Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

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Thread: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

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    6.2 Liter LS9 Supercharged V8 Premium Member BBDOS CV8's Avatar
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    Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Zeta II - The More Things Change.....
    A Technical Preview of GM's Global RWD platform
    www.gminsidenews.com
    May 29, 2011
    By Mark Cadle
    BBDOS CV8

    So having looked at the thinking that created Zeta , how will Zeta II be different? Now that we know it is not to feature as a product base on any other continent (apart from the existing export markets and North America) we can say with some certainty what it will be.

    Zeta I is a very competitive chassis offering on cost, performance and crash-rating, plus included safety content. Zeta II's mission will be to meet or exceed these credentials while lowering mass, build costs and improving dynamics.

    The GFC taught Holden that the old adage from the days of the Button Plan, 'Export or Perish', is not entirely correct; and not the only thing to consider in terms of surviving. Holden was caught out by events beyond it's control - working extremely hard to build up it’s export market to America for the G8 sedan; only to have it vapourise! Just before the GFC hit, sales were starting to gain traction and actually edging up month by month as awareness of the car increased - unusual for GM product, getting stronger as time went by.

    Improving the right mix of models with a certified-smash GXP (reduced numbers after the Pontiac Obituary announcement basically sold out in seconds flat); plus the stillborn 2010 models which were to introduce the 300hp SIDI V6, aero-aids to aid fuel savings, the Holden iQ touchscreen with native Navigation for the US would have gong a long way to answering the criticisms of the V6 and lack of features.


    One of Zeta's strong features is a highly-automated factory with resulting low production cost. This will remain.

    Then came the GFC, which we don’t need to revisit. Suffice to say, Holden like everyone was hurting – the Middle East market vanished overnight. Holden’s CEO Mike Devereux was in Charge of GM Saudi Arabia then. He told me all you could see was a sea of unsold, shiny GM cars, SUVs, Escalades, STSs, Chev Luminas with more arriving by ship all the time – and no buyers. No ‘ET phone home’ to cancel orders – they’re building them to send on out. That’s when it isn’t a good time to have a key to the Executive Washroom.

    Another major thing the cancellation of the G8 project taught Holden was not to allow yourself to be at the mercy of external factors: in future Holden will target exports as they present themselves: if they don't, Holden can build either of it's two bestselling models in whatever proportions to keep business and the factory ticking over. And cherry-pick any opportunities for high-value builds (V8 RWD sports or luxury or police sedan in short or long wheelbase). No-one else in the GM world is going to do this - so Holden may as well set themselves up as the default RWD supplier.

    2-door coupe off VF? Not without significant potential exports.

    VF is likely to appear in the Holden product portfolio in RWD form only (SUV roles going to the Captiva and the, new, large SUV GM is developing off the next-gen Colorado for Australian market vehicles) we will again see a short sedan, long sedan (Caprice), Sportswagon and a Ute, which at this stage is likely to be the only 2 door variant. You'd never say never to another Monaro or AWD variant off Zeta II totally, but it's unlikely.

    How Will the VF Commodore Change?
    The answer is, not in major significance on outward appearance. It will retain largely it’s proportions (which is the biggest interior that will fit into a RWD 200" sedan) and basic styling, probably with more elements of Volt, Cruze, Malibu featurings, like the sculptured bonnet/boot sides. It won't get faddish styling that hurts practicality like 4-door coupe rooflines, or block-of-flats frontal styling (Dodge Charger, looking at you!).

    This is partly because the design in Australia has been a winner since Day 1 - against the odds it’s still until recently won the sales war against all comers. Even after five years the market seems to like it’s shape; all we’ve had is a minor Series II update which has kept it moving. Changes to powertrains are more important. SIDI engines and the 6L50 transmission were important improvements.

