the Z/28’s resurrection is something of an open secret -- but Stracke’s casual bomb dropping set the tone for the rest of his visit.

We popped into our photo studio for a quick look around, but ended up staying on to watch a Hot Rod photo shoot, as you can see from my grainy cell phone pictures. Moments later in our company garage/tech center, he threw a leg over a racy MV Agusta crotch rocket, which instantly gave me empathy for his PR handler as the $18,500 motorcycle is on loan to our sister pub, Motorcyclist (sorry guys!). But hey, he’s a gear head through and through; Stracke owns a Harley-Davidson V-Rod and has a Corvette Grand Sport as his daily driver. The man likes 'em loud and/or fast and clearly has a passion for wheeled product.

Between bites of lasagna at lunch, Stracke constantly asked us for feedback on his cars, and returned refreshingly blunt answers. He is outspoken; a bit like Lutz, but with a German accent. Since being promoted to VP of Global Vehicle Engineering in December of 2009, Stracke has already started stirring the pot, Maximum Bob-style. Earlier this month, in an incident reported in The Detroit News, Stracke soundly trashed the outgoing Chevy Cobalt with the statement, “Look at this car, it’s horrible. How did this get through so many people?”

Stracke went on to shed bit more light on just how such vehicles can sometimes slip through the cracks when I brought up a topic we’ve moaned about here at Motor Trend – the Chevy Camaro's interior.

When I quizzed him on two of the most galling parts of the Camaro cockpit -- the stale jelly donut-shaped shifter knob and oddly contoured steering wheel, Stracke didn’t strike the usual defensive posture of an auto exec, but nodded his head in agreement. He went on to say that, in addition, he found the steering wheel controls set too far inward, necessitating the removal of hands from the wheel or an awkward reach with the thumb. He claims to have fought to change this with the design team and his then bosses -- taking it all the way up (and out of his department) to guys like Lutz and Ed Welburn. But given the hugely popular response the concept Camaro received, Stracke said he was overruled and the product team was given marching orders to bring to make the production car as close to concept as possible -- with little regard for such practical tweaks.

Stracke said that kind of mistake won’t happen again. And that we’ll see hints of it starting with future models (hinting at the Z/28 again…) and when the all-new, Alpha-based (not Holden/Zeta) Camaro makes its debut.

“We need to win,” he said repeatedly. “Not just shoot for the middle.”

Our lunch topics ranged widely -- from A- and B-segment cars to trucks to Buick, Caddy, and the surging Chinese market. We also got pretty nerdy -- which should provide relief to the tech types who think GM has lost its engineering way.

Regarding his campaign to throttle BMW, Stracke says his performance division already has the technical firepower to easily put the Bavarians on notice. Unfortunately, some of those products and systems have been shuttered or shelved when GM was in the throes of bankruptcy, but Stracke is confident that even without them, Cadillac will prevail with an approach that relies on high technology and basics, like weight reduction.

“We will be better than BMW on unsprung mass,” he claims.

But it wasn’t all high-test, race- track talk either. Stracke spoke briefly about Buick’s resurgence and how the company wants to grow the brand into a full line up vehicles, starting with a compact sedan based on the same global architecture as the Cruze and a small crossover below the Enclave. He says Buick will slot in below Cadillac in terms of performance, but will be on par when it comes to NVH levels, etc. We also talked hybrid…tires?

Yup. One of Stracke’s boldest, most esoteric claims during our whirlwind lunch was that the Chevy Volt’s Goodyear tires will be “the best on the market,” with a combination of the “lowest rolling resistance, best stopping distance and impressive ride quality.” Those who know tires, know that these characteristics are usually in direct conflict. Although we can’t say we’re as excited as Stracke is, we’re certainly curious to experience them for ourselves.

The take-away message from Stracke’s visit to MTHQ is that the “New GM” no longer suffers from the problems of group think and buck passing that plagued the old GM. Stracke is confident that GM’s coming products are on target and ready to blow away the competition.

“We know what we need to do. Good products…strong products…with the right powertrain.”

