A range of rear-drive cars and sports utility vehicles, engineered and designed by GM’s Australian affiliate Holden, may be built in the US and marketed by Pontiac, Chevrolet and Buick, writes Mike Duffy.
GM global product chief Bob Lutz is so impressed with the Pontiac GTO version of the Holden Monaro coupe – a sensation at both the Los Angeles and Detroit motor shows – he wants to import more performance niche models.
The powerful US car workers union, the UAW, has signed off on a deal for GM to buy in between 18,000 and 20,000 GTOs annually – but not one unit more.
The high number of orders for GTO placed before and during the two motor shows has left Lutz frustrated that the allocation will not be sufficient to meet demand when the car goes on sale later this year.
And so he has hatched a plan for Holden to design and engineer all of its future models – including the next-generation GTO – to comply with US safety standards and design regulations to allow GM to build the models concurrently in America.
Lutz, GM’s hugely experienced vice chairman of product development, said: “We had a big dream of starting with the GTO and then using the Holden Commodore utility to rebirth the Chevrolet El Camino.
“Then we had a high-specification long wheelbase Holden Statesman on the agenda to bring in as the Buick Roadmaster.
“We’d like to do all of these cars because a group of enthusiastic guys in Australia are building some incredible cars – with more in their future portfolio.
“We had the big dream starting with the GTO – then unfortunately reality set in.
“The UAW said 20,000 units a year maximum and frankly, you’ve got to understand the union is fighting to protect jobs like any other union around the world.”
Lutz said US manufacture of cars that share their architecture with Australian cars – and designed with input from America – would overcome the problem.
“It is not a done deal by any means and a decision to progress the plan is unlikely for a couple of years,” he said.
“It could be tough to justify a relatively large investment for a car for which demand might be no more than 50,000 or 60,000 per year maximum.”