    It’s price/performance/features packaging in the various versions is mostly spot-on for the market they sell in – the Ute, Sportswagon and HSV versions are still waltzing out the door comparatively. It’s just changing societal tastes, plus fuel costs that are leading a drive to small-medium SUVs. But like BOF trucks in the US, Commodore business is good business in Australia, because it’s high-profit margin – and the sales are dropping at the cheap Executive and family-entry end, but holding up well at the luxury, sport and V8 end of the market.


    Will the Champ back it up in 2013?
    If it does win the best-seller title again it will be a miracle, as the market for large cars is nosing down steeply – the Camry/Aurion and Falcon have declined massively in sales to a fraction of their former volume. Commodore including commercials and LWB cars sold around 90,000 vehicles annually ten years back – now it’s looking like the 60,000 mark.

    Times They Are a'Changin'
    This is going to make a major difference to the Commodore in the future - the humble Cruze.

    Holden can build Commodores, or they can build Cruzes - what people are buying will determine build proportions. Eventually, Cruze will most likely overtake Commodore volume.

    Fuel prices are biting. Families are downsizing, often to one adult and one or two kids. There's more single person families, no-kids families than ever. In the era of the $100 interstate airfare, and time-poor modern lives, people don't drive as far - certainly not interstate or holidays overnight as much; like used to be common even ten years back.

    Plus a shift in perceptions: 'action' vehicles like SUVs are trendy and fashionable - even if the majority are 2WD, often based on boring sedans underneath. All these things are contributing to the gradual decline of the traditional Aussie six that was a mainstay of the family for decades.

    Then there were personal taxation changes in 2007, raising the marginal tax threshold. These reduced the taxation incentive for people to salary-sacrifice for leased motor vehicles. Cars like the XR6 Falcon and SV6 Commodore exist primarily for this market. If you take out the loss of sales volume of these and base 3.0 litre Commodores, it's little wonder that V8s make up a staggering 40% of sedan/wagon, and 70% of Ute sales; never the case prior to 2008. People paying their own, post-tax dollars for cars are making different choices: an Australian-made car with subsidised purchase, fuel and running costs that most fleet deals effectively provided was very tempting.

    Sooner or later we will have a carbon tax which will effect motoring. That and government/corporate pledges to be 'green' has meant many business buyers have mandated four cylinders, and governments Aussie fours. Hence the local assembly of Cruze, and the importation of the Malibu: which will give Holden strong contenders at that level. Over time these will subsume probably the role of Omega Commodores. That's bad for volume, but the factory is now flexible enough to substitute Cruze production on a sliding basis. As more models of Cruze (hatch, wagon) come online production will increase.

    What does this mean: well, firstly and probably inevitably Commodore will cede the No 1 seller plate (hopefully to Cruze). And the Cruze will take over the running in the lower-margin, volume fleet and economy market level along with the Malibu. Over time I wouldn't be surprised to see the Omega model disappear.

    That isn't bad news for Commodore: on the contrary, it allows Holden to position it as a more premium offering, which should increase it's appeal as an exotic overseas. With the new updated SIDI 3.6 and Gen IV V8s coming: plus a prospective move back to America in little more than twelve months, we should see a less-utilitarian and slightly more upspec basic product.

    Efficiency improvements will make it all-around more appealing; performance, economy and general driving dynamics should all improve. It can be made a little better equipped and more luxurious at all trims, because it can be set up to be a higher-margin vehicle. Styling will move the language along from both the TT36 and VE Commodore shape. It will incorporate some corporate elements from other models - uniquely married to Holden's own grille and design lanuage.

    More than Skin Deep

    But there will be much under the skin that is different. The major, major difference, and what should create a major change to weight and construction is layer build.


    Ignore styling: styling is a moveable feast that can be stuck on any platform: the Cadillac XTS is the best example of this: Along with a Lucerne-ish roofline, it wears Art & Science styling originally intended for the Zeta DTS car. Of course, budget for the XTS as a stopgap (and probably eventual transformation into the Lucerne it was probably developed as) means the roofline misses the Z-profile 80’s Seville profile of the Zeta ULS sedan.


