The Untapped Potential Of The Zeta Platform

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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 General Motors Company's [NYSE:GM] Zeta platform is. It underpins the Chevrolet 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 I've already written a couple articles criticizing 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 midsize and fullsize cars, but never favorably. 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 aren't 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.

2010 Buick Park Avenue (Chinese-spec)

2010 Buick Park Avenue (Chinese-spec)

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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. Buick's 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 lineup won't be filled. The new LaCrosse, a midsize 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 there's no reason why Buick shouldn't have a fullsize 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 fullsize sedan? It wouldn't 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 won't hurt Buick's reputation with the young folks.

Conveniently enough, the Chevrolet Lumina 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 cannibalizing the sales of the other, and both will fit neatly at the top of their respective lineups.

Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

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The third and final use is for a fullsize Cadillac. Ideally, Cadillac would be able to follow the lead of the Germans and offer both a short- and long-wheelbase version of its fullsize 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 fullsize luxury car to compete directly with the best that the Germans have to offer. The Zeta platform is GM's biggest rear-wheel-drive 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 BMW's M5 in a comparison test, then the XTS (or whatever GM decides to name Cadillac's fullsize 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 lineup, GM could focus more money on research and development for the smaller 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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