DETROIT - Six months after General Motors halted plans to use its Zeta rear-wheel-drive car architecture in North America, the company has revived the program.
In an interview with Automotive News last week, Jim Queen, GM's vice president of global engineering, said a revised version of Zeta is back on track.
Engineered at GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia, Zeta was expected to be the basis of the next-generation Pontiac Grand Prix and GTO; the Chevrolet Impala, Monte Carlo and a new version of the Camaro; and other vehicles. Vehicles in the program were expected to debut as early as 2006.
Queen did not discuss vehicles on the new version of Zeta or timing. Some vehicles that could be in the Zeta program include the next-generation Pontiac GTO as well as a Chevrolet coupe and sedans. They could debut by the 2009 or 2010 model year, say one company source and one industry analyst.
Queen said initial plans for Zeta stretched the architecture beyond its limits for some North American vehicles. "We needed to reassess and reconfigure the program," he said.
"As we started counting who was in and who was out of Zeta, we realized too late" that Zeta would not work in North America, Queen said.
Part of GM's reasoning in slowing Zeta's development was to focus on pulling forward its full-sized SUVs and pickups. GM's next-generation SUVs will debut early next year.
At the time, GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz wrote on GM's FastLane blog that GM had "canceled plans to build rear-wheel-drive vehicles off the Zeta architecture."
"But that does not mean we've canceled plans to build rear-drive vehicles altogether," Lutz wrote. "We are simply reallocating resources (human and financial) to pull some other programs ahead and get other vehicles to market sooner."
The revised Zeta program is being developed in GM's Australian engineering center. The vehicle line executive on the program is Gene Stefanyshyn, the former vehicle line executive for GM's Epsilon, or mid-sized cars, in North America.
A GM spokesman said no product plans have been approved and that GM still is studying design themes, performance characteristics and variants for Zeta vehicles.
GM uses the term "architecture" to signify a common set of components, performance characteristics, a common manufacturing process, a range of dimensions and connecting points for key component systems.