By on December 3, 2012

A couple of years ago, I attended my last General Motors press event. It was the debut of the Cadillac CTS-v Coupe and it was held at the Monticello country-club racetrack. I recall being impressed with the car, and I recall being impressed with Mark Reuss, the second-generation GM executive who brought his own helmet and his Grand-Am license to the event. Like Bob Lutz, Reuss is a big, handsome, improbably wealthy fellow who travels with a personal assistant, speaks in a no-nonsense tone, and carries himself with impervious confidence.

My attitude to the superstar dudes of the industry closely parallels that of O’Shea Jackson (warning: listening to that song at work will GET YOU FIRED) so I didn’t bother to chat Mr. Reuss up until we found ourselves side by side in the airport terminal. I asked him his opinion of the handling differences between the various CTS bodystyles, listened to him tell a couple of stories about road racing, and received some mild chastisement for turfing “his” Cadillac at high speed. It wasn’t until my flight home was halfway over that I realized: Yeah, he’s a great guy, but his company is failing miserably and he really isn’t doing anything to stop it. GM is chock-full of likable, even admirable people who are nevertheless collectively part of a great tragedy. It really doesn’t matter how “cool” a guy like Mark Reuss is. He’s being beaten out of his socks by “uncool” people at other companies, and as automotive journalists we’re not serving the truth if we don’t remind our readers of that simple fact every time it’s necessary. Every single time. Even if nobody else is willing to discuss the enormous elephant in the room — you know, the one with “18% Market Share” and “Bailout” and “Worst Product Line In the Industry” tattooed all over its wrinkly bottom.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about the new “Chevrolet SS”.

TTAC wasn’t invited to the Las Vegas party for the NASCAR SS, so we’ll have to rely on Autoblog’s Jonathon Ramsey, who sat with Mr. Reuss at lunch and faithfully reported the great man’s words. Readers who want the complete remarks should read the article, which is entitled “How the SS will become Chevy’s four-door Corvette halo car”. Much of the article discusses NASCAR’s struggles to maintain a competitive balance while still giving the viewing audience a field of cars that at least vaguely resembles what’s available at dealerships. I’d like to skip over that and concentrate on Reuss’s remarks regarding the 2014 Chevrolet SS.

If you’re just arriving on the Internet, here’s the scoop: For a third time, GM is trying to bring over one of its rear-wheel-drive Australian cars for American consumption. The first effort was the Pontiac GTO, which was nice big coupe caught in an unfortunate crossfire of dealer greed and almost perfect resemblance to the Chevrolet Cavalier of the time. The Pontiac G8 sedan which followed was well-liked but couldn’t compete effectively with the Camry on one side and the Chrysler LX-platform cars on the other. Will the third time be a charm? Ramsey writes

There are two vital ways in which the SS will not be The Pontiac G8 2.0, however: It’s going upmarket and it’s not for the masses. In fact, Reuss said the SS is a completely different car from the G8, specifically in terms of refinement and NVH, and that’s before you get to the high-power small-block V8 that, in his words, makes the SS “a four-door Corvette.”

That’s odd; I seem to recall that the Pontiac G8 GXP had a high-power small-block V8 from the two-door Corvette. Still, there’s a kernel of sense in this popcorn bag of insanity. Your humble author found the V-6 G8 to be a pretty decent ride, but the rest of the market clearly preferred the V-8 models. Like it or not, the day when regular American families wanted a 200-inch-long rear-wheel-drive V-8 sedan for everyday use is long gone, and most of the families who do want that are probably better served by the Chrysler LX cars with their superior electronics and look-at-me styling. Why not make an ornament of an inconvenience and pitch this relatively low-volume car upmarket where you can make money on the few you will sell? Now for the rest of the popcorn bag:

Any time you mention the word Corvette, you’re probably not talking about an inexpensive car… Therefore, Chevy is treating the SS like a halo car: Instead of making grand predictions about production volumes or churning out a performance car that sits on dealer lots, Reuss said, “We will fill the orders of the people who want them.”

Gotcha. That’s manufacturer code-speak for “we asked the dealers about it and they didn’t want any inventory, not at what we’re charging”. Earlier in the interview, Reuss says the decision to bring the SS to America is “all about racing”. So why bother with the car at all? I don’t want to sound like I’m not a fan of auto racing — I’ve certainly spent a lot of my own time and money doing it — but shouldn’t GM be focusing its competitive efforts on the marketplace rather than the Talladega 400? What’s the point of bringing over a car you can’t sell and spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting it? Wouldn’t that money be better spent developing solid product? Furthermore, the company is still on the receiving end of taxpayer money, making this decision to go racing look uncomfortably like a stereotypical welfare recipient’s decision to spend his welfare check on drugs or liquor while his children starve at home.

As for the name, there is a bit of heritage to the SS badge as a nameplate, but it seems this was more about steering clear of what has come before… “We raced the Impala, Monte Carlo, Regal, Grand Prix, and they were all front-wheel-drive in their last [production] versions,” Reuss said, “and we didn’t want to come up with a new name for it.” As such, what’s happening now is also about returning some lustre to the SS badge, assuming it wins on Sunday come 2013: Reuss said he purged all of the SS models from the Chevrolet line-up except on the Camaro because none of the other offerings were about increased performance, only trim pieces, which is a bit of a slap in the face to an acronym for “Super Sport.”

