Five Unsolved Questions About the Future of GM Performance

As we continue to reap the harvest of the second golden era of automotive performance, some interesting conundrums have begun to pop up – not only for consumers, but for the industry as well. Not long ago, it was easy to see the benefits provided by the most exclusive, purpose-built hardware an automaker had on offer, but as massive amounts of horsepower become more readily available by the day, those lines of distinction are beginning to blur.

Less than a decade ago, a car that could knock out a low 12-second quarter mile would have been considered a truly formidable performer (and been priced accordingly), but now a garden-variety Camaro SS costing well under $40K will get you there right off the dealer lot. Although this is great news for enthusiasts, it poses something of a problem for companies that are in the business of marketing and selling high-end sports cars.

Boasting a back seat, a lower price tag, and the ability to smoke a 610 horsepower Audi R8 V10 Plus around Virginia International Raceway (seriously, look it up), the 2017 Camaro SS 1LE hits well above its weight class and offers a compelling alternative to the C7 Corvette Grand Sport, which is powered by the same 460 horsepower direct injected LT1 V8.

While straight-line speed is only one piece of a much larger equation, it remains one of the easiest performance metrics to understand and contextualize, so when the less expensive models begin to venture up market in terms of their capability, the inherent value provided by the more costly – and often less practical – models becomes difficult to quantify.

The problem only gets worse when those cheaper models learn to turn and stop as well, and the sixth generation Camaro has proven itself to be capable enough to run alongside the Corvette in virtually any performance context.

The ZL1 1LE’s recent 7:16.04 lap time around the Green Hell is likely the fastest Nurburgring lap time ever recorded by any GM production car, and considering the ZL1 1LE’s price tag of $69,995 is within five grand of a bare-bones C7 Grand Sport, perhaps the biggest threat to the Corvette comes from within Chevrolet itself.

IMG_6108Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser is seen here introducing the Camaro ZL1 1LE at Daytona International Speedway earlier this year. Featuring Formula One-derived Multimatic DSSV dampers, ride height and camber adjustability, Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires and a hardcore aero package among other track-focused tweaks, the ZL1 1LE proved to be more than 13 seconds quicker than the standard ZL1 around Nurburgring, posting a time of 7:16.04, which stands as the fastest official time of any GM production car ever.

As a result, some well-established strategies may need to be altered in order to adapt to the times, but which ones are due for an overhaul still remains a mystery. Here are five questions about the future of GM performance that we’re anxiously awaiting the answers to.

is General Motors creating a performance focused sub-brand?

With crossovers recently becoming the most popular automotive segment in American and SUVs vastly outselling coupes, the business case for performance-oriented, high-riding five door models is becoming more attractive to automakers by the day. Putting all its performance offerings under one banner would solve a lot of problems for GM from a marketing standpoint, and justify the existence of models that would go up against vehicles like the Porsche Macan and Cayenne. Image: Detroit NewsWith crossovers recently becoming the most popular automotive segment in American and SUVs vastly outselling coupes, the business case for performance-oriented, high-riding five door models is becoming more attractive to automakers by the day. Putting all its performance offerings under one banner would solve a lot of problems for GM from a marketing standpoint, and justify the existence of models that would go up against vehicles like the Porsche Macan and Cayenne. Image: Detroit News

Recently there’s been speculation about GM spinning off its performance-tuned cars like the Corvette, Camaro and V-Series Cadillacs into a separate entity, a la Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division or Fiat-Chrysler’s SRT branded vehicles. Though this might seem like a simple marketing exercise that doesn’t amount to much more than a common badge tying disparate models together, it does present some interesting options for GM in terms of development flexibility, including a performance-tuned SUV with some Corvette lineage.

That might be sacrilege to some, but when you consider the fact that Porsche’s Cayenne SUV and Macan crossover vastly outsell all iterations of the 911 and Cayman while returning huge profits margins in the process, the business case starts to make more sense. It’s also why companies like Lamborghini and Aston Martin are currently in the midst of developing their own high-riding performance models.

Additionally, it would give the excellent Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V models a greater presence within GM’s product portfolio. Cadillac is currently trying to court performance enthusiasts, hip hop moguls, and retirement home residents all in the same showroom.

General Motors’ luxury brand has made it a cornerstone of their mission as a company to beat the Europeans at their own game, and nowhere is that effort more obvious than in their V-Series offerings. The ATS-V and CTS-V, seen here respectively, borrow much of their performance tech from the Corvette and Camaro programs and take direct aim at the likes of AMG, BMW’s M Division, and Audi’s RS lineup. But for Cadillac traditionalists, these top-tier offerings aren’t the modern interpretations of the highway-cruising luxury yachts the company produced decades ago, and the result is a bit of an identity crisis for the brand. Images: GM
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