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The Untapped Potential of the Zeta Platform


    I held off on writing this article as long as I could, and for a couple reasons. The first is that there are so many people in North America who are already aware of how great GMs Zeta Platform is. It underpins the Chevy Camaro and the now-deceased Pontiac G8. Now Pontiac is dead, but there are still a lot of people looking for a big sports sedan. Many are demanding it return to North America as a Chevrolet. It was even dangled in front of us all as a Chevy Caprice.

    The second reason is that Ive already written a couple articles criticising GM, but the more I think about it, the more I have to say something about this topic.
   
    The first (and most obvious) use for the Zeta Platform is for a new Impala. The current generation is a master of fleet sales and infringes on the Malibus territory. Even at its introduction it was behind the times. It can arguably be compared against both mid-size and full-size cars, but never favourably. It is and was outmatched by the Toyota Camry and Avalon, the Honda Accord, the Nissan Altima and Maxima, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, and finally the new Ford Taurus. Furthermore, the current generation of Impala went into production in 2005, and there are still no signs that a new generation is on its way. There arent even any signs of a refresh any time soon. The real kicker is that GM already builds two Chevrolet sedans on this platform: the Lumina and the Caprice. Both are sold in the Middle East, and the Lumina is also available in South Africa. Neither one is sold in North America.

    The second use is still fairly obvious, and is also already made and sold by GM, but not in North America. It is the new Buick Park Avenue, sold only in China. Buicks current flagship sedan in North America is the Lucerne, which is expected to be killed any day now. There has been a lot of speculation that this gap in the line-up wont be filled. The new LaCrosse, a mid-size car, is expected to take the role of flagship, and the upcoming Regal will fit in underneath it. Im all for the new Regal, by the way, but theres no reason why Buick shouldnt have a full-size sedan in its showrooms. Buick is trying to shed its image as a car for seniors, but a lot of the baby boomers (the only people who might remember Buicks heyday) are just becoming seniors now. Why not offer them a premium full-size sedan? It wouldnt have to be called the Park Avenue; it could be the Lucerne, or maybe something new and exciting. The fact that the car actually drives really well wont hurt Buicks reputation with the young folks.

    Conveniently enough, the Chevrolet Caprice is built on the short-wheelbase version of the platform, while the Buick Park Avenue is built on the long-wheelbase version of the platform. This will prevent one from cannibalising the sales of the other, and both will fit neatly at the top of their respective line-ups.

    The third and final use is for a full-size Cadillac. Ideally Cadillac would be able to follow the lead of the Germans and offer both a short- and long-wheelbase version of its full-size sedan. The problem with this is that the long-wheelbase version of the zeta platform is slightly shorter than the short-wheelbase versions of the S-class and 7-series sedans. The fact remains, however, that Cadillac needs a full-size luxury car to compete directly with the best that the Germans have to offer. The Zeta platform is GMs biggest RWD car platform, and therefore the only one suited to the job. Given the price of vehicles in this class, GM could afford to make the upgrades necessary in order to be competitive. If the CTS-V on the Sigma Platform can beat BMWs M5 in a comparison test, then the XTS (or whatever GM decides to name Cadillacs full-size sedan) on the Zeta Platform should at least be able to compete! The Pontiac G8 was described as being "a poor man's BMW" anyway.

    With the Zeta Platform filling the gap at the top of Cadillac's line-up, GM could focus more money on research and development for the Alpha Platform, which is necessary in order for Cadillac to compete with the A4, 3-Series, and C-Class.

    So the question is: why won't GM try to get the most out of its best products?
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  1. Cars models come and go but GMs Zeta Platform has a lot of yet untapped potential. Can GM really impress us all and propel this platform to new heights?
    Thanks for this insightful article.
     
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