With a new Camaro Convertible on the way, can a true performance version of Chevrolet’s pony car be far behind? For the fans who’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of the Camaro Z28 there appears to be good news, hints General Motors President Mark Reuss.
In an exclusive conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com, Reuss noted that a close look at “spy shots” of a performance-based Camaro “shows my head behind the wheel.” While he declined to officially confirm what the camouflaged vehicle was, Reuss said, “yeah,” when asked if a Z28 might be considered a good guess.
Other sources confirmed that the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 is set to debut late next year, and that it will go into production most likely carrying a 2012 model-year designation.
A variant of the current Camaro V8, bored out to 6.2 liters, is expected to provide the power – which will almost certainly exceed 500 horsepower. Using modern measurements, it would be the most powerful car ever to wear the Chevrolet Camaro badge.
Bringing the Z28 to market has been a major challenge – but its revival reflects well on the GM that emerged from bankruptcy last year. The latest-generation Camaro was a critical step in rebuilding the GM image, but the maker ran into a series of problems as it set out to add several spin-offs of the reborn pony car.
The Camaro Convertible was delayed by more than a year because of the collapse of the original supplier chosen to provide the ragtop roof. It took time to find a viable replacement and required some modest re-engineering to get the project back on track. But with the Z28 project, the problems were far more fundamental.
“It was going to cost too much,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, who served as Vehicle Line Executive for the Camaro, during an interview last year.
In years past, Stefanyshyn added, GM might have been willing to accept the fact that it would never make money on the program in order to have the bragging rights for marketing such a powerful product. But that approach was abandoned under the bankruptcy reorganization. So, it required finding a way to trim the costs – but without sacrificing performance, styling or any of the other attributes that would be needed to make the Camaro Z28 a serious contender against competitors such as the Shelby GT500 Mustang.
“We’re not going to put cars in the portfolio for GM, anymore, if they’re just competitive,” Reuss said of the maker’s new product strategy. Any new offering must be able to beat the competition.
If anything, a Z28 could be precisely what Chevrolet needs to maintain its competitive edge. Barring an unexpected upset, the current Camaro coupe seems a shoe-in to outsell all the Mustang variants combined this year, which would mark the first time that has happened in nearly three decades.
Through November, Chevrolet has seen Camaro sales jump 51%, to 71,521 – reflecting, in part, its arrival in mid-2009. But however measured, the numbers still put Camaro about 7,000 sales ahead of Mustang with just one month left to the year.
But even Chevy insiders concede that the pony car segment is decidedly fickle. “Buyers want the newest and greatest,” said one source, which is why Ford has routinely updated the Mustang line-up with new body styles and powertrains – this year adding a pair of new engines to the line-up, as well as the Boss 302 spin-off.
The convertible, which arrives in February, is critical to maintain interest in the Camaro nameplate. And a Z28, arriving a year later, would add further momentum, insiders believe.