I’ve yet to speak to anybody who thinks calling this Australian sedan the “Chevy SS” is a good idea. It’s just as stupid as, oh, let’s come up with a few other takes on the subject:

  • The Honda Si
  • The Ford LX
  • The Toyota GT-S
  • The Nissan GT-R… oh, damn.

The prospective “Chevy SS” buyer will probably spot other “SS” cars during his test drive: a Trailblazer SS, a Malibu Maxx SS, a Cobalt SS, an HHR SS. If he’s particularly lucky, he will see one of the non-supercharged Monte Carlo SS models. None of those will have ever cost what the “Chevy SS” does. He might see a Camaro SS, but the Camaro SS is at best third place in the Camaro hierarchy, below the ZL-1 and the 1LE. If he buys the “Chevy SS”, he will have the unenviable task of explaining to his neighbors what he’s purchased, said conversation likely being made additionally difficult by most people’s awareness that SS has meant a trim level of some type since time immemorial. “A Chevy SS what?”

“Uh, a Chevy SS.”

“Yes, but what kind?”

“Just, um, a Chevy SS.”

Assuming this “halo sedan” costs at least forty-five thousand bucks, which is what a G8 GXP would cost today, it’s easy to conjure any number of more satisfying conversations that someone might be able to have with their neighbors for that kind of money, and none of them involve General Motors products. Speaking of: will this sedan be permitted to be as fast as, say, a Cadillac CTS-V? If not, how much slower will it be? Will it be faster than the regular CTS 3.6? If so, then why would anybody buy the Cadillac? Why, exactly, does Chevrolet need a “halo car”? Shouldn’t the Chevrolet buyer be aspiring to a Buick or Cadillac? How many high-dollar halo performance sedans does GM need, particularly in an era where they can’t even be bothered to engineer their own small cars?

It’s also a little confusing to read Mr. Reuss’s assertion that the “SS” is called the “SS” because calling it anything else would have required a “new name”. I’m no Chevy historian but I can think of a few names which would have some positive associations. Biscayne. Bel Air. Chevelle. Eurosport. Just kidding about that last one. If none of those work, why not really put some juice behind the “four-door Corvette” idea and call it the “Corvette Touring”? That’s no less credible than, say, the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe.

In the end, it won’t matter. The “SS” is doomed, as DOA as its predecessors were. The market for an upmarket halo Chevrolet with a silly name just isn’t that good in the current economic climate — or any other. Not that the auto media will bother to tell you about that. They’ll fawn over the car, enjoy the lavish press event, burn the back tires off the “long-term tester”, then write a wistful article about what a great used-car value it is after GM cancels the program in 2016 or so.

Still, it didn’t have to be this way. It would be nice to have a time machine, wouldn’t it? We could go back to 2003 or thereabouts and convince GM to bring the GTO over as the Chevrolet Chevelle. It would have been a nice fit in the lineup and the resemblance to the Cavalier would have been a benefit, not a hindrance. The revised G8-based Chevelle would have brought volume and repeat customers to Chevy stores instead of clogging up soon-to-be-closed Pontiac dealerships. By the third generation, the cars could be made in the United States, serving the livery and police markets as well as providing a genuine alternative to the Dodge Charger. The feckless new-gen Malibu and an Azera-alike Impala wouldn’t be quite so disappointing with a $28,000 V-6 Chevelle next to them on showroom floors. Everybody wins.

Of course, if you really had access to a time machine you wouldn’t bother to visit the General Motors of 2003. You’d buy stocks during the Crash of ’29. You’d sneak into Versailles and impress Marie Antoinette with your iPad. Or you might do something that has always been near and dear to my academic heart; you’d travel back to the final days of Imperial Rome to find out why the greatest civilization in history up to that point simply gave up and let the barbarians storm the gates. Imagine the final emperors, serene in their bubbles of misinformation and fawning praise, believing they would continue to rule even as their doom was laid plain for all to see.

Time machines are a fantasy, but I don’t need one to know what a Roman emperor looked like before the fall. I’ve seen it with my own eyes — and so has Jonathon Ramsey.

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79 Comments on “GM’s wishful thinking swallows the Pontiac G8, spits out the Chevrolet SS....”


  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    You’d think, if they were trying to work the Chevy NASCAR angle, they would have put an 88 or a 14 on that car.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Or a great big 3, just saying.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      It’s called the SS and you say put the number 88 on it. That’ll lock up the white supremacist market for sure. Perhaps a nice Hindu swastika paint job might really set that off.

      (88 can be code for HH, aka Heil Hitler among certain types, and Nazi SS graphics are likewise popular amongst the same crowd.)

      • 0 avatar
        MrGreenMan

        I’ll have to go tell Dale Junior that the Mountain Dew Chevrolet #88 — ostensibly the most popular car in NASCAR — is a secret code from Rick Hendrick to white supremacists everywhere.

  • avatar

    You know, if GM was genuinely serious about bringing the Holden cars to the U.S., wouldn’t they go about making plans to build the damned thing right here in our backyard (or barring that, perhaps Mexico or Canada)? As long as the Aussies are tasked with putting it together, GM’s gonna have a ready-made excuse for bowing out of attempts to bring these cars to our shores.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The guys who really want a “V8, RWD, performance sedan, wearing a Chevy badge” want something like the Dodge Charger and they want it to start around $25,000 not in the 40s. GM is even too stupid to understand that.

