Two years ago the boss of General Motors told News Corp Australia the Corvette was heading Down Under. The next day his executives said he was mistaken. Now it seems the Corvette really is coming this time.
The iconic Chevrolet Corvette sports car is heading for Holden showrooms to become the brand’s hero car once manufacturing comes to an end in 2017.
The boss of General Motors’ international division, Stefan Jacoby -- the man who in December 2013 made the tough call to close the Elizabeth assembly line -- told Australian media in Detroit that Holden will have a "halo model" after the V8 Commodore dies.
Mr Jacoby stopped short of confirming which car it will be, but there are only two V8 performance vehicles in the GM line-up that could possibly fit: the new Chevrolet Camaro or the next version of the Corvette.
However the Corvette is tipped to be the favourite given that the new Camaro has not been developed for right-hand-drive, whereas the timing of the Corvette’s model change over works in Australia’s favour. The other option, the Cadillac V8, will not fit a steering wheel on the right-hand-side of the car because the engine is such a tight fit.
“We will bring a true sports car to Australia for the brand Holden,” said Mr Jacoby. “It will be something which fulfills the requirement of a true Holden sports car.”
Beyond that, Mr Jacoby was coy about giving any further details other than it will be a V8 and arrive in 2018.
This means that although V8 versions of the homegrown Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore may be reaching the end of the road forever, both will be replaced by iconic US muscle cars.
Ford is due to release the Mustang at the end of this year priced from $50,000 while the Corvette is not due in Australia showrooms until 2018, the year after the Holden factory closes in Elizabeth.
There is one catch however. The flagship version of the Corvette will likely have a price close to $100,000 -- the same as a current HSV GTS sedan -- by the time exchange rates and shipping costs are taken into account.
Nevertheless, the news will be a relief to rev heads because Holden was facing a future without a V8.
At the unveiling of the current Chevrolet Corvette in Detroit in January 2013, the then boss of General Motors Dan Akerson told News Corp Australia the sports-car would be made in right-hand-drive and would be coming to Australia “soon”.
But less than 24 hours later his second-in-command Tim Lee, at the time the head of GM’s international operations, said: “I have no idea what [General Motors CEO Dan Akerson] said but we have no plan to put a right-hand-drive under that bonnet. The Corvette is a Chevrolet, it’s not a Holden, it never will be, next question.”
When Mr Lee was asked how two senior executives with intimate knowledge of the company could make such a faux-pas about the Corvette, Mr Lee said: “I recognise what my boss said, I recognise what [the chief engineer] said, I am telling you as the operating guy in charge there is no plan. I respect my boss, I love my boss. But I think he was giving you an exhortation.”
When pressed again on how such a senior colleague could get such key facts wrong during a media presentation, Mr Lee said during a roundtable interview: “We can spend the entire 20 minutes talking about this. This is a non-story from my point of view. You can write what you want to write, I really don’t give a shit. But it is not in the mainstream plan.”
Mr Lee then repeated his earlier comments: “Currently there is no engineering execution, there is no plan. If the CEO said tomorrow that he wants us to do that [a right-hand-drive Corvette] it would take us years. Don’t go back and sell that story.”
At the Corvette unveiling, when asked if the new model would be made in right-hand drive, the boss of General Motors Dan Akerson told News Corp Australia “yes”. When asked when, he replied “soon”.
The chief engineer of the new Corvette, Tadje Juechter, then said: “We want the Corvette to come to Australia. I get letters from Australia all the time. Our primary competition sells left- and right-hand-drive, so that’s what we want to do. Our plan is to make this a truly global car.
“But I would say [Mr Akerson’s] timetable is a little faster than what you’re probably thinking. It’ll be years away [rather than soon].”