General Motors executives are trying to determine the drive system of the next Chevrolet Impala.
Specifically: Should the next-generation Impala continue as a front-drive sedan? Or should it switch to rear drive to try to capture some of the sales success of the rwd Dodge Charger and Magnum and the Chrysler 300?
How important is that decision? The Impala is GM's best-selling sedan.
Chevy dealers sold 290,259 Impalas in 2004, up from 267,882 the previous year. The tally is remarkable because in the buyer's eye that car was essentially untouched for five model years. Sales slipped to 246,481 last year, but some of that drop was due to changeover for the restyled 2006 model.
GM can't afford to misjudge the public, make the wrong decision and lose, say, 100,000 potential Impala sales.
The Impala is one of several models GM is considering for its new global rwd vehicle architecture. The architecture is being developed by Holden's, GM's Australian subsidiary. The architecture previously was known as Zeta.
Within four or five months, GM will determine which U.S. brands will be tagged for rwd and which rwd model or models those brands will receive. The first car is expected to go on sale in late 2007 or early 2008.
GM insiders say the Chevrolet Camaro concept is at the top of the rwd wish list based on the overwhelmingly favorable reaction at the Detroit and Los Angeles shows. Among the other models being considered is a flagship Buick sedan. Cadillac already markets rwd cars and is not part of the plan.