GM vice president of global manufacturing, and president of international operations, Tim Lee, has stated, “We have no plan to put a right hand drive into that bonnet.”
“There is no engineering [for RHD], there is no execution, if the CEO said tomorrow to do that, it would take us years to get it done.
But could the Corvette be sold in Holden showrooms as a Chevrolet? “We can do anything we set our minds to, but that’s just not the mainstream plan.
“I’m telling you as the operating guy in charge, there is no plan. And if one develops Mike [Deveraux, Holden MD] will talk to you about it.”
While it is surprising that General Motors, a company intent on creating ‘global’ platforms, has not future-proofed the Corvette for right-hand-drive markets, Lee concedes that “if you begin with the end in mind, then the answer is ‘yes’. In this case, we did not begin with the end in mind. It’s a very complicated machine. So it would take a significant amount of effort to re-create it as a right-hand-drive vehicle.
“It would be a significant engineering task. I would say it’s not packaged protected. If we wanted to make it right hand drive, then ultimately we could do that, but it would be a huge engineering allocation, a huge resource allocation decision. We haven’t made that decision.
Suggestions that the Corvette Stingray is therefore not a global car are fiercely denied on the basis that “we [GM] sell left-hand-drive in a lot of right-hand-drive markets. We do it in Japan all the time…
“Is it roadworthy enough to handle Australian roads? Absolutely.
“[But] this is a non-story from my point of view.”
Lee also ruled out the possibility of exporting the Holden Commodore Ute to the United States, following rumours that a program was being undertaken to revive the Chevrolet El Camino nameplate in that market.
Asked whether the operations boss would like to see the Australian-made, rear-drive utility enter the American market, Lee replied with an emphatic “hell yes.”
“I think that vehicle has a tremendous amount of cache in the United States. So if we could we would…”
The enthusiasm is tempered by the strong Australian dollar, the single reason Lee states as keeping the Commodore Ute off US shores.
“80 cents” is the US to Australian dollar exchange rate figure cited as being required to make the program viable. Currently the US dollar is trading at A$1.05.
“You can’t make a business case out of something like that.
“You tell me about what the Aussie dollar is gonna do in the next 12 to 18 months and I’ll tell you about export potential for cars like that.”
In 2009, when the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) export program was signed off, the dollar was trading in the lucrative 80 cents region, indicating the program is now running at a loss.
Lee also says the recently-announced low-volume VF Commodore export program, which will see the car rebadged as a Chevrolet SS in the US, is based around extremely highly-contented and premium price positioning to make the business case sound. That’s a position a Commodore Ute could likely not share.
Asked whether the Commodore Ute could be built in the United States, Lee said “we will not be investing one penny to implement the Zeta architecture [current Commodore platform] in the United States.”