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Consequences of a new Pony Car war

carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
edited April 18 in Chevrolet
The upcoming (we hope) war of pony cars could be pretty exciting, and should give us lots to talk about.

I'll start with a thought that I had about the Camaro, that I haven't seen anywhere else in automotive websites or blogs. Maybe being first to say it out loud means I'm missing something, like a few screws. But anyway, I'll start by making myself real popular:

The Chevy Camaro will kill Pontiac and is therefore a BAD IDEA.

I like the car, but it can't come into existence as the Camaro. It'll kill Pontiac!

GM's "sporty" brand should be built around a car like the Camaro. The brand's volume seller, its heart and soul, should be a pony car. I'll refer to it as the Firebird in this post, but I don't care what it's called.

That would give Pontiac meaning. But it would only be practical if GM had no other pony car for sale. The Camaro would probably kill the Firebird in sales just by virtue of being a Chevy, rendering the Firebird ineffective as a volume seller. Pontiac would have to base its sales on something more mundane, like a G5 or G6 - something you also buy at any other GM brand.

More importantly, the Camaro's existence would render Pontiac more pointless than ever. Between Chevy and Saturn, you can find everything that Pontiac has - and usually better. Chevy has a faster FWD sport compact, a faster V8 sedan, a faster V8 sports car, faster SUVs, and I bet the fastest version of the Camaro will be faster than the fastest Firebird.

Is this making any sense? Can Pontiac survive without being GM's pony car banner bearer? Can't Chevrolet survive just fine without the Camaro? It's nice to see GM get emotional about car development after decades, but I think they've lost sight of the big picture...
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Comments

  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    I like the car, but it can't come into existence as the Camaro. It'll kill Pontiac!

    Pontiac is already on life support, and probably needs to die. The brand has no value -- its nameplates are largely relegated to the rental car circuit, and you could sell the Solstice with any other badge and do just as well with it. (If anything, if the goal is to preserve at least a few GM badges, rather than start over again, it would have been preferable to have branded the Solstice as a Chevy than as a Pontiac.)

    I see pros and cons to the Camaro. Overall, I'd put it in the plus category, but it does have some downsides attached:

    Pros:

    -Profits: If done properly (and that's an "if", to be sure), it will sell in large numbers and generate a profit. If GM needs anything right now, it's having a car that is profitable.

    -Positive buzz: It might create some nice PR and glow for a GM brand that isn't a truck and isn't a limited production model. If the goal is to pull people into showrooms based upon a car they find appealing (Camaro) but that lure them into buying a car that might actually need (a 4-door sedan or minivan, for example), then that alone would be reason enough to do it.

    Cons:

    -Might hurt the brand: GM already has a reputation of being behind the times, and building a retro pony car may just reinforce that impression. Yes, it will appeal to Big 2.5 buyers, but if it turns off potential import buyers as being a redneck throwback, then the overall result might be negative. Some care will need to be taken in how the car is marketed and styled to manage this risk.

    If oil prices remain high, one key here will be to include a 6-cylinder model that is neither just a base model nor a horrendous compromise to own and drive. In a world of $4 fuel, my bet is that you won't have much demand for V-8's, which means the demand will skew to smaller motors. I have my doubts that GM would be very capable at creating a six that is sufficiently smooth, modern, economical and reliable to fit the bill.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a V6 Pony car is "rental". Whenever I go to the airport, the rental car lots seem to be full of V6 Stangs. Not saying that V6 Pony cars are bad - they definitely have their place from a marketing perspective.

    With that said, I do wonder how concerned Pony car buyers are with fuel economy - regardless of gas prices. I also have to think there are many "wanna bes" that buy the 6 cyls and still drive 'em like they stole 'em - but they just bought the 6 cyls in order to save some money up front.

    I would like to see research as to whether the Pony cars would benefit by utilizing the cylinder deactivation technology to where they could run on 4 cylinders when strain is not being applied to the engine. One option for GM could be to offer a smaller V8 with this technology as the base engine, and then offer a higher performance V8 for the enthusiast. If GM is considering throwing Camaros into fleet service (rentals) on a large scale, then I guess they would have to include a 6 cyl in the lineup.
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,650
    I've read Bob Lutz has mention they have to sell 100k units/yr for the Camaro to be successful. If that's the case, a solid v6 offering in the low $20s is a must. You need these entry level sales to support a v8 model that will sell in modest numbers. Look at the GT0 (not the best comparison I know, but similarities exist).

