NASCAR, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Cryptic Rumors From Australia

Last week Alan Batey, boss of GM North America, announced the Australian built Chevrolet SS was officially on its way to the electric chair alongside the Holden Commodore, but the company was surprisingly terse on its plans for a racing replacement.

The SS will sing its swan song during the 2017 NASCAR season, with GM confirming a replacement would be ready for 2018. Oddly, GM refused to name either the Malibu or Impala as successor; in a statement released by Chevy, racing boss Jim Campbell danced around what many thought was an obvious decision.

“It was already known that the Chevrolet SS was going to be discontinued in 2017,” Campbell said. “That information was originally announced last summer. As you know, we don’t talk about future projects. We’ll make any announcement regarding our next Cup entry at the appropriate time.”

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“Future projects” piqued my interest, if we take Campbell’s language at face value it would mean Chevy is cooking something not yet announced. Coincidentally, Chevrolet’s announcement coincided with a cryptic rumor recieved from a source familiar with Holden’s plans for new sports car.

The source tells us the new Commodore will not be Holden’s performance flagship for very long, and that when the product does arrive it will be a brand new rear-wheel-drive initiative, not just a rebadged Corvette or Camaro. Allegedly, Holden will also share the platform with both Cadillac and Chevrolet.

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Obviously Australian manufacturing is out of the question as Holden’s Elizabeth plant ponderously heads toward slaughter later this year; when asked if the car would be imported from the US, the source didn’t say yes, but instead said it was unlikely to come from SAIC’s Cadillac plant in Jinqiao.

Our source flat out refused to give us any platform hints besides right-wheel-drive, but if we consider it logically, most signs point to GM’s high-tech Omega platform currently under the Cadillac CT6.

An Omega based family of cars for Holden would be a quick and dirty way to enhance Omega’s volume, the platform is also large enough to reduce overlap with the new Opel Insignia based Commodore. Considering the Commodore name is now spoken for, it’s possible an Omega based Holden could wear the Caprice name, while also providing Australia with a successor to the Monaro as promised by GM’s boss of international operations, Stefan Jacoby back in 2015.

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Since the Cadillac CT6 first debuted the brand has been planning to enter the Australian market once Holden stopped manufacturing locally. Johan de Nysschen himself has spoken about the potential for RHD Cadillacs reaching overseas markets before 2020, and Cadillac Chief Marketing Officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, was quoted saying: “Yes there are plans for right-hand-drive cars, but I can’t confirm timing and models and who will get them first.”

Fueling speculation Cadillac is on the cusp of expanding Down Under, several CT6s have been spotted at Tullamarine airport in Melbourne on their way to Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground. Having Holden help float RHD volumes could be the perfect catalyst for Cadillac to finally make a proper push in Europe, but it’s unclear if the brand will get another large car based on Omega.

The same line of thinking is possibly where Chevrolet could find its new NASCAR body. Chevy could bring forward a low volume, ideological replacement for the SS and the PPV Caprice, or in the finest form of Leibnizian optimism, returning the Impala to it’s big body, RWD roots.

Holden’s director of communications, Sean Poppitt, reignited speculation last week when he proclaimed “we’re getting much, much closer and there will be something to talk about soon. Is there only going to be one? Maybe there’s two? Maybe there’s different segments. I can’t really give any more away and keep my job.”

Squaring with Poppitt’s comments, our own source said he’s positive more information would be forthcoming, but was adamant we wouldn’t be getting it from him.

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