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Chevrolet Camaro & Dodge Challenger – It's All About Street Cred

The latest Mustang is a success in the image ranks and in the buff books. Its sales success has surprised even Ford and production capacity has been increased so they can sell even more. The other historic Detroit brands will revisit the rear-wheel-drive coupe idea at the 2006 North American International Motor Show in Detroit. The first announced concept is the Dodge Challenger shown below. Still under wraps is a new generation Chevrolet Camaro.
Though Ford has consistently offered a Mustang since 1964 and kept it alive (even if some iterations were less memorable than others), both GM and Chrysler Group abandoned the product formula. Mustang has the edge and success at GM, Chrysler Group, or for any other contenders requires that they establish modern-day credibility with the consumer.
In the heart of most car product planners at American car companies beats a rear-wheel-drive V8-powered coupe or convertible, going much further back than the muscle-car era that gets so much attention these days. As a result, whether timing is by design or by reaction, Dodge and Chevrolet are expected to show concepts on the muscle-car theme at the 2006 Detroit show this January.

GM Potential Camaro Revival, and Obstacles
Ever since the Camaro was dropped for 2002MY, die-hard Camaro fans have insisted that it will return, regardless of the business case or lack of an approved programs. Many “Camaro” photosketches found their way from someone’s daydream post to other sites labeled as “the NEXT CAMARO.” There are certainly those within GM who would like to revive the nameplate, feeding the fire.
The 2006 Camaro concept is said by Automotive News to be based on GM’s Kappa (Pontiac Solstice – Saturn Sky) platform, which implies a relatively small muscle car, and due for production as a 2009 model year vehicle. Other sources, however, insist that the business plan has not been approved, and it remains to be seen if the project arrives on market. Looking to the Kappa platform could be either an expensive solution, as the existing short-wheelbase platform would need to be extensively re-engineered for the extra mass of a bigger car and engine, or perhaps the smallest muscle-car ever if the dimensions and powertrain are similar to Solstice. A small muscle car is not likely to gather quite enough street cred to be a formidable Camaro replacement.
GTO Missteps
Despite that the General’s most recent attempt to develop an image-laden, rear-wheel-drive, sporty V8 2+2, the Pontiac GTO, is on a fine modern platform with a modern powerplant, not enough was done in terms of styling or support to re-establish credibility with buyers. Once prices fell and incentives were available, sales increased a bit because it is a solid package. But the GTO won’t meet the original then thought to be conservative 18,000-unit sales per year planned.
The GTO is a compromise solution, and looks it. GM and Pontiac adopted the we-will-build-it-and-they-will-come attitude for GTO, forgetting that their buyers have lost much of their faith in the brand’s ability to deliver on performance, package, and styling. They met the criteria in two of three areas, but widely missed styling mark. As a result, the fact that the current GTO is technically and dynamically a better car than its namesake ever was has been lost. The compromise of reducing investment in styling changes to bring the GTO faster and cheaper to the market in the end proved unwise. Should GM approve the long-rumored and internally oft-discussed Camaro revival, the stakes would be even higher than they were for the GTO. Whatever remaining credibility GM may have in terms of sporty, affordable muscle-type cars would be lost should a modern Camaro miss the mark. Camaro must not repeat these mistakes.
Dodge Building Credibility with Sedan and Wagon Siblings BEFORE Launching Coupe
The Challenger may be more successful in this endeavor after having built up credibility with the Magnum and Charger. The foundation is well laid. Dodge has proven the LX platform offers a solid, modern driving experience with powerful and efficient powertrains. They have shown the ability to develop aggressive, no-apologies styling appreciated across the generations for the strong sense of personality it imparts. Charger and Magnum can be appreciated for their success, even among those who don’t find it as personally appealing. The Challenger has the DNA for success, but the pressure riding on the project is significant. A clumsy execution could have an adverse effect, but a with a successful design Dodge may find continued success with the Challenger. Mustang buyers will have a choice, though Dodge would be looking at a much lower-volume proposition than the 160,000-plus-unit annual sales that Mustang delivers.

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