DETROIT - Chevrolet is looking for a way to join the move to rear-wheel-drive sedans.
But it needs a new rwd platform and a low-cost version of General Motors' stability control system to keep its cars affordable, high-volume sellers, according to General Marketing Manager Kurt Ritter.
Only two Chevrolets, the low-volume Corvette and Camaro sports cars, have rwd. The 1996 Caprice Classic was the last rwd Chevy sedan.
'I think we see a need at Chevrolet for rear-wheel drive, but it's got to be rear-wheel drive at an affordable price point and range,' Ritter said.
The obstacle, he said, is not rwd itself but adding a stability control system to prevent fishtailing on wet or snowy streets. The StabiliTrak system that GM puts on its upscale models is too rich for Chevrolet car buyers' blood, Ritter said.
StabiliTrak comes as a $495 option on some front-drive GM vehicles on top of a $175 traction-control package.
A rwd sedan likely would require a four-wheel stability control system and a high price.
'We're looking at being able to do that in a very low-price way, so that Chevrolet could do that,' Ritter said.
Chevrolet spokesman Tom Wilkinson said the division had 'nothing anywhere near approval.'
He said GM would need an affordable rwd platform. The Sigma rwd platform developed for Cadillac would be too expensive for Chevrolet, he said. Sigma vehicles will be produced in the new Lansing, Mich., Grand River plant, beginning late this year. The plant's first vehicle will be the Cadillac CTS, the replacement for the Catera.
Chevrolet's Impala and Monte Carlo could be rwd candidates, but both cars are not scheduled for replacement for several years. The Malibu is expected to move to the Epsilon platform, a front-wheel-drive platform that will have all-wheel-drive capability, for the 2005 model year.
Upscale brands such as Cadillac, Lincoln and Infiniti are converting many of their cars to rwd, and Chrysler group plans to use rwd in replacements for the Intrepid, Concorde and 300M in the 2004 model year.
Moving some Chevrolet cars to rwd would please auto enthusiasts, who like its driving qualities. Improved traction on slippery streets is a selling point for front-wheel drive. But rwd advocates argue that stability control makes rwd cars safe in bad conditions.