The Chevy Camaro: A glimmer of hope for General Motors?
It hasn't been the best year for General Motors.
After filing for bankruptcy protection and accepting billions of dollars in bailouts from the Canadian and American governments, the Detroit-based automaker now sees a glimmer of hope: the Chevy Camaro, assembled in Oshawa, Ont.
The 2010 re-make of the classic muscle car has been a hit with consumers. GM says more than 15,000 Camaros have been sold this year. Demand is so high that the Oshawa plant is unable to keep up; several thousand cars are on backorder.
Ottawa resident Hylton Jorssen was one of the first people to drive a Camaro off the lot. The owner of five Camaros, one of each generation produced, Jorssen says his love affair with the car started back in high school.
"I've always been a Camaro guy," he said. "It's a mix of the power and the fact that it's a car that moves you from A to B, and does it with style."
The newest Camaro pays homage to the 1960's muscle car that inspired a cult following over four decades, with wide rear wheels and a low-profile when seated in the two-plus-two interior. But GM spent years reworking many components, and as result parts of the vehicle now look more like a spaceship.
"It just makes people smile. They see it as youthful optimism," Tom Peters, the head designer of the Camaro, told CBC News.
Much of the design team's work focused on fuel efficiency and aerodynamics. GM now boasts that, at 9.4 L/100 km, the automatic transmission model of the Camaro is the most fuel efficient V6 engine on the market.
The automaker knows it has the support of muscle car enthusiasts, so now it is going after a new, younger market – mainly men.
"We wanted to make sure this had a much broader audience and, in fact, be attractive to future customers who may not be aware of Camaro and frankly may not care what Camaro or cars like Mustang are," Peters said.
General Motors is aggressively marketing the new Camaro, with a yellow 'bumblebee' version of the vehicle starring in the summer blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Scott Oldham, an automotive journalist, is one of the many consumers with his name on the Camaro waiting list. Oldham, the editor of the blog Edmunds Inside Line, says even though there are large numbers of consumers who want fuel-efficient cars, there are still those who "don't want to drive a boring sedan."
"It's really a vehicle of desire, a vehicle of want. Nobody needs a Camaro," Oldham said. "It's a toy that people want, they want to be seen in it and the new Camaro fits that bill perfectly and people are buying it."
But one model – a niche sports car – isn't enough to turn things around at GM.
"It's not the kind of profit that's going to make GM the darling of Wall Street again. They need some high value product. And the Camaro is not that," Oldham said.
Tom Peters of GM agrees. But he's happy that the car he designed has got people talking about GMs' cars — not its problems.
"It is been a point of light to get us through this, and we're gonna do that," Peters said, on a recent visit to the company's Canadian headquarters, in Oshawa.
"I think it has a kind of symbolic aspect as a kind of guiding star."
Transformers... more than meets the eye. Nice car, they should have dropped the Corvette Z-06 engine in it though