General Motors may have a plan to resurrect the well-liked Pontiac G8 sports sedan, which goes away this month as the automaker emerges from bankruptcy as a smaller company. GM stopped production of the car in June, but there is talk of bringing it back as the Chevrolet Caprice.
Initially, GM decided against the idea. The G8 is built in Australia, so currency fluctuations and expensive shipping make the business case a tough one. But recently reinstated GM Vice-Chairman Robert A. "Bob" Lutz is keen to revive the G8 as a Chevy.
It wouldn't be much of a stretch. GM's Australian Holden subsidiary already builds a Chevrolet Caprice and a Lumina for the Middle East using the same hardware that hosts the G8. GM uses the Chevy names in the Middle East, and in Australia it calls the car the Holden Commodore, with a longer version of the sedan dubbed the Statesman.
GM insiders and analysts alike are at odds over the wisdom of bringing the G8 back to the U.S. as a Chevy. On one hand, Pontiac this year sold more of the G8, which starts at $28,000 for a base model up to $40,000 for the super-sporty GXP version, than Acura sold of its high-volume TL luxury sedan and Infiniti sold of its sporty G37. The cars all sell in the same general price range. "They would sell even more of them under the Chevy name," says John Wolkonowicz, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Boston. "And they would do well in the police-car market, too."
Gearheads like the G8's roomy cabin, rear-wheel drive, and panoply of tire-burning engine choices. Sports car fans love that it's a roomy sedan that can be had with a 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 or 361-hp, 6.0-liter or 415-hp, 6.2-liter V8 engines.
Is it worth the added investment required?
On the other hand, some argue, a G8 morphed into a Caprice wouldn't bring in enough new buyers. The car could end up just competing with the Impala, a like-sized front-drive Chevy sedan. It also could compete with the all-new Camaro, another rear-drive sporty car with an American heritage, says James N. Hall, a principal at 2953 Analytics, a Detroit-area consulting firm.
Plus, it wouldn't be as simple as bringing a Caprice that is styled for the Middle East to the U.S., Hall says. GM would need to restyle a front end that would both make the G8 a Chevy and pass U.S. crash tests. That could require a year's worth of work and more investment from a company that is still short on cash.
So will GM do it? If Lutz wants it bad enough, it could happen. He has been working as an adviser to the company since April and had planned to retire in December. But GM's new board and CEO Frederick A. "Fritz" Henderson wanted him back. With GM's debt burden reduced, Lutz figured he could get the funding to really develop and market new models.
GM Chief Financial Officer Ray Young says the company isn't planning to bring back the G8, but adds: "Lutz will take over. If he concludes that there is a role [for the G8] to play, we'll listen."