    • 0 avatar
      BigDuke6

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      It’s because it is being built in Australia.

      What’s really funny is that this is just the sedan version of the Chevy Camaro. The same exact platform. But the Chevy Camaro is made in Canada so you can get a V6, 6 speed manual one for about $22K, or a 6 liter V8 one for about $30K.

      This is a rare situation where a sedan version of a car is going to cost much, much more than the coupe version.

  • avatar
    DPerkins

    This editorial is right on the money – a decent product at the wrong time, positioned incorrectly (price, name, styling, etc.) given the other sedans in GM showrooms and in competitor’s showrooms.

    Sad really, and more proof that this is the same old GM.

    • 0 avatar
      tatracitroensaab

      This thing will be a killer used car. I would totally line up for one, in, oh… about ten years.

      But seriously this sounds like vaporware or some sick april fools joke. Chevy SS? What?

      Oh I just remembered — the American police can get the Holden sedan, why dont they just sell a civilian version? Theyve already Americanized it so it cant hurt to have it on order?

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Are there people at GM that understand this and do they have the balls to say it?

      Clearly the answer to one or both of these questions is no.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having been around when Chevy launched the “SS” line, I have to say it was pretty much a trim and interior package, with one of more powerful V-8′s (the 327 inch 4-bbl., if I recall). It was the final step up, above an Impala. It’s true that there were some pretty hairy “SS” models, most notably the Chevelle SS 396; but the original full-size SS line, launched in 1964 or 1965 was more show than go.

    But, Jack is right, the original Chevy SS was mostly about cheap thrills, just like the rest of the muscle cars that arrived beginning in the mid-1960s. So, even in today’s inflated dollars, a $40K “SS” misses that mark, because that isn’t cheap. Just as a f’rinstance, why would anyone buy this car over the cheaper Mustang 5.0? Because it has a functional back seat? Guys who have to be concerned about having a functional back seat in a hot car are unlikely to be very numerous, especially at that price point. And, for the same dollars wouldn’t those who want to buy good ol’ RWD Detroit iron buy the “imported from Detroit, made in Canada” Chrysler 300C? I think it has more presence that the Australian product.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I think the first SS was actually a trim package on the 1961 Impala. It wasn’t technically a muscle car, as it was a full sized car. The original muscle cars were intermediates with big block engines from full sized luxury cars, as originated by the GTO.

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        You are basically right CJinSD, it was a 1961 trim package on either a two or four door Impala but it was only available with an upper-end 348 or its mid year 409 replacement motor, so it did have some required umph.

        In 1962 or ’63, the SS became a separate model (I can’t remember which year) and stayed that way through 1967 but even as a separate model, it could be had with any engine from a lowly six to a 409 or a 427 CI engine. For 1968 the separate SS model was dropped, and the SS went back to being an Impala option, referred to as Z03. It was discontinued entirely for 1969.

        The exception was the Z24 package of ’67, ’68 & ’69 which was referred to as the “SS427″. Those came with a standard 385 HP 427 CI motor (390 HP in ’69) or a special order 425 HP motor for ’68 and ’69.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      The “New”Chrysler 300C looks pretty dated from a styling and driving dynamics point of view. They have them on sale in Australia.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    I think it is obvious who this car is targeted towards; people who want a four-door American muscle sedan, but can’t quite justify the $70,000 price tag of a Cadillac CTS-V and don’t want a Mopar.

    Sure, cars like the Taurus SHO are only built because most people opt for cheaper models en masse, but GM didn’t have to go and develop a new platform; they just brought one over from Australia. And the platform is old. I’m sure they sunk a chunk of change into developing this car, but nowhere near what designing an all-new vehicle from the ground-up costs.

    If GM works a comfortable profit margin into the Chevy SS, well, why not? Dodge has its SRT8 models, Ford has its SHO, Chevy has…Cadillac? No, that doesn’t work. Those are high-profit margin vehicles. Looks like GM wants to try and cash in one more time.

  • avatar

    So what are we talking, $50k out the door? Assuming I’m in the market for a 400+ hp RWD four-door to haul my kid to baseball practice in style (which by coincidence I will be, soonish), why would I buy this over a Charger SRT-8 or a nice clean CPO CTS-V or any of several other more intriguing and likely better-sorted possibilities?

  • avatar
    nadude

    Jack–sorry you don’t like the name. However, I am not handsome, I don’t have an assistant–it was the head of NA product communications–my collegue–I am certainly not a superstar–and I show up everyday and leave nothing on the table to make the company what it can be. I am sorry you hate me, hate GM, and all of the hardworking people here. The rest of the article–well you write for this site I guess you can pen whatever you want.

    • 0 avatar

      Jack doesn’t hate you Mark, in fact he’d like to pull for you. he simply is pointing out the obvious, that GM’s marketing is the industry’s worst, and it negates all of the other efforts by the company.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @Buickman….As a lifetime GM emplyee, I’ve always respected, and supported, your thoughts and opinions here at TTAC. I do remember you predicting the BK. Knowing that my pension could be in jeprody, I followed yours, and Robert Faragos opinions very closely,and personaly made a lot of financial moves, and decisions. It didn’t work out as bad as I had feared. That being said, I still fear for the future. However today I’m a lot better prepared,and I thank you and Farago.

        But today you pissed me of.