    Volt (Delta II - shared with Cruze) layer-build front and rear chassis modules. Note the relative simplicity compared to Zeta I, below. Lighter weight vehicle, but starkly uncomplicated.


    Because Zeta 1 marries long single members into the cabin understructure, they are large to avoid bending under stress – hitting a pothole at one end of the car, or full-throttle application in a low gear wants to twist the chassis diagonally. Hitting a speed hump or road-join tries to make the whole car bend across the middle.



    Any welder will tell you – joining long pieces with welds, even spot welds, distorts them the further along you go and introduces stresses if you try to resist them moving. The other issue is, with such long pieces, access for the auto-bots is slow and awkward due to a limited reach and movements range. Both these things means slow fabrication times and special care needed to produce a properly-married set of modules. The weld pattern is critical, and the size and shape and thickness of the steel gauge of some elements is compromised to some degree to compensate for access limiting the placement of the welds. It’s not a terrible thing, as Zeta 1 is more than capable: but able to be improved on. You end up with a structure that is tough – just not light for it’s size.

    Zeta 1 shell: a long reach for the auto-welders is needed to complete this from stem-stern. Doable, but layer-build should allow more efficiency.

    You can think of modular build like a Mechano-set – you build things with long exterior segments joined at corners with gussets and cross members. So everything builds off the main ‘bones’ which in Zeta’s case are the long horns of the front and rear modules which are effectively welded into similar structures in the floor pressing, closed off by the ribs. The passenger cell is sort of perched on these rather than part of them. These do not lack strength, but have to be fairly hefty to avoid bending along their length. Getting access to weld them properly in assembly is hard. And their very size makes it trickier to maintain strength and a realistic weld pattern.

    Zeta II, on the other hand, adds Layer Build to the mix. Layer build is more akin to building a house from a deck of cards: small compartment sections that interlock to provide more strength than any of the relatively small-section bits. So you build a small section, build another piece off it, another piece off that, then another, then another etc.

    Think of it like the Corvette ZR1's bonded honeycombed-aluminium, balsawood-core chassis. The strength to handle 600+hp comes from the thin aluminium sandwiched around balsa wood, a material not known for toughness or torsional rigidity of itself. The balsa maintains the proportions of the aluminium, and in those spatial relationships the alumnium is more resistant to bend than heavier gauge steel in a solid sheet.

    Simple playing cards can support surprising weight when arranged in this way. Layer build produces multiple, small, closed-compartments to build strength-on-strength. Also like honeycomb.


    Volt (Delta II) front chassis module pressing. Unassembled, it's a simple 3-sided channel pressing of no particular strength. Welded to the floorpan, it becomes an enclosed spar member of much greater strength.


    Volt front wheel/suspension housing - the element is built from fabricated sheet sections where inner welds are performed, then sealed by outer sections. In this case, the upper front guard (still to be added) seals this chassis member to the A-pillar root, and produces a strong irregular-sided box section that forms one contiguous structure. This is a crash load-path, a weight-bearer and outer skin all in one.

    The Biggest Loser - Jenny Craig Time
    A prime target of VF will be fuel efficiency. Along with improved aerodynamics, Holden has announced with the aid of a government grant the introduction of aluminium panel technology. The strength of Zeta I's arrangement was detailed in the previous Zeta article. This should be no different for Zeta II, allowing cosmetic external panels to be replaced. Holden and HSV also have plastic panel experience, with the thermo-moulded SMC sheets used in HSV Maloo tailgates. Like a woven mat heated into a mold, which once catalysed is strong enough to support the weight of a large man jumping on it. Testing included 10,000 slams, harder than a human arm could produce, to validate it.

    Plastic Fantastic: HSV Maloo has a plastic, double-wall SMC plastic tailgate.

    Holden believes in spreading technical improvements across the range: hence SIDI and six-speed transmissions became standard across the MY 2010 range once introduced; as did the Series II aero-improvement measures. There are no special 'Eco' models: the most efficient VE Series II models for economy and emissions are the 3.0 litre Omega and Berlina entry-level models.

