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New Impala, No More....

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  • New Impala, No More....

    General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz dealt enthusiast hopes a blow last week when he announced the suspension of GM’s future rear-wheel-drive (RWD) large car platforms, including the 2010 Impala.

    Citing concerns about meeting tougher fuel-economy standards proposed by the Bush Administration—mandating annual 4% increases in fuel economy from 2010 and nearly 34 miles per gallon for domestic cars by 2015—Lutz told the Chicago Tribune that GM had “pushed the pause button” on its RWD platforms. “It’s no longer full-speed ahead.”

    Unaffected by the proposed new standards are the new Camaro and Pontiac G8, already in early production stages.

    The decision cools the fires of enthusiasts hungry for Detroit’s return to rear-drive performance metal, particularly for fans of the Impala, an icon in the '60s, then again in the mid-'90s, before reinventing itself as a midsize, front-wheel-drive sedan in the early part of this decade.

    “I think it’ll be a big disappointment [with the enthusiast community],” says Bryan Herter, owner of and a noted GM tuner who specializes in the Impala, “especially for the guy who can’t buy a Corvette or who wants a sporty car but needs four doors, I think it’s a big disappointment.”

    Enthusiasts will share their blues with specialty-equipment manufacturers that had anticipated a loyal and hungry Impala fan base.

    Herter says that more than half of his business comes from LT1 engine owners, the engine used widely in GM’s ’94–’96 product mix—including the Impala SS. He sees opportunities to tune the new Impala vanish with GM’s announcement.

    “I think a lot of people who missed out on the ’94–'96 would jump on it this time,” he says, pointing to the chatter he’s heard and read in online forums like and the Impala Email Digest.

    “Chrysler has done really well with its Hemi cars, such as the 300C. They know there are sales out there and that they’re what people want. The 2010 Impala—there’s an audience waiting for that car.”

    And if the past is any indication, that audience will want to tune it. Scott Hartmann, President of Intrax Suspension Technology, says that the mid-'90s Impalas still pull very well for his products.

    “We sell a lot of stuff for those early ones,” he says. “The Impala builds an image for GM, and it’s still a huge part number for us. I can’t imagine that this is going to be a smart move for [GM].”

    Hartmann notes that Intrax, a company known more for its European and Japanese fitments, has seen steady growth for the last five years among rear-drive platforms such as the Mustang and Charger, as well as older Japanese RWD platforms such as the Nissan 240SX and Toyota Corolla.

    “We’ve put a lot more emphasis on the domestic stuff,” Hartmann says. “We’ve had a lot of growth there. That whole segment is getting bigger and bigger for all of us, so anytime someone like Chevrolet makes a decision to get rid of the performance end—and that’s really what RWD is aimed at, the performance market—yeah, we’ll feel something there.”

    Unfortunately, GM’s position seems unlikely to be simple political posturing, predicting hardship on American industry to curry sympathy with legislators.

    “Sadly I think Lutz’s threat is very real,” says Motor Trend editor Angus MacKenzie. “The proposed corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) numbers are tough. All automakers—not just GM—will have to change their model mixes dramatically to comply.”

    MacKenzie notes that the rear-drive Zeta architecture upon which the Impala is to be built was not designed to be an “ultra-light, ultra-efficient platform.” A rear-drive Impala will be bigger, heavier and burn more gas than the current model, he says, and GM will likely need to sell a good number of high-margin V8 Impalas to make the program profitable.

    It’s still possible that the Bush Administration reconsiders its CAFE proposal. Likewise, diesel, ethanol and other fuel technologies could come online in time for GM to react with more fuel-efficient powertrains that speak to enthusiasts. But for now Lutz’s talk has thrown GM and Impala fans into a lurch.

    MacKenzie voices the fear of many domestic new muscle fans.

    “It looks like the industry faces a drastic upheaval that really does threaten the resurgence of the great American RWD sedan.”

  • #2
    Typical, GM would rather compete and play catch up with Toyota then make thier own destiny.
    I would think it would easier to sell Impala's that stand alone then put them up against toyota and hondas ...which already have a customer base.
    Why wouldnt you just take the CTS platform and modifly it for a new Implala or Caprice, instead they just cancel it..I dont get it.
    Mike C
    1967 Camaro RS
    WWC Member


    • #3
      i'd rather see gm put things on hold, and figure out if they can get 34mpg out of the cars before they blindly go forward with a vehicle that they will not be able to make epa requirements. GM doesnt need a car or line of cars, that will cause them to not meet government standards, and that will cause them to be fined hefty amounts of money just because they dont meet those government standards.. as much as i'd like to see a new rwd impala right now, i'd rather see gm continue on in the future than to be bankrupted out of business.


      • #4

        What you said makes sense, but you also have to address the public needs and concerns, and I think the general public wants rear wheel drive vehicles and if they can't get it from the general they will go else where. At SEMA I saw one of the best looking concept trucks ever, with a Corvette Z06 engine, a Concept Camaro Dash, lowered, with a nice hood scoop. Will we ever see this vehicle?, probably not, does the public want it? Of course in limited numbers. There was large crowds around this truck all week, and someone needs to listen to the public. It takes far too long to get new products on the road... My 2 cents.


        • #5
          People want rear wheel drive cars.
          Look at the sales of trucks and SUV's
          Mike C
          1967 Camaro RS
          WWC Member



          • #6
            yes, folks do.. and they can still produce RWD cars, and they still intend to, but theyve put pause on the program, so that they can re-evaluate how they are doing it and what the needs/ costs/ requirements it will be to make it happen. ive seen the said truck, it is goregous, i agree, and who knows, it may come out. it may not.. we'll see.

            trust me, I agree, I really want the new RWD cars, especialy with the way the generals designs hvae been lately, and with their quality coming up as high and fast as it has, but I also want GM to be around, to produce a 6th gen camaro, a 7th gen camaro, an 8th gen ..etc.. etc..


            • #7
              Maybe things will change and that RWD will be built.

              Current ride is:
              2002 Brickyard 400 35th Anniversary LE convertible #22,SLP build# 0036,35th Anniversary Build #47
              Best 1/4 mile ET 13.2 @104.63 with a 2.0 60' time


              • #8
                i think the rwd will be built, its just a matter of time, and what they can figure out as far as fuel economy and what not.. pause button does not mean stop.


                • #9
                  As I recall there was another pause in RWD back before the Camaro concept was acknowledged to existance... when resources where focused on getting new truck platforms out the door. I wouldn't be suprised if RWD development continues behind the scenes even though it's officially 'paused'.