A tighter economy and tougher emissions standards in the United States will not affect the hard-won export deal for the Holden Commodore.
The Pontiac G8 version of Australia's favourite car is still locked in for later this year and General Motors expects at least 40,000 sales a year, even as the green debate takes on a new edge in the United States.
There had been worries about the G8 in recent weeks after General Motors' global product chief Bob Lutz suggested the company had hit the “pause button” on some of its future large rear-wheel-drive projects as petrol prices again soar in the US and various governments look to tighten standards for CO2 emissions and carmakers' corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) numbers.
But Steve Harris, GM's head of global communications, moved quickly to erase any worries during a brief visit to Melbourne for an Asia-Pacific planning summit.
He says Pontiac cannot wait to get the G8 and predicts a solid future for the left-hand drive Commodore.
“There is a lot of anticipation around that vehicle. People feel that it will do well,” Harris says.
He is a member of the top management group at General Motors and was brought back from retirement when the company was close to bankruptcy last year.
Harris believes GM is pointing in the right direction with breakthrough cars, including the G8, to win back ground lost to Japanese carmakers with their “transplant” factories in the US. But he concedes there have been mistakes.
“We definitely disappointed a lot of people in the '80s and '90s. But most people think we've touched bottom,” Harris says.
On the environmental front, he says there are still too many questions to give definitive answers to. But he says Lutz's comments were taken too literally and there was never any doubt about the G8.
“We have not stopped and never did stop any work on any rear-wheel-drive activity. There is no slowdown and no putting any investment on hold,” he says.
Harris's words are good news for the engineering and design teams at Fishermans Bend who are preparing the Chevrolet Camaro concept car for showrooms, over the top of the VE Commodore mechanical package.
But Harris still warns that change is coming and GM will have to be prepared, as the federal and state governments, led by California, look at tighter regulations for motor vehicles.
“It is a concern to us, what is going on from a CAFE and CO2 discussion in the US, and some of the proposals look unbelievably difficult to achieve,” he says.
“It's a complex issue and it is yet to be determined how it will play out . . . We're very much at discussion and negotiation stages.”