Multiple sources within GM have told Muscle Cars & Trucks that the seventh-generation Chevrolet Camaro program initially in development has been suspended, and the nameplate will likely be shelved after 2023. At the very least, this means that there’s going to be some gap years, again.
Update: On a long enough timeline, a Camaro EV could be in the cards. But that’s not what this specific report is about. What this is about is that there was a specific seventh-generation program in development, and now that specific program is no longer happening.
The current Camaro, the sixth-generation model, utilizes the dynamic Alpha platform that the Cadillac ATS and CTS utilized. Both are being discontinued, and will be replaced by the Cadillac CT4 and CT5, which utilize an updated version of the Alpha platform, called A2XX. Both the Camaro and the two Cadillac passenger cars mentioned are/will be built at the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in central Michigan.
Sources tell us that the Camaro will not transition to the A2XX platform, and 2023 is as far as the vehicle is charted out. Then nothing.
This kind of hiatus happened to the storied nameplate previously, where the last of the fourth-generation Camaro muscle cars rolled off the assembly line in 2002. All was quiet until 2006, when Chevrolet revived the Camaro name on a concept car, which left people ecstatic. That concept car eventually came to be the extremely popular fifth-generation Camaro, which restarted Camaro production in 2009, the year GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Despite the emergency, the fifth-generation Camaro was an instant hit, with sales regularly tallying beyond 80,000 units per year. To put it simply, the Camaro consistently battled the Ford Mustang for the top sales spot between the two iconic pony cars and the larger but equally iconic Dodge Challenger.
The sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro launched in the fall of 2015 as a 2016 model, and was marketed as lighter, sleeker, and more athletic than before. Yet it was tighter inside, and more expensive, especially when it came to the LT1-powered SS model.
Whether you prefer the current Camaro or not, the sales charts are sobering: just under 51,000 deliveries were tallied for the Camaro in 2018, which was a 25 percent drop from the year prior (67,940 deliveries). In short, the Camaro Six has yet to see the sales success as seen with Camaro Five.
There were warning signs that the Camaro program was on thin ice. Here are a few:
- Reception to the 2019 Camaro design refresh from enthusiasts wasn’t just negative, it was hostile. Angry comments throughout every social media channel, sales have so far sunk even further, and the futile attempts to dowse the flames may have sent product planners into a snap reaction.
- Feedback from a survey asking Camaro customers about potential future powertrains, including a V8 hybrid, may not have been as positive as Chevrolet had hoped. Remember, the sixth-generation Camaro is already facing pricing pressure through its life cycle when it comes to accessing its LT1 V8 engine. Pitching an $8,000 V8 hybrid option probably wasn’t helping the cause to increase sales and/or curb appeal.
- Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser was assigned to an electric vehicle program, while other notable figureheads on the Camaro team were given new work, as well. This left a skeleton crew to oversee the remainder of the Camaro Six’s life cycle.
- GM’s current postmodernist tagline of “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion” is at odds with several core principles that the Camaro has symbolized for its enthusiast audience. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a world where an electric Camaro drives its occupants down an autonomous vehicle highway, as it would attempt to manipulate the decades of what the Camaro has otherwise represented: personal freedom. Our tinfoil hats might be on too tight, but it would otherwise seem as if GM product planners would seek to kill the Camaro, instead of departing from current marching orders from the top.
Despite our valid critiques here at MC&T regarding Camaro Six, it nevertheless remains the best-handling pony car/muscle car on the market, and remains true throughout the lineup. Because where the current Camaro may fall short in packaging, price structure, and practicality, the athletic 1LE package is currently offered on every model. This gives the entry-level Camaro Turbo features like tires and brakes from the Camaro SS, as is the case with the Camaro V6 1LE. The Camaro SS featured pull-down parts from the 650 horsepower ZL1, while the mighty Camaro ZL1 1LE absolutely bullied the C7 Corvette in the school cafeteria. However, this might have been its biggest problem: playing too closely to the Corvette’s sandbox.
Alas, we only have until 2023 to enjoy new Camaro products, pending an 11th hour miracle. And hey, clutch moments happened for the Corvette at least twice. Fortune could smile on the Camaro, too.