GENEVA - Importing a Pontiac GTO from Australia to the United States may be a quick fix, but it won't satisfy General Motors' need for affordable rear-wheel-drive cars.
Vice Chairman Robert Lutz is leading a drive to bring the Holden Monaro - a coupe with a 5.7-liter GM V-8 - to the United States as a GTO. Lutz and other executives toured Holden, GM's Australian subsidiary, last month.
But the Holden-based GTO could fill only a small part of the potential market GM sees for performance-oriented rwd cars, Lutz says.
"In and of itself, it can't be our mainstream rear-wheel-drive V-8," Lutz said in an interview at the Geneva auto show.
GM officials have said they might import 10,000 to 20,000 Monaros annually if they determine the car can be modified to meet U.S. safety and emissions standards. That volume would make the GTO a niche vehicle but would allow GM to bring it to market quickly.
"We could get this real fast - in 18 months, two years tops," Lutz said.
Meanwhile, GM is working to produce a mid-market variation of its luxury rwd Sigma architecture, Lutz said. That architecture made its debut with the Cadillac CTS sedan. But it includes components that are too pricey for models GM might want to convert to rwd, such as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Larry Burns, GM's vice president for r&d and planning, said the changes needed to bring the Monaro to the United States do not appear to be extensive. In addition to regulation-mandated changes, GM would rework the car's front end to give it more Pontiac design identity, he said.
"But we're happy with the colors, the interior, the instrument panel, the seats," Burns said. "There's very, very little that would be changed."