        We get a guy like “Mark Reuss”, to post a comment here, love him, or hate him. Was there any need to beat him up,and attack his department?

        Just saying.

      • 0 avatar

        Mikey, we go way back and if today is only the first time I pissed you off, I am surprised. the conversations here get opinionated. that said, the Mark I know wouldn’t have it any other way than straight. the comments made were not disrespectful to him and shouldn’t really bother anyone… other than the people in marketing.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @Buickman….fair enough.

    • 0 avatar

      nadude,

      If you’re really Mark Reuss and all that you took away from Jack’s post is that he’s a GM hater, well then, Jack was pretty close to the mark when he compared you to a Roman emperor ignoring the vandal hordes. Also, your response makes you look weak. Perhaps instead of calling JB a hater, you might have offered him a chance to review the new SS, that is, if you’re confident about the product.

      Maybe in the insular world of the RenCen nobody utters a contrary word but this is what constructive criticism looks like.

      As for Baruth’s supposed lack of credibility because he writes for this site, if TTAC isn’t credible, how come GM Powertrain invited me to build an LS9 at the Wixom facility so I could write about it here? This sniping at TTAC by GM’s upper management is interesting because the True Believers, as Mr. DeLorenzo calls them, the people actually making and selling the cars, respect the site and solicit our opinions.

      • 0 avatar

        it’s him Ronnie and he listens, a bit sensitive and defensive at times but only because he truly does care.

      • 0 avatar
        dan1malk

        Baruth’s BIAS made his decision about the SS a long time ago.

        We get it. You don’t like GM. GM does something the same, this hack screams, “OLD GM!” try something different, “It’ll never work!”

        I wish TTAC had better representatives for itself.

  • avatar
    nadude

    The car will be a nice car.

    • 0 avatar

      we have lots of nice cars. the marketing kills them. EBE, SFE, stair steps adding to costs, no margin, starving salespeople who don’t have enough sense to get out. lousy distress merchandising with price, payment, rebate that no one believes. brand damaging discounts up to $9,000 blaring over national TV. nobody wants GM unless they are bottom feeders or eligible for every discount under the sun.

      GM doesn’t get it, and refuses to listen to those in the know. BK Round Two straight ahead. remember I predicted the last one and was called crazy by everyone but Farago. well at the beginning of this year when the chest pounding over 20% share was in full force, I said 15% by year end. hmmm…

      don’t forget, doing the same things and expecting different results is a sign of insanity.

      whether it’s Return to Greatness, Extra Mile, or “Work or Play, It’s Your Chevrolet”, GM won’t try anything that comes from a knowledgeable outsider. call it the John Smith Syndrome.

      Buickman

  • avatar
    Junebug

    All I can say is Jack nailed it!

  • avatar
    rpol35

    It’s probably the right car at the wrong time. Trying to sell a limited production model for $45 large, or thereabouts, with a Chevy nameplate will be a tough sell. It is a Chevy after all. I’m not sure what market demographic GM thinks they will capture but I would imagine it’s very, very limited, the bulk of “hot rod” sales will continue to go to the Camaro SS which seems logical.

    As for production, I believe it is supposed to move from Australia to either Oshawa or Hamtrammck in the 2015 or 2016 timeframe (assuming, as suggested, that it doesn’t get cancelled beforehand). I understand that the currency differential has been one of the stumbling blocks to Australian production and U.S. consumption. I also thought that the “Ute” version would have been a good replacement for the horrid Canyon/Colorado combo but apparently that is not to be.

    This car may have been spot on back in 2003 when compared to all of the mediocre stuff GM was selling at that time; I think that time has passed and won’t come back again. Things have moved on.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Another great GM idea to name a halo car after a generic trim level.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Get the ‘Caprice’ name tag from the dealer, stick it on in front of the ‘SS’, and call it a day.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Full disclosure,I’m a GM Canada hourly, retired guy.

    So, let me get this straight. Mark takes the SS badge off, all the vehicles that should never have been an SS. Great idea.GM fixes a percieved mistake from the past.

    So GM lets the SS atay on the Camaro.So I guess its number three in the Camaro world. I own one, at 426 HP and nicely trimmed,I believe it truly is an SS.

    GM brings out a high performance V8 RWD and they put an SS badge on it.

    Somehow this is a bad thing?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’m fine with some rather than none. Just a lot of people are disappointed the car won’t be more accessible.

      I don’t necessarily think its a fumble on GM’s part to do it that way. With CAFE regs going sky high, lower MPG rated vehicles won’t be produced in great numbers, unless GM wants to go back to the days of selling POS Cavaliers at a loss to make up the difference.

      I don’t like the regulations, but unfortunately that’s the market we have to deal with.

      Secondly, they wouldn’t want a deconteded Caprice/SS sedan to eat into the sales of the “volume” Impala. So instead of giving us a FWD or AWD Impala SS, we get the SS sedan in place of a range topping Imp sedan. I think most enthusiasts would prefer the RWD V8 performance sedan over a FWD/AWD V6 anyway.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well, there’s precedence: remember the SS-R?

    What gets me is that they can do this, but they can’t, or won’t, fix the Cadillac STS. How hard is it to put a decent interior in the current car, and/or stretch the CTS out a little?

    For that matter, how did they screw up the XLR? The Corvette is a nearly-perfect chassis and powertrain and only a decent interior and a more cachet-worthy badge away from perfection, so what does GM do? Mildly upgrade the interior and __replace the engine__? Really, GM? Really?

