Rumours abound of Holden heading to NASCAR

Speculation is rife in the US that Chevrolet's secret new NASCAR could be based on a rebadged version of the Australian-made Holden Commodore or Holden Caprice.
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Chevrolet ignited the unlikely rumours overnight when it announced its 2013 challenger would be “based on a new nameplate to the brand’s line-up”, confirming that the car will not be based on Chevrolet’s current NASCAR, the Impala, or existing models like the Malibu or Cruze.

Chevrolet performance vehicles and motorsports vice president Jim Campbell confirmed the NASCAR’s donor car would join the brand’s production car line-up for the public to buy.

“We know that Chevrolet fans are eager to see the new racecar and we hope that the prospect of being able to own one just like it will make the wait a little more bearable,” Campbell said.

Chevrolet confirmed both the racecar and production model would be unveiled in the coming year, with the racecar set to closely mirror the production car’s design.

While global exposure in NASCAR would be an enormous coup for Holden, the larger implication of a Commodore- or Caprice-based product competing in the racing series would be a return to exporting cars to the US that were available to the public.

Holden currently exports its long-wheelbase Caprice to the US, where Chevrolet sells them exclusively to police departments but not the public.

Holden’s previous US export program collapsed late last decade when now-defunct General Motors brand Pontiac went under. The Holden Monaro was rebadged as the Pontiac GTO between 2004 and 2006, while sporty versions of the Commodore were sold as the Pontiac G8 between 2007 and 2009.

Holden senior production communications manager Kate Lonsdale said Holden had no announcement to make regarding Chevrolet’s future NASCAR plans.

“It’s all speculation at this stage,” Lonsdale said. “We’re not going to comment on their [Chevrolet’s] future line-up.”

A new export deal to the US appears highly unlikely, however, given the current state of manufacturing in Australia. Just last month, Holden announced it was cutting more than 100 casual and temporary workers from its South Australian vehicle assembly plant, a decision Holden said was forced primarily by the tough economic conditions created by the high Australian dollar.

GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux said at the time Holden would not reach its export targets with the Caprice police car program in 2012, and admitted significant export growth would be difficult if the dollar remained around parity – as Holden forecasts it will – for “at least the next year or two”.

Lonsdale reiterated that exporting cars in the current economic climate was difficult – the Australian dollar is currently worth US$1.05 – but said Holden had not abandoned hope of one day expanding its export program to sell Australian-made cars to the US public.

“It’s not easy to export there at the moment,” she said. “[But] we certainly haven’t stopped looking at any [additional US export] opportunities and we never will.”

Other potential alternatives for Chevrolet’s new NASCAR stem from two concepts that were unveiled at the 2012 Detroit motor show in January: the Cruze-based Tru 140S and the rear-wheel-drive Camaro-inspired Code 130R.

While neither concept has been confirmed for production, GM admitted it was investigating the potential for a sporty coupe like the Tru 140S based on its small-car architecture, while the Code 130R’s designer, Joe Baker, told CarAdvice he didn’t want his car to be “dismissed as just being a concept”.

Chevrolet’s Campbell said the team would prepare for next season by testing camouflaged vehicles to keep the new car’s identity under wraps.

NASCAR’s three other manufacturers have already confirmed they will compete in 2013 with racecars based on the Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion and the Toyota Camry.