Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken quite a liking to the Zeta platform at General Motors. Designed mostly by Holden in Australia, it’s an amazing rear-wheel drive platform. In America, we know it as the Pontiac G8, and more recently re-tooled for the Chevy Camaro.
After the Pontiac division was deactivated, many thought the Zeta platform was going to be phased out. In fact, Ed Whitacre was quite clear on that when he referred to Zeta as being ‘dated’ and obsolete. Originally, GM planned for all future rear-wheel drive platforms to be based on the upcoming Alpha platform.
However, it appears Whitacre was saying one thing and designing another. Zeta now appears to be undergoing a redesign based on the R&D learned from Alpha, and will share the lighter, more fuel-efficient qualities that Alpha had. That’s not to say that Zeta really needed a redesign… in my opinion it blazes past the Chrysler LX and Ford D2C platforms already.
Now, with talk of both a Buick and Cadillac getting Zeta sedans, things get interesting. Add on top of that Holden testing mounts for the twin-turbocharged Ecotec engine inside the original Zeta (the Commodore VE/VF), and things get really interesting.
If you haven’t heard of the twin-turbo Ecotec, it’s because of poor marketing on GM’s part. That I4 engine gave the Solstice GXP up to 290 horsepower, helping to make Solstice the best-selling roadster in America. Alpha is a perfect fit for future Solstice replacements, likely a retractable hardtop built in the Solstice image. That car will probably land on Buick in retractable hardtop fashion for ~$35,000. While that’s $10,000 more than Solstice, it’s far less than a BMW Z4, with a free retractable hardtop thrown in.
Deciphering all this information, here’s how I see things rolling out. The following is based on the engines that GM is testing, and the CAFE standards they will have to accommodate.
Chevy Caprice – Based on the Commodore VE and Pontiac G8, this will be a short-wheelbase version for consumers. It will ship with the twin-turbo Ecotec and an optional V6 (likely the GM LLT Engine, same as Camaro).
Chevy Caprice PPV – Already announced, based on the long-wheelbase Holden Statesman. Same engines as Camaro.
Buick Grand National / Park Avenue – This one could go either way. If it’s a Grand National, it will probably be a rebadged Commodore. If it’s a Park Avenue, probably a longer-wheelbase Statesman rebadge. Either way, it will match Caprice PPV with a V6 standard, and optional V8.
Cadillac ZTS – Okay, I came up with the name… Zeta Touring Sedan. This is where things get interesting. With the ATS and CTS filling the “low end” of Cadillac, GM can price this vehicle with a standard V8 engine, and make the ZTS-V their new top dog. 551 horsepower enough to make you forget the Pontiac badge? Probably not, because this will likely be one of GM’s most expensive vehicles to-date. A ZTS could land for around $50,000 and a ZTS-V could be in the mid $70,000s.
Again, this is analysis, but not speculation. Holden wouldn’t be getting the R&D bucks to worry about fuel efficiency this much if there wasn’t some intent to take these cars to America. And, with three or four engines to chose from, GM can badge engineer in a sensible manner… free from the likes of Fritz Henderson and their “not a car guy / not a fan of rebadging” mentality.
My one suggestion for GM, follow the lead of Holden. Take the Pontiac badge and make it a premium option for high-end Chevy cars. A $2,000 body kit with an ECM tweak for more horsepower is nearly pure markup for GM. Chevy dealers will have no problem pushing those kind of upsales… especially with not having to worry about inventory.