    It’s nice that they’re making this, but it’s not going to sway people who would otherwise buy a Camry over a Malibu.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The $50,000 market doesn’t have any shortage of fast RWD sedans already and theirs don’t have the baggage of a bottom feeding bailout badge.

    It won’t work as a halo car either because its affordable little brother is a FWD Impala that doesn’t even look like a Chevy.

    18% GM (actually more like 17% or a tick under this month) keeps on digging for 15%.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    This might work if Chevy has all the good go fast stuff on it. Will Chevy/GM resort to their brain-dead past and make this the 4th fastest car in their line-up? I can hear a salesman going nope, here’s GM’s go fast order: Corvette, CTS-V,Camaro LE1, THEN the SS. Ya gotta pay more for more performance. 40-50k is a lot for that basically just goes fast in straight line. It will soundly beaten at that price point. Oh wait! Can you say Police Interceptor?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      LOL, after Jack’s post I went looking on eBay for the new “Police Only” Caprice. Bud’s Chevy in St. Marys, OH had a decent used model for a few ticks over $25,000. If I was a dyed in the wool Chevy guy I’d rather lay my money down on that. That car is what the new Impala should have been.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    “I’ve yet to speak to anybody who thinks calling this Australian sedan the “Chevy SS” is a good idea. It’s just as stupid as, oh, let’s come up with a few other takes on the subject:

    The Honda Si
    The Ford LX
    The Toyota GT-S
    The Nissan GT-R… oh, damn.”

    I have one more to add to this list:
    The Volkswagen GTI

    All over the world it’s the Golf GTI – except in North America. Why?

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Who orders a special edition Chevy? Maybe a few fans in the southeast.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “For a third time, GM is trying to bring over one of its rear-wheel-drive Australian cars for American consumption.”

    If my understanding is correct, the plan is to do that only for two years. After that, the replacement model will be built in North America.

    “So why bother with the car at all?”

    On the surface, it sounds like an effort to amortize the costs of the Camaro platform across another model.

    Going a bit further, this may be part of a plan to stop building Commodores in Australia. Perhaps future Commodores will be built in North America and exported to Australia.

    If they really want to turn it into a global platform, then the logical move would be to launch a European-market version that can compete with the Germans. Opel needs to have a presence in the executive sedan market if it is to survive, and perhaps the upcoming model is intended to do that. Not that I would expect that effort to succeed, but Opel needs to get serious about beating BMW and Mercedes if it is to have any hope of rebuilding its brand in western Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Good insight.

      With regard to plans to migrate Commodore production out of Australia, this may be the case but evidently as part of an Australian bailout they agreed to keep at least one plant open until 2022.

      “While details of the payment schedule are yet to be agreed on, the money has secured the future of Holden’s previously vulnerable Elizabeth assembly plant until at least 2022. It has also ensured the construction of two “all-new” cars at Elizabeth from 2016, though significant aspects of those vehicles will not necessarily be designed in Australia”

      http://www DOT adelaidenow DOT com.au/holden-to-stay-in-australia-after-200m-deal/story-e6frea6u-1226306739456

    • 0 avatar

      Holden is required by the terms of Australian government aid to build cars locally until 2022, so I wouldn’t expect the Commodore to up and move to North America overnight. At the same time, the USD’s weakness against the AUD is the real reason Reuss is talking the SS price up and the sales expectations down. This is a loss leader we’re talking about… although given the USD-AUD spike three-four years ago, it GM may have initially thought it might break even on it.

      The only other thing I would add is that it’s really disheartening to see GM execs still playing the “he hate me” game. Perhaps the Sunday NYT’s front-page expose of how GM pits local governments against each other in order to become the nation’s leading tax dodger was a product of that publication’s irrational hatred as well?

      Reuss is actually right to be defensive: plenty of people hate GM, for a wide variety of reasons… where he goes badly wrong is assuming that all the people who have found reasons to cheer against GM have done so for irrational purposes. GM needs to solve its hater problem, not use the problem as an excuse to dismiss thoughtful, legitimate criticism.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Holden is required by the terms of Australian government aid to build cars locally until 2022″

        I don’t think that they’re obligated to specifically build Commodores. The Cruze is built there now, and Holden could conceivably assemble some sort of crossover there to replace the Commodore. (Whether they will actually do that, I don’t know.)

        “At the same time, the USD’s weakness against the AUD is the real reason Reuss is talking the SS price up and the sales expectations down.”

        That’s part of it. But again, the plan is to build the car in North America. Mr. Baruth missed this point in his article.

        It’s necessarily going to be low volume because there isn’t much demand for such things. The market has changed; in the old days, they would have souped up and put a coupe body on top of a high-volume family sedan platform, but now, they need to put a sedan body on what is primarily (for North America) a coupe platform with relatively modest sales volumes. The economics are quite different today, and don’t work to GM’s advantage.

        They have no choice but to sell it at a high price. Whether that will work is another story. If the cost of development is fairly low or if the car can be sold as a world car, then it may be reasonably profitable. Putting a low price tag on it would simply lock in the losses, with no hope for turning a profit, as the volumes for a car of this type and in this class are doomed to be low.

