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Chevrolet: We'll Be There, but the Corvette Won't

 GM's plans to establish its own version of Ford's Premium Automotive Group will see Cadillac and Saab sold side-by-side in North America and Europe, and eventually joined by both Alfa Romeo (brought back to North America as part of the deal between GM and Alfa's parent, Fiat) and an independent Corvette product line.

 GM's plans to establish its own version of Ford's Premium Automotive Group will see Cadillac and Saab sold side-by-side in North America and Europe, and eventually joined by both Alfa Romeo (brought back to North America as part of the deal between GM and Alfa's parent, Fiat) and an independent Corvette product line. You read that right, an independent Corvette product line.

According to sources inside GM, Chevrolet’s image as a maker of “everyday” vehicles hurts the Corvette, and hinders the company’s ability to go after the performance market. This market, they say, extends from the Ford Mustang to a high-priced exotic like Aston Martin’s upcoming Vanquish. Under the new organization, Corvette-branded vehicles will target the major performance market segments, without overlapping their group stablemates.

The Mustang challenger is currently referred to as the “Corvette Camaro”, and is a replacement for the existing Chevy version. Reportedly both smaller and lighter than its predecessor, this 2+2 coupe is based on GM’s rear-drive Sigma platform, and has reached the full-size clay model stage.

Power will come from a new V6 currently under development that will be shared with Alfa Romeo. (The Italian automaker will design its own heads, and produce other modifications for its version of this engine. It first will be seen in the 2003 replacement for the Alfa Spider.) Designed for displacements from 2.8 to 3.8 liters, the V6 boasts four valves per cylinder, and an aluminum block and heads. A six-speed manual gearbox with clutchless gearchange option, a five-speed automatic transmission, and an independent rear suspension are part of the Camaro package.

As part of the new Corvette strategy, the Camaro will pull design cues from the next-generation Corvette (codename: C6). Originally, these included fender swells reminiscent of the 1968-1973 Corvette, and a tapering rear window line. However, once the new Viper debuted at the North American International Auto Show, this design was shelved. A fresh look for the Corvette and its progeny is in the works. Nevertheless, with the C6 reportedly heading toward a $50,000 base price, the new Camaro gives the Corvette lineup an “entry level” model starting around $25,000.

A further variant of the Camaro also is in the early planning stages, an updated version of the Chevy Nomad sport wagon first shown at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. Described as, “an all-American take on the sport wagon,” the Nomad will share the Camaro’s underpinnings. Still unclear is whether or not a V8 will be offered in either the Camaro or Nomad. Since both the Corvette and the production version of the Cadillac Evoq will be built off a modified Sigma plat-form, the engine compartments of the Camaro and Nomad siblings should have no problem swallowing a V8 like the 4.0-liter version planned for the Chevrolet Impala.—CAS

The Corvette family will grow beyond the current three models to include Camaro and, potentially, Nomad.