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Mike Stevens | Jan 19, 2009

General Motors has announced that it will pull the pin on the next generation of large rear-wheel-drive cars for the North American market. The current Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet Camaro will be the only cars to utilize the Zeta rear-wheel-drive architecture developed in Australia and used beneath the Commodore.

Global product development vice-chairman Bob Lutz delivered the news while talking to Australian media at the Detroit Motor Show. “The strategy we had a few years ago of basically deriving a whole sweeping global portfolio off the Australian Zeta architecture … frankly, we have had to abandon that dream,” Lutz said.

The good news in all of this though is that all systems are go for the next generation Commodore. Scheduled for a 2012 or 2013 release, a revised Zeta chassis will still feature underneath the car but interior and body should be all new, with changes to the powertrain to allow the use of new fuel-saving technology as well as alternative fuel sources.

Pontiac G8 GT

Also still a possibility is the rumoured Alpha architecture, which should produce a car similar in size and concept to the Torana TT36 concept of 2004.

“What many of us would like to do (one day) is to do an all-new global rear-wheel drive architecture that would be considerably smaller, lighter and be capable of taking four-cylinder powertrains,” Lutz said.

“That, I think, could be globally shared. It’s not even in the plan at this point; it’s just what we tell ourselves in that there is going to have to be a next-generation Camaro, and there is going to have to be a next-generation Cadillac sedan, and so there is going to have to be a smaller and a way more efficient rear-wheel-drive architecture. But at this point it is just a gleam in our eye,” he said.

The initial release of the VE Commodore in 2006 saw talk of its RWD Zeta platform being used beneath a portfolio of vehicles for Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Opel and even a large Saab. The Opel Insignia concept of 2003 and Buick Velite Roadster concept of 2004 were both built using the architecture, but over time many of the plans for the product were quietly postponed or cancelled.

“The strategy we had a few years ago of basically deriving a whole sweeping global portfolio off the Australian Zeta architecture … frankly, we have had to abandon that dream.”

“This is because, whether you are in the United States or in China, fuel economy mandates are getting more and more severe, and we just could not base our strategy on doing relatively large and relatively heavy rear-wheel-drive cars. I suspect the same thing is going to start to bite the traditional rear-wheel drive producers,” Lutz said.

Already the G8 ST, a Pontiac badged version of the Commodore ute, has been cancelled just months before it was scheduled to go on sale. The only North American built product to be built on Zeta’s RWD platform is the Chevrolet Camaro.

[The Truth About Cars]

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