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Exhaust Note #21: Is the New Camaro the Way Forward or a Wistful Diversion?

What a disappointing day today turned out to be. I was supposed to represent VehicleVoice at Chevrolet’s unveiling of the long-awaited new Camaro up in North Hollywood this afternoon. Unfortunately, a three-car pileup on the I-5 North brought my northward progress to a halt, effectively making it impossible for me to get to the press conference. Beaten, I turned around and drove back to the office.


I tried to go to Hollywood to see this…

But instead all I got was this. Bummer.

Being stuck in that traffic jam for nearly an hour with nothing to show for it did at least give me time to reflect a bit on the significance of this car. Yes, the new Camaro is an exciting feel-good car. It’s got looks to die for. It oozes cool. Heck, it’s even already a movie star thanks to the Transformers movie. And certainly its styling hearkens back to the original 1967 version, bringing back all kinds of happy memories.
Wait…let’s back up to that last point – the one about Camaro bringing back happy memories. And let’s think about our world today. We certainly live in worrisome times. The economy’s in a funk. People are losing their homes. The cost of living – including fuel – is up…WAY up. There’s a lot to be worried about these days for sure.
Is it just me, or is popular culture trying to cling to memories of a happier past to escape from a grim present? Just look how many movie remakes there are these days – it seems like there are no original screenplays anymore, just “remixed” rehashes of popular and fun TV shows and movies of yesteryear. Pop songs these days all seem to use sampled beats and riffs from yesterday’s hits. And then of course there are a plethora of retro-styled vehicles like the new Camaro.
Society seems to be expending a lot of energy forgetting about the present, arguably leading to a lack of general creativity today. I don’t think anyone will look back on this decade and remember it for the optimistic creativity we as a nation were collectively a part of half a century ago. Instead, perhaps this decade will be remembered – from a cultural sense – for trying to desperately cling to memories of happy days gone by in the face of considerable adversity.
Speaking of adversity, that’s something General Motors is experiencing plenty of right now. Their stock prices are at near-historical lows. Many analysts cannot see any long-term solution for GM other than bankruptcy. Rough times, for sure – and that’s despite a flurry of really great new product from GM over the last couple of years – perhaps the best I’ve seen from the company in my lifetime. In a way then, one might view the new Camaro as a cheerleader for GM – a feel-good car that serves as a reminder of what GM once was…and perhaps could be again.


Is the past really the best inspiration for GM’s future? No, but…

Is looking backwards the right thing for GM to do when its future is so cloudy? Should they be focusing on the future rather than coming out with a car inspired by old-fashioned gasoline-swilling muscle cars of yesteryear? Actually, in this case, I would submit that this new generation Camaro is in fact appropriate and relevant. GM has been releasing a string of winners into the marketplace – most with a firm grasp on future needs and realities. And don’t forget that the most anticipated high-tech green car – the Chevrolet Volt – is a GM vehicle, and possibly the corporation’s greatest future halo vehicle.
It’s not as if GM is ignoring future product development as it unveils the retro-inspired Camaro. Quite the contrary, in fact. Thus, Camaro isn’t necessarily stuck in the past. Its “retro-ness” is credible because GM is putting in an earnest future-oriented effort with the rest of the product lineup.
We can only hope these efforts on GM’s part are not too little, too late. It would truly be a shame to see GM crumble just as its products become truly world class.

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