    Likely Models/Features
    2014 VF Commodore/WN Caprice (Zeta II)

    Holden Sedan/Sportswagon
    • Omega - 3.0 LF1/6L50 trans (base business/fleet model)
    • Berlina - 3.0 LF1/6L50 trans (entry family)
    • SV6 - 3.6 LFX/6L50 or Aisin 6-speed manual
    • SS - 6.2 Gen V DI LT1 with 6L80 or Tremec 60xx manual trans
    • SS-V as above with higher level trim/luxury features
    • Calais - 3.6 LFX/6L50 (Luxury model)
    • Calais V - 6.2 Gen V DI LT1/6L80


    HSV Models:
    • Clubsport R8 - 6.2 Gen V8 SWB sedan
    • GTS - 6.2 Gen V 6.2 V8 SWB sedan (Magnaride)
    • Maloo (Ute) - 6.2 Gen V 6.2 V8 LWB coupe utility
    • Grange (Caprice) 6.2 Gen V V8 LWB sedan (Magnaride)


    Long Wheelbase Models
    • Caprice - 3.6 LFX/6L50 V6 (entry LWB sedan)
    • Caprice V - 6.2 Gen V DI LT1 V8/6L80
    • Ute - Omega, SV6, SS models as above

    Export Models
    • Chevrolet Caprice PPV 6.2 LT1, 3.6 LFX (North America)
    • Chevrolet 'SS' 6.2 Gen V DI V8"
    • Chevrolet Lumina LFX 3.6 V6 (Middle East/South Africa)
    • Chevrolet Lumina SS 6.2 LT1 "
    • Chevrolet Lumina Caprice LFX 3.6 V6 "
    • Chevrolet Lumina Caprice SS 6.2 LT1 "
    • Buick Park Avenue 3.0 LF0 (Local assembly China)
    • Daewoo/Chevrolet 3.0 LF0 Veritas (Korea)
    • Chevrolet Special Vehicles SS M-E 6.2 Gen V DI V8
    • Vauxhall VXR 6.2 Gen V DI V8 (HSV Clubsport, Maloo, GTS)
    • Chevrolet Omega LFX 3.6 V6 (South America)


    GM Inside News formulated a set of questions for GM Holden regarding existing and future Zeta. Obviously, as VF release is still subject to Commercial-in-Confidence, there are limits to the answers Holden could give. However, Holden's Social Media & Digital Communications Manager Andrea Mathews (poster HOLDEN on GMI), in concert with Emily Perry, Holden External Communications Manager, got their heads around our questions and answered as fully as they could, without disclosing sensitive information.

    We can't answer many of your specifics as we don't comment on forward products or strategy.

    I've answered where I can but know you will understand our need to protect our competitive advantage by not giving away too much.


    -We know Zeta II is going to layer-build: what additional flexibility could this potentially bring as part of the core used for sedans - for instance as a large commercial vehicle or SUV.
    Sorry - can't answer this

    -We understand Zeta II will be more than fascia changes; will the greenhouse/door openings and pillars change as a result?
    Again, we're not commenting on future models or design features

    -Can we get an indication Holden thinking about the influence of overseas markets - has it changed since 2006?
    The world has become a different place since 2006. We've rebuilt our manufacturing business to be sustainable and profitable on our domestic business alone. Holden employees would love to see our cars back on the roads in markets like the US but presently, overseas volume is being viewed as additional to core business.

    -What is the consensus within Holden on the G8 program? Specifically, was it tracking to being profitable before the cancellation of the program and closure of Pontiac?
    I can't give you a "business/financial" response as we don't comment on the profitability of individual programs. I can say that from my own perspective as a member of the enormous team that brought G8 to the US, Holden was immensely proud of the G8 export program and seeing Australian built cars on US roads.