      • 0 avatar

        such as is the case with the Delehanty family in Flushing MI. once a proud Pontiac dealer for decades, they were stripped of their livelihood and now are populating the community with shiny new Fords. it’s happening across America with Hyundai, VW, Nissan, etc transacting sales on properties that used to house GM. add in the multitudes of others who were left out in the cold including pensioners, bondholders, stockholders, and your average US taxpayer who feels screwed and GM isn’t going anywhere fast regarding market share.

  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    I think, rather than trying to smear this car with the ghost of Malibu Maxx SS, you should maybe take a look at the last time Chevy put out a fast full-sized RWD four-door.

    1) It was based on a Caprice cop car.

    2) It had a honkin’ Corvette V8.

    3) It cost more than any other Chevy but the Corvette.

    4) While it was seemingly a throwback design — front-engine V8, solid rear axle, simple 4-speed automatic — it was well-engineered and well-executed. With a huge performance aftermarket that could be fed from Corvette upgrades. And thanks to its cop car roots, tough as nails.

    5) It was well trimmed. The analogy was proto-gangsta style — tough muscle in a tailored suit — but not watered-down with piddlin’ six-cylinders and cheap cloth trim. You went big, or you went without.

    6) They quickly sold every one of them that they could build, many of them at truly stupid dealer markups.

    7) They held significant value at resale — to the degree that more of them, cloned from said cop car roots, probably exist today than were originally built.

    While I’m sure that we would all benefit by buying the cars you think would be best for us anyway, I suspect that there are enough people out there that don’t share your Porschephile proclivities and will snap these up. They won’t care if you look down your nose at them.

    Maybe the dealers aren’t going crazy pre-ordering these. But after this car shows up on TV and movies in the hands of bad-ass good guys and bad guys, and the halo marketing that uses these rides to sell the rest of the Chevy lineup, the few that do will sell theirs for $5-10K over list due to “limited supply.”

    More dealers will get on board with the rare/valuable vibe. Like the Monte Carlo SS Aero Coupes and the four-door Impala SS whales of old, the rap will be that “They’re not going to make them like this anymore,” and they’ll sell fine.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!

      Memories of the mid 90′s Impala will come back to the folks highly interested in a large, RWD performance sedan. The 1994 Impy SS listed for $22,495 ($35,120 in 2012 dollars) so the price premium isn’t that much more, maybe the cost of doing business in Australia. For a certain class of driver, this WILL become the car to have.

      I have no doubt in my mind that they will sell every one they build (to order apparently), in the short term will become a cult classic like the G8′s and ultimately in 20 or so years, more SS’s will exist then than there were ever built by the factory. Not unlike the Whale Impy SS is today…

      That said, the SS name is plain stupid… It makes sense to use it as a trim level descriptor rather that as a stand-alone model… With all of the other “heritage” names coming back, why not Caprice? At one time it was the top of the line Chevy model…

  • avatar
    mbaruth

    I had a G8 GT that I bought new. That car made a ton of sense. It was a ~$30,000 car that was loaded up with features (leather, roof, heated seats, OnStar, XM, 19″ wheels) and was faster than 90% of everything on the road. Granted, it broke frequently and with maddening expense, but it was awesome. Of course, GM screwed up the execution, so nobody knew what the heck it was when I drove it around. At best, people thought it was an Acura. At worst, they thought it was, well…a Pontiac. I did love it most days.

    I replaced it (rather famously, at this point) with a Boss 302. It doesn’t have the rear seat that the G8 did, but neither does it have its idiosyncracies, its willingness to blow camshafts and cylinders, and most of all, everybody knows what it is.

    This is a total, complete, and utter marketing fail. At least the G8 had the cool Spy Hunter ad.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Great article, Jack.

    Baruth: “Much of the article discusses NASCAR’s struggles to maintain a competitive balance while still giving the viewing audience a field of cars that at least vaguely resembles what’s available at dealerships.”

    Does anybody make any kind of connection between what’s on the field at a NASCAR event and what shows up in dealerships? It’s all the same chassis and everybody knows it and, so far as I can tell, the engines are never used for anything else. Don’t they still use carburetors?

    I suspect GM and, maybe, Ford and Chrysler like it this way. They’ve got a roughly equal chance at a “win” for the Impala decal if everybody’s running the same car. Were NASCAR to unleash the manufacturers, I think GM fears they’d spend most of every race watching Toyota’s taillights speed by. I believe Toyota’s engine was given a “Restrictor Plate Award” for “Overachievement in Category.”

    Quoted in the article: Reuss said, “We will fill the orders of the people who want them.”

    IF they don’t also saddle the process with their usual allocation b*llsh*t, this won’t be an entirely bad thing. But I’ll bet they do.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      -Nascar uses fuel injection now.

      -A Chrysler team won the championship this season but no Dodge teams are racing next year.

      -The Toyota teams are very fast but also have been very unreliable. I think they suffered more mechanical failures than the other three manufacturers combined this year.

      -All the Chevy teams are full of golden-boy cheaters.

  • avatar

    The Chevy SS is doomed to fail for several reasons, the least of which imo is the name. As a mainstream brand, Chevy shouldn’t be pricing this car north of $40K. How did Chevy manage to turn a bad-ass looking Commodore into this blob of bland? Who ever decided to use the stupid taillights from a Cruze on this car should be fired. A 4 Cyl $27K Impala will look more upscale, sleek, muscular and masculine sitting next to the $40K SS on the showroom floor. What will a higher performance trim be called? The Chevrolet SS SS?