    The Mustang is successful because they sell a ton of v6 models, probably in the order of 3 to 1 or more over a GT. It has been that way since 1964, women have always loved Mustangs and have bought tons of the entry level model.

    The fact is, while many will want to see nothing but HiPo v8 models, there are not enough buyers to plunk down $30k plus on a muscle car.

    If Dodge brings the Challenger to market it will also make things tougher in the market place. The Mustang has a foot hold and with it's attractive price along with a convertible.

    While I miss the "pony" car wars and I miss reading and seeing head to head comparisons, I just don't know if the market can support 2-3 muscle cars in relatively large numbers.
  • eliaselias Posts: 1,923
    carlisimo, you say that chevy has a faster v8 sedan than pontiac, but isn't the gto a 2 door sedan? there's only one chevy faster - it's not a sedan and it's nearly double the cost.
    regarding the supposed pony-car war, i wonder if it will occur if recent fuel prices continue in USA.
    one feature i would probably like in my 6-speed GTO is cylinder-shutdown since i use the car for mucho highway cruising where the engine is loafing. i hear the next-gen camaro will have cylinder-shutdown for the V8 models... and there's a good chance i'd trade my GTO for a next-gen camaro, unless i decide to go for a diesel. i doubt we'll be seeing any diesel pony cars ;)
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    of this topic is flawed. None of the Big Three have a sporty RWD compact coupe anywhere in sight. They do have a raft of full-size heavyweight coupes on the way. The Solstice is more of a pony car than the neo-Chevelle "Camaro".
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    The interesting philosophical question your comment brings to mind is "what makes for a pony car?" This was the real subject of the Ford Probe/Mustang fiasco in the 1980s, and I suspect might resurface again soon (possibly with different results this time).

    But to the immediate point, in terms of size and weight, pony car status is usually relative to what else is out there. For instance, Mustang specs have shifted up and down as the rest of the automotive market has. Look at 1965 and a 1973 together, and the difference is astounding.

    The current Mustang seems quite large compared to my 2002, just as my 2002 seems quite large compared with a Fox body. But when you compare them each to the size of the average family sedans in the market at the time, they're all relatively about the same in proportions.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    The Mustang is successful because they sell a ton of v6 models, probably in the order of 3 to 1 or more over a GT.

    If I'm not mistaken, the split is about 50-50, with many of the retail six-cylinders going to women, and the majority of the retail V8's being sold to men.

    To clarify my previous point, the six-cylinder variants of these cars have tended to be crude afterthoughts with coarse, anemic motors and less appealing styling, definitely screaming out "Base Model"! I would suggest that the 6-cylinder models be attractive and appealing in their own right, so that getting one isn't such an obvious compromise. Just as a BMW 325 doesn't seem to be such a horrendous compromise as compared to the 330 -- each car is desirable in its own right -- I wouldn't continue to build a second-rate 6-cylinder pony car just to make the 8-cylinder version look better.

    The V8 needs to be available to maintain the image, while understanding most of the buyers won't actually buy one if the fuel costs too much. The V8 helps to maintain the allure of the nameplate, even for those who buy the less powerful version.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    "To clarify my previous point, the six-cylinder variants of these cars have tended to be crude afterthoughts with coarse, anemic motors and less appealing styling, definitely screaming out "Base Model"!"

    Could be worse...remember back in the late 80's-early 90's when the engine choices for the Fox body Mustang were either a 2.3L 4 cylinder, or the 5.0V8?
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I think the V6 to V8 ratio is more toward the 3 to 1 range than a 50-50 split. There just aren't enough GTs made for the 50-50 spread to work.

    But on the "screaming 2.3 liters of Mustang fury" topic :) , it's interesting that right now in one of the other discussion theards, there have been in the past week two seperate people with 4cyl Foxes who have inquired if they should fix them up and hold onto them.

    I think it says a lot about the non-performance qualities that a good pony car should have that there is interest in even those versions...GM and Chrysler take note: it's not all about 0-60 times.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    I still see a lot of those old 4 bangers on the road. They apparetnly were put together fairly well, and that engine is bullett proof (so to speak).
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "GM and Chrysler take note: it's not all about 0-60 times."

