General Motors is so eager to give tire-squealing power to the revived Pontiac GTO that it will change its long-standing practice and subject the car to the federal gasoline guzzler tax.
The 2004 GTO, expected to go on sale in fall 2003, will be based on the Holden Monaro, which is assembled by GM subsidiary Holden Ltd. in Australia.
"For a car to be credible, accepted as a rebirth of the rear-drive American muscle car, it has got to have that rocket-sled acceleration off the line," said Robert Lutz, vice chairman for product development, at a media event in Munich, Germany.
He said the Monaro's 5.7-liter V-8 will be modified to give the GTO more horsepower and higher torque at low speeds for quick accelerations.
GM has not released the GTO's horsepower. But asked if the target is 350 hp, Lutz said, "You're in the right neighborhood." The Monaro's V-8 produces 302 hp and 339 pounds-feet of torque.
Lutz said that with the engine modifications, the GTO will be subject to the gas guzzler tax. "We'll offer American style off-the-line performance of squealing tires," he said.
The tax, collected by the Internal Revenue Service, applies to cars - not light trucks - that have combined city and highway fuel economy of less than 22.5 mpg. The tax amount increases as fuel economy falls. The Dodge Viper is the only American-built vehicle subject to the gas guzzler tax. Its tariff is $3,000. Not even Chevrolet Corvette buyers pay the tax. GM engineered the Corvette's powertrain to include a skip-shift feature on cars with manual transmissions. The skip shift locks out second and third gears under moderate acceleration, boosting the car's combined fuel economy above 22.5 mpg.
The Cadillac Allante, which GM dropped in 1994, was the last GM car subject to the tax.