WHEELS has learnt that a right-hook Chevy Camaro program has been secretly green-lighted as Holden executives firm up model plans through to 2022.
Backroom wrangling and Australia’s enduring desire for rear-drive V8 muscle has seen GM tick the box to ensure the iconic American two-door can be sold here – if Aussies want it.
The move could see a range of Camaros heading down under to provide a $50K performance alternative in Holden’s rapidly expanding showrooms.
But there’s a catch – engineering work for the V8-powered rival to the Ford Mustang won’t happen until the next generation model, due about 2021.
While the Camaro delay has caused some internal frustration at Holden – the rival Mustang is attracting some 6000 buyers a year, giving it a huge head start – there is no doubt relief that a right-hook program for the image leader has finally been signed off.
Holden has promised a rear-drive V8 model in its 2020 line-up, though the next-gen Camaro is not expected until at least 2021; before then, it’s likely the eighth-generation Corvette will sit alongside imported Commodores.
Helping Camaro’s cause is Australian Mike Simcoe. The vice president of global design for GM keeps his eye on the relatively small Aussie market to support Holden where possible.
Simcoe understands his home market intimately, something that helps the chances of future RHD projects such as Camaro.
“Where we see there’s a need to have right-hand drive, yeah,” said Simcoe. “We’ll have the ability to make a choice but the architecture will accommodate left- and right-hand drive.”
The man in charge of planning for General Motors International, Lowell Paddock, says right-hand drive is more important than ever for the company, paving the way for more models for Holden.
“There’s much more consciousness now. And the fact that the president of the company [New Zealander Dan Ammann] is saying ‘we committed to do this, we’re going to do it’, that’s a dialogue we haven’t had in the past,” Paddock said.
Simcoe says it’s about thinking globally, something helped by production techniques that allow for consolidation of platforms.
“The reality is as we reduce the total number of architectures they are going to be more global. We don’t design a vehicle specifically for North America any more, because you always get caught out if you do. The numbers of those is reducing.”
As well as a V8 and four-cylinder turbo for the Camaro, expect it to be package-protected for a hybrid system, allowing GM to future-proof it against tightening emissions regulations.
While GM will engineer the next Camaro for right-hand drive, the program is designed so that pulling the plug at the last minute (should the four-wheeled world change dramatically over the next couple of years, and Australia suddenly decides it doesn’t like American muscle cars) won’t hurt the bottom line.
That’s a call likely to be made around 2018 or 2019.
The way the Mustang is selling, though, the Oz-bound Camaro is all but a done deal.