    Actually, it's some of their fans that need to take note of that fact. You'd think that the ONLY things that matter were engine displacement, hp ratings, and 1/4 mile numbers. It's like they want to drive a spec book instead of a car....
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    What's really funny is that despite all of the GM fanboys gushing about the last F-body's performance stats (and they were something to behold, that's for sure), not enough of them were willing to put their money where their mouth is and go out and purchase one.

    So the cars are axed and the assembly line is put to use building what people really wanted to buy, not just admire... :P
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,650
    If I'm not mistaken, the split is about 50-50, with many of the retail six-cylinders going to women, and the majority of the retail V8's being sold to men.

    I know Ford misjudged the demand for the GT and had to scramble to make more available, but I can't believe the mix is 50-50. At least not around here, I see 2-3 v6 models to every GT at a minimum.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    You may be right about the mix, particularly when adding in the fleet cars. I recall reading something about this in the past, but I was unable to find it now after a quick search.

    In any case, I'd say that the six-cylinders need to be turned into bona fide versions, rather than obvious compromises, if they are to achieve high sales numbers and reach a wider audience. Remember that in a broad sense, a sporty coupe could be able to reach a fairly wide audience, and should provide at least indirect competition to a whole host of cars, i.e. Civic Coupe, GTI, Solara, etc.

    (Yes, I know that these are front-drivers, not American, not direct cousins to the Camaro, etc. but there are buyers who don't necessarily see distinctions between them that are so strong that it would bar them from considering the others, assuming that they meet similar needs. If a Camaro proved to be nicely styled, well built, reliable and otherwise appealing, it should be able to pull sales from several competing nameplates, and not just from Mustang and Challenger buyers.)
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,650
    Yes, I know that these are front-drivers, not American, not direct cousins to the Camaro, etc. but there are buyers who don't necessarily see distinctions between them that are so strong that it would bar them from considering the others, assuming that they meet similar needs. If a Camaro proved to be nicely styled, well built, reliable and otherwise appealing, it should be able to pull sales from several competing nameplates, and not just from Mustang and Challenger buyers.)

    And that will be key for the Camaro to survive. A solid handling base model with a respectable powertrain would be a big plus. A 3.9 or better yet 3.6 base model with auto and manual trans would be a very competent car that may win some sales from other areas.

    The problem is most people who are looking at something like a Civic Si or VW GTI probably wouldn't be caught dead at a Chevy dealership.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    The problem is most people who are looking at something like a Civic Si or VW GTI probably wouldn't be caught dead at a Chevy dealership.

    That is probably true in many cases (although I am confident that sentiments don't run as deeply among typical buyers as they would among us on the Inside Line!) But yes, conquest is important, and no automaker can increase its market share without taking buyers from someone else, so this must be part of the plan. That's why the cars have to be that good -- it take more work to win over converts than it does to sell to your loyal fan base. Unfortunately for GM, its fan base just isn't large enough to help it go the distance.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    At this point, it's all speculation. GM has not committed to anything with the Camaro as of yet. Given the firm's financial situation, I'll believe that GM is producing a Camaro when I see the official auto show introduction of the production model.

    And GM, unfortunately, has a history of overestimating demand for specialty models. Has GM even unloaded all of those Chevy SSRs yet?
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    That's true, that the Camaro might not happen at all. But given GM's great love for this sort of thing (niche/halo models) I think it'll get built. I just think that if they weren't so emotional about it, they wouldn't built it to revive the Camaro name but rather to build their brands. Pontiac would be the most logical one. But GM and logic...
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    Will we see a Asian pony car entry anytime soon?

    When the pony car wars first started, Japanese companies attempted the make their own (notably the Celica was born for this reason) to compete. However, it just didn't work (probably because of the lack of big engines), and the Asian entries went either 1) down the sport-coupe path to what they are today: relatively small engined, FWD cars or 2) down the sports-car path (the high-end ones).

    But these days, "Asian V8" is no longer a contradiction.

    So does anyone think we'll be seeing a RWD Toyota "Kirin" (based say on the Camry platform) with a V8 engine option that'll give the big three a run for their money? :confuse:
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,631
    Will we see a Asian pony car entry anytime soon?


