2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part IX

January 10, 2006


2006 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/7/2006)

Camaro, By The Numbers


1999 Ford Expedition

1999 Ford Expedition

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Rumors of a Camaro comeback have been circulating almost since the day the last-generation pony car was pulled from production. And indeed, a version might have hit the auto show circuit awhile ago had not General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner pulled the plug. The first design, reveals GM car czar Bob Lutz was unabashedly retro, but Wagoner, “didn’t want something that reproduced the past slavishly.” So while the version that debuted inDetroit on Monday has the unmistakable “heritage” cues of the classic ’69 Camaro, Lutz insists it’s a “Camaro for the 21st Century.”


Under the skin, GM has turned to the next-generation Zeta “architecture.” The automaker cancelled the original Zeta program last year, but rather than calling off the platform entirely, it quietly started over, aiming to drive cost out of the rear-drive chassis.  The four-wheel independent suspension on the new version uses MacPherson struts up front and a multilink system in the rear. The Camaro’s wheelbase measures 110.5 inches, total length 186.2 inches, with a width of 79.6 inches.


In concept form, Camaro boasts a 400-horsepower 6.0-liter LS2 engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. In a nod to modern realities, the Corvette-derived powertrain features GM’s Active Fuel Management system, which shuts off half the cylinders when loads are light. A production version would likely start with a six-cylinder engine in a base model going for “just a little more than the Solstice,” according to Lutz, which would mean something in the low-$20,000 range. But “any V-8 General Motors produces today is potentially slated for this car.”


Standing aside the show car, a broad smile on his face, Lutz repeatedly insisted Camaro is nothing more than a concept. Right now. “We have to run the numbers,” he added. “We can’t just go by emotion. Though if we did, this is the next car I would build.” But when pressed, GM insiders acknowledged the odds are extremely high that the concept will evolve into a production Camaro by around the ’09 model year.


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Ford’s Fields: Prove It


Later this month, Ford Motor Co. will unveil a dramatic turnaround plan expected to lead to the closing of nearly a dozen plants and the elimination of around 35,000 jobs. Yet despite such draconian efforts to cut costs and bring capacity in line with sales, investors and analysts have proved surprisingly skeptical, and ratings agencies continuing to downgrade Ford debt. That comes as no surprise to the man crafting the turnaround plan, Ford’s President of the Americas , Mark Fields. “You don’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do,” he said during an auto show news conference. “You build your reputation on results.”


Along with the automaker’s number-two executive, Jim Padilla, the two outlined a variety of changes they believe will not only stabilize Ford’s slumping market share, but eventually help rebuild sales and earnings. Padilla pointed out that Ford is not nearly in as bad shape as its cross-town rival, General Motors, which is mired deep in the red. Ford earned $2.1 billion during the first nine months of 2005, he stressed, and while North American automotive operations lost money, “when you roll in finance earnings…which come on the back of selling cars and trucks… North America looks pretty good right now.”


The upcoming cuts at Ford come almost precisely four years after the automaker announced a previous turnaround plan. The reality, admitted Padilla, is that the 2002 effort underestimated the degree of change then sweeping over the industry. Ford treated the situation “like we did in the old days – batten down the hatches and we’ll get through it.” But the reality of what’s happening in the auto industry, said Padilla, “is not a cyclical change, but a secular change. We’re now forced to look at every aspect of the market.”

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