    -With GM's well publicised financial difficulties around 2006, how close did we come to NOT getting a Ute or Sportwagon?
    Do you mean Australia? If you mean the US, then the Ute was a confirmed program for Pontiac and it was going ahead as per our internal timings, until it was cancelled. Sportwagon was never a confirmed export program for the US.

    -Is there a corporate line on why Caprice is not going to be available for US retail market when it appears it could fit into two brands?
    This is a question for Chevrolet - we don't comment on markets in other countries.

    -Could Zeta 2 underpin any future products produced abroad, like in China and NA? We have heard of a RWD project called Omega supposedly being developed in China. Is this an adjunct or offshoot of Zeta or something else?
    Holden cannot comment on global development.

    -Are any Holden Zeta specialists working with GM North America on the Alpha project?
    We don't comment on who is working on individual projects. Zeta is a global engineering team so GM moves people around the engineering function dependent on their skills/expertise and development requirements.


    -How significant a role will exports play in the future of VE/Zeta products at Holden - or is this somewhat secondary to the primary role as an Australian-market vehicle?
    See comments above.

    -Are further upgrades in line for the current model prior to release of VF?
    We have already announced a dedicated LPG model Commodore is on its way and we will be expanding E85 compatibility to 3.6l engines (currently only available on 3.0 SIDI and V8s)

    Andrea Mathews,
    Social Media & Digital Communications Manager
    Last edited by BBDOS CV8; 03-13-2012 at 09:03 PM.

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    A little over my head. Seems like a whole new platform.This is or isn't VF? I thought VF was a facelift ?


    So I was wondering about Sigma and Kappa.

    Sigma is Built the same way as Zeta?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1681548...n/photostream/

    Where as Kappa was Built the way Zeta II would be?
    http://www.skyroadster.com/forums/at...pa_chassis.jpg
    Last edited by sncrducrx; 05-29-2011 at 08:45 AM. Reason: added
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Wow, i didnt realise how extensive the upgrades to Zeta were going to be. I thought that Holden was going to simply give it a fresh design inside and out, and then reduce weight. Well, any news on Holden becoming more competitive and efficient is always good news.

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Quote Originally Posted by BBDOS CV8 View Post
    • Calais V - 6.2 Gen V DI LT1/6L80
    • Caprice V - 6.2 Gen IV DI LT1/6L80
    • Chevrolet Caprice PPV 6.2 LT1, 3.6 LFX (North America)
    • Chevrolet Lumina SS 6.2 LT1 "
    • Chevrolet Lumina Caprice SS 6.2 LT1 "
    I didn't know that RPO LT1 was returning for the Gen V small block.
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomko View Post
    I didn't know that RPO LT1 was returning for the Gen V small block.
    You saw that too...

    It kinda floored me to see that listed especially with all the push here in N/A for the LSx engines. Not sure what to expect out of these new LT1s.

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Quote Originally Posted by thepaidtraveler View Post
    You saw that too...

    It kinda floored me to see that listed especially with all the push here in N/A for the LSx engines. Not sure what to expect out of these new LT1s.
    In the past, LT1 referred to a high output 350 SBC. So my guess is that the Gen V will have a HO 5.7. it might even be the hotest Gen V variant.
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Volt front wheel/suspension housing - the element is built from fabricated sheet sections where inner welds are performed, then sealed by outer sections. In this case, the upper front guard (still to be added) seals this chassis member to the A-pillar root, and produces a strong irregular-sided box section that forms one contiguous structure. This is a crash load-path, a weight-bearer and outer skin all in one.
    does this equal if I crack up a VOLT / ZETA II that the front guard can not be replaced without a major work IE replacing front spar assy or cutting up/rewelding the spar "box"

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Well, it's nice to have it confirmed that there is little chance for a AWD Zeta II. I guess for me I might be interested in either an Epsilon II or Super Epsilon II. I'm just hoping GM will find a way to justify making one in wagon form with AWD.

    Maybe eAssist could help the Zeta II make mileage targets. I'd like to see technology eventually catch up to mileage standards. That's unless governments constantly want to push the envelope.