    “purged all of the SS models from the Chevrolet line-up except on the Camaro because none of the other offerings were about increased performance, only trim pieces,”

    Mark doesn’t know what he is talking about. What other cobalt except the SS had a turbocharged 2.0L making 260HP? Even the Impala SS had higher performance numbers than the regular ones, so did the HHR SS.

    How many halo cars does Chevrolet need anyway? The ZR1, Z06, ZL1 and now the SS? Isn’t Volt the Chevy’s halo sedan? All said I think its great news Chevy will finally have a RWD Sedan for sale. The idea is great, the execution is all wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      I think Mark’s referring to the 2.4L NA Ecotec Cobalt SS and the Malibu SS in particular. Bigger wheels and SS badges did nothing for the Super Sport name.

      Well-heeled bowtie guys in their fifties and sixties will get this car, just like their predecessors did in the mid 90′s with the Impala SS. You’ll see them parked next to the Tahoe LTZ and pristine GM muscle cars in the pole barn or 4-car garage.

    • 0 avatar
      Lichtronamo

      Agreed – I don’t get what this car is supposed to look like given the new design language of the Impala and Traverse, which is supposed to remind people of the Camaro. This doesn’t even look like the “old” language on the Malibu and Cruise with that small upper grille that looks tacked on (especially as a decal…) and blobby headlights from the last Monte Carlo. Yuk!

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m sure this will be an awesome car, but it will also command $48K+, which puts it out of my price range and will limit the sales to SRT8/SHO levels. The NASCAR connection might actually hurt it more than help it.

    I would guess that overall the cost to GM of doing this is quite low. It’s still looking to be another mega-niche GM misadventure.

    I don’t understand why GM needs the SS and Corvette as halo cars for the Chevy brand. I’m a supporter of halo cars, but the SS has nothing in common with the various Epsilon and GM-Korea stuff. The V8 may provide a halo effect for the trucks/SUVs, but the Corvette already did that.

    GM could have just offered the Caprice to the public, offered the 2.5L or eAssist system in it for CAFE, sent the Epsilon Impala to hell, and everyone would have been happier.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Just to pile on the criticism about GM’s strategy:
    - The hardcore NASCAR crowd migrated to trucks about 20-30 years ago – when “‘Murican cors don’t look’n ‘Murican”..anymore.
    - There is no longer any connection made between production car and NASCAR – even in the South.
    - Who’s going to buy this thing?? @ 50K your starting to get into ‘serious car’ territory.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      This. Anyone who wants a rear wheel drive vehicle for $40k is going to buy a 4 door truck. Of course, they are going to get $7-10k knocked off to help move it out the door. This car will probably sell 4-5,000 the first year, half of that the next, and the third and final year they will languish on dealer lots for 90+ days. It will be time for another bail out by then. GM is nothing if not consistent in their business framework and execution.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Pretty strong opinions based on a two year old conversation, and what another blog reported.

    A reasonable person would want to see the real car before judging its goodness. I am not a betting man, but if I were, I’d bet the SS will put the G8 GXP to shame and be a very desirable car. Chevrolet has a history of selling more $40K+ vehicles than any other brand in America.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I don’t think anyone is claiming that the car isn’t going to be good. The question is how does the new SS help the Chevy brand or GM as a whole? With stuff like the V-series Cadillacs, ZL1, and Corvette already existing, were GM’s performance car credentials really in question? Is the heavy NASCAR relationship really worthwhile? How can this be a halo car when it shares nothing but a badge with the rest of the Chevy lineup and lacks the history of the Corvette? What does it do that the Corvette couldn’t? A GNX fan could buy a Regal 307, a Charger SRT8 fan can buy the R/T or SXT. Heck, even a CTS-V fan can get a lower priced car with Recaros. Where do I go if I like the Chevy SS, but can’t afford one? It just seems like a car for relatively wealthy bowtie fanatics to park next to their Silverado LTZ or ’69 Z/28. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it’s not going to elict more than a shoulder shrug from people outside that demographic. It isn’t the return of the G8 or the accesible muscle car, which is what I think many people were hoping for.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I guess it depends upon what you mean by accessible…

        The G8 in V6 form was pretty accessible, but by the time you cranked it up to GT or GXP levels, it was not nearly as accessible. Of course, it depends on your point of view. I think this car will be closer to GXP levels than V6 levels…

        When purchasing a car in 2009, I would have loved to pull the trigger on the G8 (any G8), but with fuel prices rising and my job situation flaky, it was a no go…

    • 0 avatar

      agree with you doc. it’ll likely be a solid set of wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      As an enthusiast, I care a lot less about the name than the characteristics and attributes of the car. I am delighted that GM will finally have a large, RWD sedan again. A good friend who started at Oldsmobile with me in 1969 and still works for GM has a lot of experience with the current police car. He described the driving experience as “like a ’70 W30 only better!” I am waiting for an opportunity to drive one myself.

      I would not be surprised if this car has a short run before an alpha architecture variation replaces it. Stay tuned for more really good rwd packages, imho. The ATS is getting great reviews and is just the start. I also would guess this program has a number of drivers, a big one being to enhance the business case for maintaining zeta architecture production in Oz.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        “Stay tuned for more really good rwd packages…”

        Going on three decades with snow and static on the screen. We don’t beleive it any more.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pig_Iron- Can’t blame you for your pessimism. As an Oldsmobile man, still disappointed that we didn’t release the 4 valve 455 or go to the V12′s on the drawing boards when 7.5 high compression liters were not enough, it has been a very long drought indeed!