    You could argue that the Mazda RX-8 is a Pony car
    although it isn't based on a sedan platform. :P

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Will we see a Asian pony car entry anytime soon?

    Depends on what counts as a "pony car". Stuff like the nonturbo Supras, 300ZXs, and SC300s of the '90s were the Japanese equivalent of V6 Camaros and Mustangs, and the G35 has no problem hanging with V8 Mustangs (and there is the oft-rumored RWD Tiburon waiting in the wings).

    Now, if a "pony car" has to have a crunky high-displacement, low output V6 or V8 in a massively-decontented live-axle rattletrap, then no. The V8 is a luxury/high-dollar engine in the rest of the world (even Australia; buying a V8 Holden is like buying a Corvette here) and they are designed for luxury/high-dollar cars. Jamming big cubes into a crapmobile is a uniquely American innovation.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,631
    There was a big market for four-place coupes during the heyday of the Pony car in the late 60s and early 70s but they weren't popular enough to
    keep three competing Pony cars in the market place.

    My bet is that history will repeat itself and rising gas prices, insurance costs and other factors will reduce the demand so that the GM and Chrysler entries will be withdrawn and the Mustang alone will survive.

    I freely admit to bias on that last point, I owned a Mustang 5-liter convertible for 12 years.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    "Stuff like the nonturbo Supras, 300ZXs, and SC300s of the '90s were the Japanese equivalent of V6 Camaros and Mustangs, and the G35 has no problem hanging with V8 Mustangs (and there is the oft-rumored RWD Tiburon waiting in the wings)."

    The big difference between those cars and pony cars is price. Pony cars have to offer decent performance at a bargain price...those cars offer good peformance, but not at pony car prices.

    But I take your point about V8s in the rest of the world...it's very true that they're in large part a North American specialty.

    But could that be solved by my fictional Toyota Kirin having a V8 option here in the U.S., but sold in the rest of the world with a 6 cyl as the big engine (the "Kirin ActiveSport"). Kinda like how the Ford Capri was Europe's Mustang, but with a V6 instead of a V8.

    An attendant question seems to be: is RWD really making a comeback, or is it just a U.S.-centric nostalgia thing?

    "My bet is that history will repeat itself and rising gas prices, insurance costs and other factors will reduce the demand so that the GM and Chrysler entries will be withdrawn and the Mustang alone will survive."

    I've wondered for a few years now if we're about to see a "Mustang III" appear in the not-too-distant future...little, somewhat fuel efficient, and destined to be popular at the time, but hated years later. ;)
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Posts: 5,707
    on it's own "pony car" version. I read this in a car mag a few months back and I believe they referred to it as a Supra but do check me on that. Larger body than most sporty Japanese models and large engine to boot. It is coming next year if memory serves me, which, unfortunately it doesn't often enough.

    I would encourage those that are interested to research this one some more because Toyota is hard at work on a "pony car" of it's own to compete with the Mustang and Camaro.

    As far as the Camaro is concerned it's not a matter of if they're going to build it it's a matter of when. That car, whether you like it or not, is what GM and Chevy need right now to stay afloat. Granted it's not everything they need but it's a portion, a hefty one at that, of what GM needs to keep going right now. Watch and you will read thousands of references to the new world order Camaro as the savior of GM or the one that brought GM back. That is if it can help save GM in the real world. That makes it sort of a suspense story, then, eh?

    As far as it's design goes I think Chevy has come up with a winner with the Camaro, if one were just looking at the new body design. If I were in the market for a Stang or Camaro-type rig, though, I would go for another rig that we don't yet know will be built...the new world order Dodge Challenger. Now that car blows away the new Charger, IMO, and Dodge designers has given it a retro look that incorporates sleek modern lines yet retains the muscular bombardment that was the Challenger of old. I think Dodge will score large with the new Challenger and, yes, I think Dodge will build it.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    "That car, whether you like it or not, is what GM and Chevy need right now to stay afloat. Granted it's not everything they need but it's a portion, a hefty one at that, of what GM needs to keep going right now. Watch and you will read thousands of references to the new world order Camaro as the savior of GM or the one that brought GM back. That is if it can help save GM in the real world. That makes it sort of a suspense story, then, eh?"