Long time GM watchers and auto industry cynics might have a different view of Stracke’s outspokenness and New GM spin. After all, it’s not like he’s an industry outsider parachuting in to shake up The General. Stracke joined GM’s Opel division in 1979 and his worked his way up ever since. But my gut instinct tells me that any time you have a Harley-riding, Corvette-driving, plain speaking instigator in charge of making cars go at GM, that’s a good thing.

Good luck Karl.

Read more: http://blogs.motortrend.com/6650713/new-cars/gm-vp-z-28-coming-cadillac-gunning-for-bmw-next-gen-camaro-to-alpha/index.html#ixzz0pGjXaSH1

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GM VP: Z/28 Coming, Cadillac Gunning for BMW, next-gen Camaro to Alpha

Posted Today 04:30 AM by Edward Loh

Filed under: New Cars, The Lohdown, Cadillac

“Our goal is Cadillac against BMW -- very clearly. We will bring performance to these cars…and be on par or better than BMW. That is our plan.”

“We need to win,” he said repeatedly. “Not just shoot for the middle.”

Regarding his campaign to throttle BMW, Stracke says his performance division already has the technical firepower to easily put the Bavarians on notice. Unfortunately, some of those products and systems have been shuttered or shelved when GM was in the throes of bankruptcy, but Stracke is confident that even without them, Cadillac will prevail with an approach that relies on high technology and basics, like weight reduction.

Regarding these points:

Cadillac has claimed they were going after BMW and Benz since around 1985, so making the claim is nothing new, we've heard it for 25 years and they haven't gotten there yet. Secondly, how does one bring performance to FWD Cadillacs?

I would agree they need to win, and not shoot for the middle. However, a Cadillac Equinox, Cadillac LaCrosse, Cadillac Traverse, and Cadillac Tahoe is shooting for the middle.

If they have all this technical and engineering firepower where is it? Karl seems to say, "we would have surpassed BMW, but we went bankrupt and couldn't do anything." Right, and the Pittsburgh Pirates would have made it to the world series and beat the Yankees last year, except they didn't have $210 million to spend on players. Cadillac needs less talk and more action, quit saying you are aiming for the Germans and actually do it. On weight reduction, where is that at? Every Cadillac over the past 5-10 years has gotten fatter, the weights are not dropping.

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How does one bring performance to FWD Cadillacs?

The same way BMW will bring performance to their FWD 1-Series: Engineering.

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THis guy is one of many who have been muzzled over the years by coperate leaders. Today he can finally speak out and sounds as if he now has been enabled to do his job to 100% of his ability vs being forced to change much of what he wants.

The BMW claim is real for once. His point is the ATS is going to be the real deal for once and the foundation Cadillac will rise up upon. Cats like the XTC and the Buick Lacross are just left overs of the pre chapter 11. To this point we have yet to see the new unhindered products of the new GM yet. It will take about 2-3 more years to see the virgin product. Till then we will see the improved old projects.

AS friend at GM has made it clear there is a lot on the shelf ready and waiting to be unleased. GM has no money to bring it out and left the ideas sit. They will be dusted off and will be updated to new product soon.

As for FWD there is a place for it and even the others will move to it in time. BMW has already stated to be doing a FWD and Benz I am sure will have one too very soon. The green movent in Germany will make them look to green their ways and smaller and FWD is the way they will show they are a responsible company with more MPG with luxury. Many of the people who buy these car have little idea what end is driving anyway unless they have a M series or drive in snow.

Weight reduction is coming because it has to for all brands. Some will lose weight with more expensive alloys and other will just get smaller.

The Goodyear Fuel Max tires are already out and on the Prius. They really are less rolling and still handle like a normal sedan tire. We had them on a soap box derby car for a Goodyear press event and the other car had Assurance comfort treads. The Fuel Max tires in identical cars on the same hill rolled so much better. They reallyt work.

This is the kind of guy we need not only does he speak out but he is in a place he can really bring the changes we need. I hope he keep channeling Lutz and Mark heeds his calls on product.

