General Motors Company's [NYSE:GM] announcement this week to move production of the next-generation 2014 Chevrolet Impala to its Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant, where it will join the Volt and redesigned Malibu, could spell the end for any hope that the rear-wheel drive Holden Commodore could return to U.S. shores.
The next Impala is expected to ride on a stretched Epsilon II platform, the same front-wheel drive platform which in standard form resides under the Buick Regal and LaCrosse as well as the upcoming 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. A stretched Epsilon II platform is also expected to underpin the Cadillac XTS, with the big Caddy sedan likely to share much in common with the new Impala.
All of this severely lessens the chance of the Commodore ever returning to the U.S., in either sedan, wagon or ute (nee sport truck) bodystyles.
The main reason is likely to be fuel economy regulations. GM’s decision to keep most of its lineup front-wheel drive is a clear indication that the automaker is seeking better fuel economy over performance. Additionally, a front-wheel drive architecture also offers better packaging options due to the absence of a driveshaft running the length of the car.
This does not spell the end of the Commodore or its rear-wheel drive Zeta platform. Engineers in Australia are hard at work on developing the next-generation ‘VF’ Commodore, which is expected to bow in sometime in 2014 and ride on a revised Zeta platform.
The revised platform, possibly dubbed Zeta II, will feature more lightweight aluminum, electronic power steering, and aerodynamic aids similar to what we’ve already seen on cars like the Cruze Eco and upcoming Malibu Eco.
Don’t be too saddened by news that the Commodore won’t be the replacement for the outgoing Impala. There are still reports that a model based on the Zeta II platform will eventually be sold in the U.S., either as a high-performance Chevy or as a premium model for Buick or Cadillac.