We all thought that the Holden Commodore-based Chevrolet SS performance sedan would be dead when General Motors shut down its Australian production facility in 2017. But that may not be the case.
Based on a discussion at the 2016 New York motor show with Chevrolet Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, CarAdvice has learnt there’s a strong chance of an all-new Chevrolet SS performance sedan replacing the Holden-built model.
When the topic of the Chevrolet SS was brought up with Oppenheiser, who also oversees that model in the US market, he spoke openly about how the car has gotten better over time, despite sales not taking the company by storm.
“It sells what it’s supposed to,” he said. “And we haven’t announced an end date to it, so we’re just … we know that there are some decisions made on the Zeta [platform], that are imminent, and right now we're just focused on the new ’17 model, which is great. It has the LS3 with the manual and the active exhausts, and it’s a great car.”
We got stuck on the point about not setting an end date. With Holden having announced it will shut down manufacturing in 2017, we thought that was a pretty concise point at which there would be no more Chevrolet SS models.
As such, when we put it to Oppenheiser that the Holden-made SS would be a good note to go out on for the Chevrolet SS, he said this:
“I didn’t say we were going out. I didn’t say it, he said it,” Oppenheiser said, pointing at yours truly.
He suggested that a replacement model could eventuate, when I asked if there was a global sedan that could fill the void.
“Maybe,” he said.
And when asked if it could be a V8?
“I don't know that either. I’m not at liberty [to say]. I’m going to leave you hanging,” he said.
It was clear that there is a hope for a new Chevrolet SS sports sedan. And, as such, a potential new right-hand-drive V8-powered sedan for Australia, perhaps instead of the rumoured Camaro (though we learnt via Oppenheiser that a right-hand-drive version of that car is also under study) or the Opel Insignia which is predicted to have twin-turbo V6 power, not a V8.
“I’m not answering the questions, so I’m not leaving you with any hope,” he said.
“Let me just tell you, that the leadership of our company – Mark Reuss was the managing director of Holden, he completely understands the market,” Oppenheiser said.
“If anybody understands what we could do and if we could do it, it would be him. And I don’t make those decisions – I support whatever the leadership looks at, and if there’s opportunity, we will take it. If there’s not, we would communicate that.
“I’m not telling you much by that, but that’s the way it is,” Oppenheiser said.
He said that he understands just how important performance models are to the Australian market.
“I have a lot of friends at Holden,” he said. “One of my good friends who was my engineering manager for the fifth-gen Camaro is a die-hard Australian rear-wheel-drive performance car guy, and while he was in the States he bought a ’68 Camaro.
"And when he went back, he had to go and tell all of his mates that there’s no right-hand-drive coming. So, out of all of you guys, who I know are car guys, I feel the worst for him, because he worked on the car, and never got one there.”
When asked how he felt about the Holden-built model coming to end, Oppenheiser reflected upon his history with GM and the end of Australian manufacturing.
“It’s too bad. It’s a great country, I’ve been there many, many times,” he said.