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RWD Impala variant, GTO, DOA

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Bob Lutz, speaking at the Detroit Auto Show has ruled out rwd Impala (for now) GoAuto - News By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS 16 January 2008

GENERAL MOTORS has confirmed that a VE Commodore-based Monaro is a non-starter for now, as Holden is set to lead any pending development of the smaller rear-drive Torana.

Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM ‘car czar’ Bob Lutz sounded the Monaro’s death knell loud and clear.

“I think (the Monaro/Pontiac GTO) is gone for now,” Mr Lutz said.

“We’ve got nothing in the product plan right now like that. We’d like to have, but you can’t do everything.”

However, the ebullient senior GM executive then went on to raise hopes that the Holden-developed but Canadian-built Chevrolet Camaro – due to be launched globally next year – might be imported into Australia as a sort of Monaro replacement instead.

While Mr Lutz stopped short of actually announcing the Camaro for Australia (“I don’t think I should be put in a position of confirming vehicle introductions for Australia”), he did say that its basic architecture was designed from the outset for a right-hand drive configuration.

“You’ll have to ask (new Holden managing director and CEO Mark Reuss),” he teased.

“But let’s put it this way: since right-hand drive is available in the (Camaro’s VE Commodore-based Zeta) architecture, and since we would like to obviously sell some in Singapore, the UK and even the odd one in Japan, there is certainly a distinct possibility that it could be sold in Australia.”

Mr Lutz revealed that he halted the development of, or killed off, some future Zeta-based vehicles such as the Monaro and a proposed rear-wheel drive Impala V8, as GM seeks to downsize its range in order for it to meet the US Government’s new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) legislation, which requires manufacturers to reach a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon (6.72L/100km) by 2020.

“In terms of fuel economy, that’s not the end of the market where we want to stimulate demand,” Mr Lutz explained.

“We have to find ways to stimulate demand and desirability in cars that will get us closer to the 35 MPG average.

“Because the Monaro and the (VE Commodore sedan-based Pontiac) G8 – as good as they are, and even though we can emphasise V6 engines over a V8 and at some point put in a hybrid system etc – are not going to get us to the 35 (figure).”

It is becoming clear that the ‘Alpha’ Torana – as well as SUVs that ditch the truck-base chassis for a Zeta-derived monocoque construction – might be a smarter solution to help the GM fleet meet the 2020 CAFE target.

However, Mr Lutz also warned that the future CAFE laws do not automatically green-light the Torana.

“Torana is a rear-wheel drive vehicle smaller than the Zeta architecture and smaller than the current CTS Cadillac architecture. It is, or would be, about the size of a BMW 1 Series – maybe just a tiny bit bigger to enable larger wheels.

“Now that is the architecture that has been bandied about the US press under the name of ‘Alpha Architecture’, and Alpha is still under consideration, but we haven’t kicked off any design work or any engineering work because we have to sort our way through this 35 MPG task.

“As a lightweight rear-wheel drive car that is going to add about 1MPG compared to an equivalent lightweight front-wheel drive car – we just have to sort of wait awhile and see where we are.”

Nevertheless, Mr Lutz was keen to keep Holden very much in the picture should the Torana go ahead.

“If we proceed with the Alpha Architecture, I think it is safe to say that Holden would be vitally interested in participating in that project.”

Holden in Australia is now GM’s global ‘Home Room’ for middle-to-large rear-wheel drive vehicles including sedans and utilities.

Home Room is GM-speak for the GM division that is responsible for all the development of a particular architecture.

Mr Lutz also singled out GM-DAT in South Korea as GM’s centre for light cars, Opel in Germany for small and medium-sized front-wheel drive vehicles and their derivatives, Brazil for Hummer and the United States as the Home Room for Cadillac, Corvette, the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky convertibles, and full-sized truck and utilities/SUVs.
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