    I know one thing, if I have the money to buy a car, I won't be forced to buy an SUV just to get a "sort of wagon" with AWD. I'd rather go to the competition and buy a Subaru Outback.
    AWD wagons
    The Opel Astra and VW Scirocco need to be in North America.
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    It seems to me that, as large as Zeta naturally is, with as much mass as it already carries, it would make sense to try to apply Voltec (or some sort of other electric system) to a vehicle of that size. If GM could make a fullsize sedan that could go 25 or 30 miles on no gas... Game changer.
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Great write up BBDOS.

    Is the SS-V getting a detuned HSV engine? Or can you just not confirm what sizes Gen V will be in?

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    BTW, can't wait for Z2SC

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    An outside thought, spurred by looking at that BEAUTIFUL VF coupe concept without the B pillar (like the Camaro SHOULD have had):
    If the next Camaro is on Alpha, why not build a Monte Carlo to go along with the SS sedan on the Zeta II? Seriously - 90% of the parts and service would be the same as the SS sedan and police cruisers... why not build a car a bit bigger than the next alpha chassis Camaro, something like, oh maybe Monte Carlo sized - or Buick GS. Oh, and keep the B-pillar at home, coupes shouldn't have them...
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    Just a couple of notes: LT1 is known to be a future 6.2 litre DI Gen IV. Whether it's the hot PULP motor a la LS2/LS3 and destined for HSV and the Corvette/Camaro SS, or the 'cooking' engine destined for SUV and Holden duty as a ULP engine is not known. Nor is whether there will be alternate versions.

    It may be there is only one tune - but that is unlikely. It's more likely there will, as now, be at least an AFM/auto version and a 'hot' non-auto version in a couple of tunes for ULP and PULP.

    In terms of the structure, nothing will change from a crash/accident prespective. Because the HSS 'horns' are part of Zeta I, as they are of Zeta II; if you bend them significantly the fabricated sections will not be able to be effectively straightened, nor cut nor welded or you risk untermpering the metal. There will be repair sections as there are now. That is true of any modern car made of fabricated sections. Once the passenger cell deforms, it's all-over-red-rover for that body-in-white.

    However, if you manage to bend a structure as rigid as a Commodore that much, that is likely to be the least of your concerns.......

    The example Delta layer-build chassis section should not be taken as a guide to Zeta chassis shape, as that bit wraps around a transverse motor in Volt/Cruze. Currently, Zeta is like two pipe-cleaners glued to the bottom edges of a matchbox. In future, it will probably be more like the 'horns' grow out of modular compartments like the lower A-pillar/doorhinge sections. The sills will be more than cosmetic.

    There's the possibility of a slight external decrease in size/frontal area for the same internal volume, because the shell will be more exoskeleton than the current car.

    More answers will have to wait for the tech release. I asked Holden if I could check their equations, but they weren't keen for some reason......
    Last edited by BBDOS CV8; 05-29-2011 at 07:06 PM.

  16. #14
    6.0 Liter L76 V8 T'Cal's Avatar
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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    If GM won't bring a LWB zeta here as a Chevy (Impala or Chevelle) SS, they should at least bring one here as a Buick Roadmaster powered by the 6.0L or 6.2L. What a clear display of indecisiveness and lack of marketing savvy. Pathetic.
    Buy American. Buy Ford. So say we all!

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    Re: Zeta Week Crystal Ball Time: Zeta II - What Is and What Will Never Be

    To my fellow GM North American brethren, I think it is time to stop pining for a Zeta Chevy.

    GM/NA will never give us another one, the G8 was our one and only shot to get it. I love the car, I truly do, its powerful, handsome and a bargain to boot. But GM/NA will never, never give it to us. They launched it as a Pontiac knowing they were going to kill it soon, and did it to shut us up about importing it.


    IF it does come to the US, I will only believe it when I see them at my dealer and not until then.

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