The Next Chevrolet Camaro Isn’t Dead Yet, Probably Just Delayed
Camaro fans can breathe again: the much-loved pony car is getting a reprieve and isn’t headed to the glue factory after all. Recently, unnamed sources at Chevrolet were hinting that the seventh-generation Chevrolet Camaro would be suspended indefinitely and its nameplate would be put to rest in 2023. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be accurate after a new update issued by GM Authority that indicates that the seventh-generation Camaro will be delayed until further notice.
The good news, as GM Authority makes clear, is that production of the sixth-generation model will continue until 2023. This should GM plenty of time to track both buyer trends and the progress of key competitors such as the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger. It also provides the automaker with the option for another refresh, following its 2020 update in response to the controversial front-end styling of the previous year’s model.
A Fascia Only a Mother Could Love…or Not
The styling controversy focused on the nose of the 2019 Camaro SS, which sported a grille that included a black center crossbar with a newfangled Chevy “flowtie” badge positioned directly in the middle of it. Contrasting painted black sections on the bumper made the car look as if it was wearing a freshly trimmed goatee—or a grimace—depending on the interpretation of the beholder. Interpretations aside, the general reaction to this design feature from both consumers and the media was at best lukewarm and resoundingly negative at worst.
At first, Chevrolet defended its decision, claiming that the design choice was made to align the look of the Camaro with other passenger cars in the Chevy line such as the Cruze and the Impala. Then, realizing that the questionable aesthetics of the front end wasn’t helping its already poor sales, the automaker relented to the complaints and started making adjustments. In October 2018, Chevy fast-tracked a “concept” fascia design for the Camaro with a repositioned bowtie emblem and body-colored bumper inserts. This design has been incorporated in the 2020 model that will hit the market in the fall of 2019.
But A Prettier Face Can’t Rescue Sales
Ever since the sixth-generation Camaro was introduced in 2015, sales of the pony car have been dropping. In the U.S., for example, sales sunk from 72,705 vehicles in 2016 to 50,963 in 2018. Even though the 455 horsepower Camaro can hold its own with the Mustang and the Challenger in performance, Chevrolet doesn’t seem to be able to recover the car’s poor sales showing.
That the Camaro limps behind its competitors in sales is due, in some part, to a larger trend. The sports car market is declining, while the demand for SUVs and crossovers is rising. With this reduced demand, all sports car manufacturers in this market must scramble for buyers. But the Camaro’s sales issues extend beyond a straightforward market trend.
Blame Assignment for Chevy and GM?
Much of the rest of the responsibility for the Camaro’s sales troubles seems to fall on Chevrolet and its parent company, General Motors. First, Chevrolet has been slow to keep up with Ford and Dodge in selling models with turbocharged four-cylinder engines that have lower price points. Ford, in particular, has catered to buyers in this segment.
When talking to Automotive News in 2018, Camaro’s chief engineer at the time, Al Oppenheiser, openly admitted that the Challenger and especially the Mustang have captured the bulk of this market. Before Oppenheiser was transferred to lead GM’s electric vehicle development just months after the interview, he promised that Camaro would catch up to the other pony cars. Oppenheiser fulfilled at least part of his promise with the 2019 offering of the four-cylinder Camaro Turbo 1LE, starting at $30,995.
GM’s part in the Camaro’s lagging sales has bigger implications. In the U.S., GM seems to be shifting its focus away from sports cars and more towards trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and electric/hybrid vehicles. The issue goes beyond this change of focus. GM’s ongoing cost-cutting measures and its efforts in implementing its unified platform strategy make it less likely that the automaker will give the Camaro the visibility and other resources it needs to bounce back in the market, regardless of Chevrolet’s intervention.
Camaro Fights to Avoid Being Muscled Out Completely
The recent rumor about Chevy killing the Camaro, although unfounded, has a grain of truth. Chevy leadership knows all too well that poor sales can lead to the demise of a popular vehicle. In 2002, the fourth-generation Camaro on the F-body platform was discontinued due to stalled sales but was, of course, reintroduced in 2009. Chevrolet will need to keep advancing quickly to avoid this fate in the future.
Chevy is trying to attract potential Camaro buyers through more affordable models such as the 2020 455-hp 6.2-liter Camaro LT1 V8 which, at $34,995 is $3,000 than the 2019 1SS and $1,455 less than the cheapest V8 Mustang, the GT. New options such as a 10-speed automatic transmission for the LT models with V6 engines might also interest new buyers. These refinements and additions signal that Chevrolet will continue to compete with Ford and Dodge in the three-car market segment for pony cars.
The seventh-generation Camaro, which is implemented with the GM A2XX/Alpha 2 platform used by Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sports sedans, looks like a speck on the horizon at this point. But aficionados should look for more intensive updates for the current-generation Camaro, as Chevy works to keep up with its rivals.
All images provided by the manufacturer unless otherwise noted.