After a long, three-year wait, Chevrolet’s reborn Camaro pony car began rolling off the assembly line earlier this week. General Motors officials are hoping the sporty coupe will play a critical role in rebuilding the ailing automaker’s image in an increasingly skeptical market.
But two key variants of the new Camaro have been delayed — and could even be killed off entirely — due to the worsening budget crisis plaguing GM and its suppliers, a senior company executive tells TheDetroitBureau.com.
The most immediate problem for Chevy will be saving the Camaro convertible. The project was ready to roll, with production scheduled to begin about a year after the launch of the coupe, according to company officials. But plans have been put on hold because of the collapse of the German company responsible for supplying the convertible top, explains Gene Stefanyshyn, Camaro’s Vehicle Line Executive.
“We’re looking to find an alternative source for the top,” Stefanyshyn said, but he cautions that even if one can be lined up in short order, it will take time to bring a new supplier up to speed and ensure that production can begin. Another source said that a delay of at least six months is likely. That means the Camaro convertible likely will miss the spring and summer market, in 2010, severely limiting initial demand.
As for the Camaro Z28, GM has only itself to blame. “It would cost too much,” acknowledged Stefanyshyn, at an estimated price of about $50 million to bring to market. In years past, GM likely would have barely noticed that figure, since the Z28 has traditionally been a major halo car for the brand. With a planned horsepower rating of 570, Chevy was hoping to use the next-generation Z28 to regain its long-sought dominance over Camaro’s prime rival, the Ford Mustang.
Chevrolet officials aren’t ready to abandon the Z28 entirely. But Stefanyshyn admits it will take some creative engineering work to come up with an equally competitive product at a much lower price before the ultimate pony car could be placed back on the production schedule.
So, for the moment, Chevy will have to settle for three Camaro variants: the base and mid-level RS models equipped with a V-6, and the V-8-powered SS. First drive details coming soon from TDB.