Keep in mind these are the guys who turned a Cobalt SS into a great perfromance car. If they can take a pigs ear and make silk just imagine once they get something real to work with. No more fixing a already comprimised car but to built one right from the start.

If you don't thing FWD and performance work then you never drove the Cobalt SS.

Edited by hyperv6

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AS friend at GM has made it clear there is a lot on the shelf ready and waiting to be unleased. GM has no money to bring it out and left the ideas sit. They will be dusted off and will be updated to new product soon.

The Goodyear Fuel Max tires are already out and on the Prius. They really are less rolling and still handle like a normal sedan tire. We had them on a soap box derby car for a Goodyear press event and the other car had Assurance comfort treads. The Fuel Max tires in identical cars on the same hill rolled so much better. They reallyt work.

The key there is "on the shelf" and "waiting," where as the Germans, Jaguar, even Infiniti, have products in the showroom and on sale now. The second sentence is also very valid, "GM has no money." Mercedes plans to spend $6-8 billion a year in R&D for the next 5 years. GM as a whole spends about $8 billion a year (on a high spending year) so even if Cadillac gets 25% of GM's whole budget it is about $2 billion max. If you are behind in the race, and have $2 billion while the front runner has $6 billion it is hard to catch up.

My personal belief is that Goodyear tires are rubbish, I would never buy them. I also think low rolling resistance tires belong on slush-mobiles like the Prius and not on anything remotely fun to drive. Cadillacs should have Michelin Pilot Sport tires or an equivalent from Pirelli.

All Cadillacs should be rear drive standard, awd as an option, all should have a diesel or hybrid option (preferably diesel since the Euros like it) and all Cadillac model lines should offer a V8. Cadillac is famous for V8s, they need to continue that tradition.

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The key there is "on the shelf" and "waiting," where as the Germans, Jaguar, even Infiniti, have products in the showroom and on sale now. The second sentence is also very valid, "GM has no money." Mercedes plans to spend $6-8 billion a year in R&D for the next 5 years. GM as a whole spends about $8 billion a year (on a high spending year) so even if Cadillac gets 25% of GM's whole budget it is about $2 billion max. If you are behind in the race, and have $2 billion while the front runner has $6 billion it is hard to catch up.

Which is why GM cannot do this right now:

Cadillacs should be rear drive standard, awd as an option, all should have a diesel or hybrid option (preferably diesel since the Euros like it) and all Cadillac model lines should offer a V8. Cadillac is famous for V8s, they need to continue that tradition.

The SRX, which is FWD, is an amazing product for its class, and is tearing up the sales charts and generating money for GM. It's vehicles like it that will one day financially pave the way for a lineup that will truly challenge the likes of BMW and Mercedes. Rome was not built in a day. You say Mercedes is spending 6-8 billion in the next few years? Ok, but how much of that is going to their 'luxury' cars, and not their trucks, vans, and A and B-Classes?

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Secondly, how does one bring performance to FWD Cadillacs?

I would agree they need to win, and not shoot for the middle. However, a Cadillac Equinox, Cadillac LaCrosse, Cadillac Traverse, and Cadillac Tahoe is shooting for the middle.

I've got nothing against the Escalade, but the FWD $h! has to stop!!!

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I've got nothing against the Escalade, but the FWD $h! has to stop!!!

I know what you mean the old SRX RWD/AWD really was a sales home run well double ehhh maybe a single.... well it had a good pesonality.........

People in that class buy more FWD and AWD lexus than anything elese. Give them what they want only in a better package. GM has met them and now only needs to exveed them.

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The key there is "on the shelf" and "waiting," where as the Germans, Jaguar, even Infiniti, have products in the showroom and on sale now. The second sentence is also very valid, "GM has no money." Mercedes plans to spend $6-8 billion a year in R&D for the next 5 years. GM as a whole spends about $8 billion a year (on a high spending year) so even if Cadillac gets 25% of GM's whole budget it is about $2 billion max. If you are behind in the race, and have $2 billion while the front runner has $6 billion it is hard to catch up.