        The G8 package was a good start. I drove a DI V6 Commodore from Sydney to Melbourne and back in ’10, and can only say it was a wonderful car to drive. With ATS chassis dynamics rated superior to BMW 3 series, the foundation is laid for more economical packages. I can’t say for sure what we will see, but I am very optimistic, and, If I was a betting man….

  • avatar
    raph

    At my Brand-X hang out, alot of the Chevy faithful there really wanted this car to be a “Chevelle” – the 2dr Sedan guys balked at the notion of a 4dr “Chevelle” but they were in the minority. When GM officially disclosed the Chevrolet SS moniker, there was a collective “WTF are they thinking” over there, and these guys do like to imbibe the kool-aid more than a little.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      “balked at the notion of a 4dr ‘Chevelle’ ”

      It’s funny, but there were actual actual Chevelle 4 doors and wagons sold between 1964-72. Even with straight 6′s! The revisionist car fans think all “Chevelles” were the SS396 or SS454 coupes.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    $45k-ish for what should be $25-30k?

    And you guys give us Acura fanboys shit?

    File this one under yet another GM fail…

  • avatar
    david42

    I wish GM would turn these into Fleetwoods. I know it would cost a lot more to add toys and a few more inches to the hood, but then they could charge $60k with a straight face. And I bet they’d sell quite a few–helluva lot more than the Chevy SS will sell.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      This is the short wheelbase version, so it wouldn’t make a good Fleetwood. The long wheelbase version is being sold to fleets only as a Caprice.

      • 0 avatar
        david42

        Good lord, how did I miss that??? I had assumed that this was basically the next-gen Caprice.

        As a guy who recently traded a nearly-new Hyundai Genesis for a BMW, I’m really dubious about the SS: as I discovered with the Genesis, a pricey sedan needs more than a great powertrain. Maybe it’s just me, but if I pay over $30k for a car, it needs to deliver on its promises. Compromise is fine on an Elantra or Sonata, but the price of the Genesis set high expectations. Flimsy switchgear, underpadded armrests, and careless (and TOO FREQUENT) service were among the reasons the Genesis got replaced. As far as the service problems go, it’s worth mentioning that our local dealer is a Hyundai-Chevy shop.

        Of course I’m not saying that the SS will suffer from these particular problems. But I think GM would stand a better chance of avoiding them if they went whole-hog and raised this car (well, the Caprice) up to the Cadillac level. The ATS shows that they’re competitive, if not class-leaders, so I think they could execute this kind of strategy.

        In another universe–one where Cadillac already has a flagship that rivals the 7-series and S-class–perhaps this Chevy SS would be better if dressed up a bit and sold as a Buick LeSabre.

        Hell, I’ll say something controversial here: I don’t understand why Chevy needs a halo car. If GM really needs more than two brands–and maybe they don’t–then Chevys should be cheap and dependable. Cadillacs should be world-class luxury. Pontiacs should be sporty, and Buicks should be aspirational.

        So yeah, I’m saying that the Corvette makes no sense as a Chevy. It should’ve been used to redefine Pontiac and pave the way for all the wide-track, supercharged, turbocharged, screaming-chicken glory that came later.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    I may be mistaken on this, and it may be just a trivia thing, but my understanding is that the “SS” originally came from Swallow Sidecar in the UK. Their first automobile was called the SS Jaguar.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @namstrap- Right on. They changed the company name to Jaquar because of the negative connotations of the WWII German “SS”. Chevy uses the initials to stand for Super Sport.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wait, the Charger killed the G8???

    Huh. Interesting.

    And silly me, here I thought it was a complete lack of advertising, lack of customer awareness, the incredibly stupid idea of naming Pontiacs Gx (as in G3, G5, G6, G8) instead of going with a legacy name of Grand Prix or Bonneville, gasoline going to $4.65 a gallon just three months after its US release followed by GM’s bankruptcy less than a year after the first one hit the shore.

    Feb ’08 was the G8, “ehem,” launch.

    June ’08 highest average gas prices in US history

    Sept ’08 equity markets freeze solid on September 18, 2008. The economy collapses

    The G8 was doomed – even if the exhaust smelled like bakery fresh rolls and cured cancer.

    I mean THAT’S why I though the G8 didn’t sell – because every single review indicated the G8 was more refined, had better performance, and was dollar for dollar a better package than the Charger or 300 when compared 1:1 – back in ’08 and ’09.

    The G8 didn’t get “buzz” until AFTER the bankruptcy and Pontiac’s death warrant was signed, and then all of a sudden everyone wanted on (or wrongly assumed you could buy one for 50 cents on the dollar – good luck doing that today, five model years after the first one went on sale).

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @APaGttH- G8 was not a market failure, Obama’s auto task force killed it along with the Pontiac brand. The planned volume of G8 was not high, and in the waning days of Pontiac, G8 accounted for 60% of Pontiac sales.
      No doubt, the financial crisis caused auto market collapse of October ’08 put survival as a much higher priority than maintaining Pontiac as a niche brand in the B-P-GMC channel. GM had a good proposal, but the ATF shot it down. GM couldn’t argue when its survival was in the balance.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    I hate to say this, but “because racecar”.


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