    So what you're saying is that if GM can manage to get just one mass-produced, mid-end car perfect, that might be what it takes to restore confidence in the company and its abilities? Hmmm...interesting idea, and a "bold move" (with apologies to Ford...) to be sure. I'd love it if GM actually pulls it off.
  • jae5jae5 Posts: 1,205
    Not sure of the RX-8, but perhaps the RX-7 :confuse:

    Maybe even the original Fairlady Z (240Z) :confuse:

    Though it wasn't advertised as a "Pony" in the American sense, the Z used the basic body formula of long hood-short deck, light weight, decent power/weight ratio. And it had a decent suspension.

    But back on topic.

    I don't think the Camaro is going to come. With GM's financials, SEC probe, the UAW and Delphi situation, the on again/off again of the platform and Lutz's comments on break even point (one article quoted 100K, another 130 - 150K) are there really that many shoppers out there? As stated before, many talked about the gen-4 F-body, but many bought them. And with a high break even point, that they couldn't meet with the last model, are they going to meet it with the new one?

    I really don't see it happening. It would be nice, but I don't know. As long as they don't rebadge some Daewoo or something... :surprise:
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Posts: 5,707
    new Camaro but it's a nice start. I am going on input from a GM exec that they are definitely going to build the new Camaro. It got out to the press, so I don't think he would say it if he didn't think it would eventually come to be.

    I just think GM needs a sporty rig to produce that is successful on a massive scale. One that they could mass-produce, get it right from the start and sell truckloads of. No, it won't be enough to lift them out of the dumpster entirely but it's a good start.

    The Pontiac Solstice is a GM car that is selling well that is sporty, new and different. From what I read they can barely keep up with demand on this car, but Pontiac isn't building them at a very fast pace, so take that one however you want.

    I think the Camaro will come but Chevy is going to need to improve their small car offerings and they still need a valid body design department to compete with Camry and Accord, IMO. What lame midsize offerings from GM. The Malibu and Impala are weak vehicles.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,631
    Not sure of the RX-8, but perhaps the RX-7

    Maybe even the original Fairlady Z (240Z)

    Though it wasn't advertised as a "Pony" in the American sense, the Z used the basic body formula of long hood-short deck, light weight, decent power/weight ratio. And it had a decent suspension.


    RX-7s and 240Zs are sports cars which are quite a bit different than pony cars, they're smaller, lighter and generally only have two seats. The original Mustang concept car (ca. 1962) was a tiny two-seater with a mid-engine.
    link

    When Ford chose to build a larger, heavier Mustang the reaction from the sports car set was disappointment if not outrage. It wasn't til the introduction of the GT-350 that the sports car crowd fully accepted the Mustang.

    The short deck/long hood look was a deliberate imitation of the portions of the front engined roadsters of the era.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    Yeah, the RX cars are very light and nimble. The 240Z was light too, but the 300ZX was similar to a muscle car. The Brits describe it as a "big heavy wobbly thing to put Americans in" - a straight line car, with a 6cyl version and a 6cyl twin turbo version (normal for Japanese sports cars of the early 90s). The Toyota Supra was the same (same engine configuration choices, kinda heavy, better as a drag car). Maybe the Mitsubishi 3000GT, but that was AWD.

    American sports cars have traditionally had big engines, Japanese ones have emphasized handling, and Europe had two philosophies: lightweight roadsters (most of which have died) and luxury sports cars.

    I guess Toyota or Nissan could make an American-style pony or muscle car now that they've settled in here so well, but I don't think many people would buy one. Almost all the allure of the Mustang and Camaro is in their history - if they had been invented in 2005 I don't think they'd be nearly as popular as they are.
  • jae5jae5 Posts: 1,205
    Yes, agree.

    Know the difference between a pony, sports, sporty, muscle car. My mention of the Fairlady and RX-7 was that if considering an RX-8, my take is that an -7 and the Fairlady iterations were closer to the "formula". Now a Skyliner, hmmm, that's a sticky one.

    And as you know, many times the lines get blurred, especially between the pony and muscle cars - a little pet-peeve of mine.

    There wasn't too much of a market for the mid-engined two-seater - remember why the T-bird went to four seats? Iacocca, Fry and the other guys really hit the nail on the head with the Mustang - very, very good market research and execution. It still cracks me up when people don't realize it was a Falcon, a gussied up one, but still a Falcon.
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