GM North Am chief wants an rwd sports car in Chevrolet lineup

Article by Anita Panait, on May 6, 2013

The president of GM North America would want to include in Chevrolet's lineup a modestly priced, rear-wheel-drive sporty car that would target young drivers. Mark Reuss told Automotive News that he would want Chevrolet to have a “nice, light, rear-drive car that's inexpensive.” He said that such a vehicle would be a “huge win” for the carmaker, although it’s not on the “drawing board now.”

GM unveiled a concept of such a vehicle at the 2012 Detroit auto show with the persona of a rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet concept coupe named Code 130R. Very positive reactions towards the concept coupe added fire to Reuss’ desire to include a similar vehicle at the low end of Chevrolet's lineup.

At the time, GM executives estimate the 130R to carry a price of low- to mid-$20,000s. Although Chevrolet has unveiled three new or redesigned performance cars -- the Corvette Stingray, SS sedan and Camaro Z/28 – in the last few months, all of these models are high-priced, low-volume vehicles.

Chevrolet could have a volume driver if it has a moderately priced sporty car in its lineup. It could compete against the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S, the sibling rwd sports cars co-developed by Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries. Priced in the mid-$20,000s, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S have been critically acclaimed since their launch in 2012.

Reuss remarked that if GM decides to build a modestly priced, rear-wheel-drive sporty car, it "would not do that design" seen on the Code 130R since it is already dated. He quipped that GM would not likely have the sporty car underpinned by the Alpha rwd platform which the Cadillac ATS sits. He added that GM will likely underpin the sporty car with a platform that is "really scaleable and efficient."

During the development of the new Cadillac ATS, the premium carmaker sought and intelligently aimed to make the luxury car one of the lightest in its segment. However, Cadillac made sure that achieving such goal would still result to a car that provides a refined driving experience.

David Masch, chief engineer for the ATS, remarked that being light means that the premium car is now more comfortable and more nimble. Aside from that, a lightweight ATS should optimize both the performance and efficiency of the powertrains. He added that Cadillac was careful in managing the weight of the ATS while maintaining the brand’s signature levels of refinement.

Cadillac was able to optimize the mass of the ATS by pursuing a four-pronged philosophy. First, it should strictly adhere to original architectural goals, and second, there should be measured load management throughout the premium car. Third, Cadillac would benchmark components to determine whether lighter solutions are available. Fourth, the mass of every component is weighed against all aspects of development.

For the ATS become a lightweight vehicle, Cadillac employed an aluminum hood as well as magnesium engine mount brackets. Cadillac also employed lightweight, natural-fiber door trim panels. All of these approaches reflect Cadillac’s systematic approach of assessing every gram that contributes to the weight of the ATS. However, some areas of the car needed not to be lightweight to allow the ATS to offer a rewarding driving experience. For instance, engineers have determined that a cast iron differential would result to a better fuel economy than that of a lighter aluminum version.

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