Source: The Chronicle Herald
IT’S BACK to the future for automaker giant General Motors.
In a series of major U-turns by the struggling car manufacturer, GM will revive a car once considered obsolete, build it in an Ontario car plant once targeted for drastic downsizing and put back on the sales lot a vehicle once considered a serious gas-guzzler, just as consumers focus on buying cars that use less petrol. Go figure.
GM has announced plans to restore the Chevrolet Camaro to its product line, starting with the 2009 model year. The Camaro was a popular brand name for 35 years, from its introduction in 1967 to 2002. But GM put the brakes on production of the sporty vehicle after a prolonged sales slump brought about by lessening interest in the dated, fuel-hungry model.
The death of the Camaro four years ago triggered the layoff of 1,000 employees and the closure of the company’s only manufacturing plant in Quebec, at St. Therese outside of Montreal. The new Camaro will be built at GM’s existing operations in Oshawa, where only last fall it was announced one of two plants would close by 2008.
GM will invest $750 million in its Oshawa operations at a time when it’s shutting down plants and laying off workers elsewhere to keep the company afloat. The federal and Ontario governments have already invested $435 million in GM, money both levels of government are now claiming helped ensure the revived Camaro will be built in Canada.
Credit must also go to organized labour. The skills of Canadian Auto Workers members over the years have given Oshawa products high marks for quality, but agreement by some 2,500 senior CAW members to take early retirement helped clinch the deal and assure a future for younger workers.
If reviving a once-discarded brand and building it in a once-doomed plant aren’t dramatic enough U-turns, consider the fact GM is reviving a muscle car at a time when small vehicles with less torque and better gas mileage are big sellers. Yet GM is being a follower, rather than a leader. Other carmakers already have similar cars rolling off their assembly lines. A redesigned Mustang, based on the 1960s version, is a runaway best seller, while Daimler-Chrysler is putting a revived 1960s-style Challenger back on the road. Retro is definitely in when it comes to cars, given the roaring success of VW’s revived Beetle, BMW’s resurrected Mini, along with copycats PT Cruiser (from Daimler-Chrysler) and GM’s HHR.
Don’t blame General Motors for the return of the muscle car: They’re only trying to keep up with the competition, whose retro vehicles are already rushing out the showroom doors. Bringing back the Camaro may not save GM, but it’ll make a lot of sports car fans very happy.