My personal belief is that Goodyear tires are rubbish, I would never buy them. I also think low rolling resistance tires belong on slush-mobiles like the Prius and not on anything remotely fun to drive. Cadillacs should have Michelin Pilot Sport tires or an equivalent from Pirelli.

All Cadillacs should be rear drive standard, awd as an option, all should have a diesel or hybrid option (preferably diesel since the Euros like it) and all Cadillac model lines should offer a V8. Cadillac is famous for V8s, they need to continue that tradition.

You have to walk before you run. GM only now is starting to get the money and new staff and systems in. This is not an overnight change.

As for your personal belief we all have seen example of it and that means so much. I have a set Pilots now that are rubbish. All tire companies have good and bad tires and most OE tires are crap. The pourpose built ones are often the only ones that are usally ok as they are often the only ones a tire company makes money on the rest are often sold at little to no profit. That is why many of the cars are now coming with cheap Korean tires or Peirelli's made in Brazil.

Ad for all Cadillacs being FWD it is not going to happen. There is a large segment of the market that still wants FWD in some classes. Also the RWD only companies are all starting to adapt to the FWD market. When you see BMW take a Mini and make a build a FWD car and Aston Martin take a Nissan and try to sell a FWD City car That shows you the market and they will change. Even Volvo has gone AWD and FWD.

The performance cars need to be RWD but a luxury sedan that is not perfromance related few people care what end is driven and with the call for FWD anymore many people want it.

Greening of Euro cars is a game changer in the direction of Cadillac.

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The SRX, which is FWD, is an amazing product for its class, and is tearing up the sales charts and generating money for GM. It's vehicles like it that will one day financially pave the way for a lineup that will truly challenge the likes of BMW and Mercedes. Rome was not built in a day. You say Mercedes is spending 6-8 billion in the next few years? Ok, but how much of that is going to their 'luxury' cars, and not their trucks, vans, and A and B-Classes?

Well the S-class takes up a lot of their R&D budget because all of their top technology is on it, and it is the car that produces the most profit.

The same claim of "these front drivers will pave the way for the future" could have been made about the W-bodies in 1988, or the G-body of the late 90s and early 2000s, or of Saturns, Hummers, Pontiacs, etc. GM made tons of cars that were cheap to build, and sold a lot of volume and it didn't get them anywhere. I'd rather see Cadillac have 2 great cars on their lot, rather than 1-2 good ones and 3-4 dolled up Chevys. The SRX cut the price by $12,000 (and it doesn't look like a station wagon) that is why it is selling better. I think Cadillac needs prestige, not cheap cars to sell in bulk. Cadillac should want to be Nortstrom, not Wal-Mart.

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There is a large segment of the market that still wants FWD in some classes.

The performance cars need to be RWD but a luxury sedan that is not perfromance related few people care what end is driven and with the call for FWD anymore many people want it.

Greening of Euro cars is a game changer in the direction of Cadillac.

GM has Buick and GMC to make FWD crossovers and appeal to the "large part of the market" that wants a $38-38k vehicle. Cadillac should not be going after that market, Cadillac should be aiming for the $50-100,000 market. If GM is going to run Cadillac downmarket to sell fancier versions of Chevy, then why are Buick and GMC still here?

Rear drive is not only better for performance and handling, but it rides smoother and you can have a longer wheel base, thus more interior room. Luxury cars should have interior room and a smooth ride. And rear drive doesn't mean worse fuel economy, I just read how a BMW 120d (I think a 2011 with a new engine) averaged 63 mpg in their testing. So who cares about a Cruze Eco that can squeak out 40 mpg, when you can get 60 mpg and rear drive.

I agree that the green movement is in effect, but the winners will be the ones that don't sacrifice performance and still have the fuel economy. The next-generation S-class has a plugin hybrid that gets over 70 mpg and does 0-60 in 5 seconds. Cadillac should be building stuff like that. But also at the high end of the luxury market there are many customers who don't care about mileage at all. S-class sales are up 60% globally this year, people buying a 13 mpg V12 S-class don't care what gas costs, or how much an oil change costs, they just want the ultimate.

