The last Camaro has rolled off the assembly line once again, just like it did in 2002 at the St. Therese Plant in Quebec, Canada. This time, it feels different. This time, it feels like there is no real future for the Chevrolet Camaro.
Why am I an authority to speak on the Camaro? Well, if you don’t know who I am, let me give you some brief history. My name is Chris Frezza and I started the world’s first Camaro website back in 1993. The Internet was fairly new for the average person, and graphical web browsers were not widely available yet (remember Lynx?). I created resources online for the new Fourth Generation Camaro that I learned about. That later turned into me starting CamaroZ28.COM in 1996 and then the world’s first automotive threaded message board back in 1997. I was able to pioneer the online Camaro world and online communities with my good friend Jason Debler.
From there, we started a podcast on CamaroZ28.COM back in 2005 that evolved into the Camaroshow.COM, which ran through December 2020. I’ve been invited to numerous GM and Chevrolet media events for the Camaro as a brand ambassador/influencer before people even knew what those were, sitting down with the likes of Al Oppenheiser, Mark Stielow, and even Mary Barra herself. I’ve owned several Camaros, including a Fifth-Gen ZL1, as well as a new Sixth-Gen LT1 Convertible, pictured below.
The first time the Camaro went away in 2002, it felt like a collective punch in the gut. There was still widespread support far and wide online for the F-body, both Camaro and Firebird. We had a voice inside General Motors by the name of Scott Settlemire (the former brand manager of the F-body, nicknamed the “FbodFather”) that kept telling us to “keep the faith.” The Save The F-body webpage that we had started had collected thousands upon thousands of signatures and comments on why these cars should still be produced and were being shared with execs inside of General Motors.
The demise of the car was announced on September 25, 2001, a full year ahead of the last cars being produced, The press release stated: Camaro/Firebird On Hiatus After 2002 Model Year. With that news, GM was also closing the St. Therese Plant, and touting future products like the SSR, and Grand Prix GTP. Nevertheless, we kept the faith.
In 2006, five years after the last fourth-gen Camaro rolled off the line, a dynamite concept car debuted to the public. A new Chevrolet Camaro, retro-futuristic, and bold enough to star in blockbuster movies, which it did. Grown men wept with joy upon its reveal, the kids tied it to Bumblebee when they watched Transformers, and despite going bankrupt in 2009, GM had a very exciting product on the way.
Camaro roared back to life in 2009 as a 2010 model and it quickly dominated a rejuvinated muscle car market. The “Fifth-Gen” Camaro was produced until 2015 in Oshawa, Ontario Canada, then moved to the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant for the sixth-generation Camaro, where it remained until December 14th, 2023. As a result of this discontinuation, some 369 employees at the Lansing Grand River plant will be laid off, though the union-represented workers are expected to have new job opportunities.
With the last “Sixth-Gen” built, there is no immediate continuation for the Camaro nameplate. And, while there are ideas floating around, there’s no future design that’s yet baked-in, and there’s nothing officially approved for production.
None of this comes as a shock, as we here at MC&T first reported this would happen back in 2019, effectively breaking the internet in the process.
What was shocking was how the car went out. Not with a V8-roaring bang, but a lethargic whimper.
In the initial release that confirmed the departure of the Camaro nameplate, it was said the car would be produced until January 2024. Continued parts shortages and a UAW strike later, production appears to be about a month early. As I write this, still no official word from Chevrolet about this. No official pictures. No official social media posts. Nothing.
The Camaro is an American icon and, in my opinion, deserves a better sendoff. Yes, the Garage 56 Camaro at Le Mans was a show-stopping exercise, and could be remembered as the official send-off to the Sixth-Gen, but that feat happened six months ago.
The writing was on the wall. How did we get here? This was spelled out perfectly in 2019 by Manoli Katakis, founder of MC&T, and a long-time authority on General Motors insider happenings:
GM’s current far-reaching 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 subvert the decades of what the Camaro has otherwise represented: personal freedom. Our tinfoil hats might be on too tight, but it would seem as if GM product planners would seek to kill the Camaro, instead of departing from current marching orders from the top.
When will the Camaro be back this time? I can’t answer that with that same amount of enthusiastic faith as I did over 20 years ago. It’s different now. While it continues to change the goalposts, GM is nevertheless committed to going full electric by 2035, and I don’t know if this includes a name like Camaro in its portfolio.
However, this is where I keep the faith.
While GM has been externally all-in on electric vehicles, the actual take rates on their products continues to be very low. To which, GM CEO Mary Barra said during a November 29 investor call that the company “didn’t execute well this year as it relates to demonstrating our EV capability.” With this news, GM is restructuring things internally, delaying major EV-related investments, and announcing key executive departures who were in charge of delivering on EV promises. It’s even got hybrids — something Barra was publicly adamant about not doing — back on the table. But we get it, things change. And its possible that some EV programs might not even see the light of day, such as an electric Corvette.
Most recently, Barra declared that the company will “adjust to where the customer is,” during a Detroit Automotive Press Association luncheon earlier this month, when asked if GM still aims to be all-electric by 2035.
You can make of that what you will, but to me, it’s a vote of confidence for some future ICE products coming from GM. A direction that is far more befitting for a Chevrolet Camaro, and far more in line with customer demand. So it could be that it’s not “if” the iconic muscle car comes back, but “when.”
The Chevrolet Camaro is not just a car. It is a legend, a lifestyle, and a legacy. It is a car that we need in this world, because it represents the best of American engineering, design, and spirit. The Camaro is a car that we love, and that loves us back. Keep the faith.