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THis guy is one of many who have been muzzled over the years by coperate leaders. Today he can finally speak out and sounds as if he now has been enabled to do his job to 100% of his ability vs being forced to change much of what he wants.

The BMW claim is real for once. His point is the ATS is going to be the real deal for once and the foundation Cadillac will rise up upon. Cats like the XTC and the Buick Lacross are just left overs of the pre chapter 11. To this point we have yet to see the new unhindered products of the new GM yet. It will take about 2-3 more years to see the virgin product. Till then we will see the improved old projects.

AS friend at GM has made it clear there is a lot on the shelf ready and waiting to be unleased. GM has no money to bring it out and left the ideas sit. They will be dusted off and will be updated to new product soon.

As for FWD there is a place for it and even the others will move to it in time. BMW has already stated to be doing a FWD and Benz I am sure will have one too very soon. The green movent in Germany will make them look to green their ways and smaller and FWD is the way they will show they are a responsible company with more MPG with luxury. Many of the people who buy these car have little idea what end is driving anyway unless they have a M series or drive in snow.

Weight reduction is coming because it has to for all brands. Some will lose weight with more expensive alloys and other will just get smaller.

The Goodyear Fuel Max tires are already out and on the Prius. They really are less rolling and still handle like a normal sedan tire. We had them on a soap box derby car for a Goodyear press event and the other car had Assurance comfort treads. The Fuel Max tires in identical cars on the same hill rolled so much better. They reallyt work.

This is the kind of guy we need not only does he speak out but he is in a place he can really bring the changes we need. I hope he keep channeling Lutz and Mark heeds his calls on product.

Keep in mind these are the guys who turned a Cobalt SS into a great perfromance car. If they can take a pigs ear and make silk just imagine once they get something real to work with. No more fixing a already comprimised car but to built one right from the start.

If you don't thing FWD and performance work then you never drove the Cobalt SS.

how are the fuel max in snow....though......low resistance tires generally are sh-t in snow.....

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how are the fuel max in snow....though......low resistance tires generally are sh-t in snow.....

To this point they ride and drive as any other normal Assurance tire. tire compounding has come a long long way in the last 5-10 years. Even today they gain more in a year than they did over 10 years in the past.

I run the Triple Treads now in the winter on two cars in the NE Ohio Snow Belt with no drama.They have been excellent in snow and even better in rain.

What used to be a black balloon is now a very engineered item that many fail to understand they are not just molded out chunk of rubber.

The bottom line is all tire companies have good lines of tires and they all have dogs. They are no different than a car company. They all have their Cruze and Cobalts and it shows usally in the price.

I was talking last night to a buddy who is a engineer for Bridgestone Firestone and we were talking about better lines vs the crap tires he has to deal with. In this town it is easy to know people who work or most of the tire companies even the Korean ones as most engineering is done here for many of them. You learn a lot of the dirty secrets on many tire models.

OE tires for the most are like fleet sales for a auto company. Unless they are a focused model made specific to a model like the Fuel Max for the Volt or the Pilot for the ZR1 they are usally a cheaper tire sold at little to no profit. Your Handkooks and Pirelli's on cars like the Cobalt and other standard cars are generally not their best product but they sell them in hopes to gain in replacment sales with name recognition.

Goodyear and a few others played that game but found it was limited. They find it better now to build better tires for the replacment market and build upon a better quilty tire and only do OE where it is in their benifit. Goodyear made little money and put out a lot of Eagle GT's in the 80's that were not great tires. But today they have a GT that is a great tire but few companies will buy it for OE because Goodyear will not low ball the price or qulity as they got burned before doing his.

Their crap tires like the RSA and a couple other lines will soon be gone and they will have a better line up.

The Pilots on my SS are some of the worst tires Michelin makes but that does not mean they don't make good tires.

The Fuel Max will be a good tire and the others are working hard in construction and compounding to do a similar tire. The car companies want tires that will gain MPG and they are willing to pay for them as long as they respond like a good tire will. They want the cars to drive normal like the Volt and will pay more for these tirs.

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