From 1960s Chevelles to modern Camaros, speedy Chevrolets have always been identified with two letters: SS.
But does the tradition-laden performance designation have a future in the new General Motors, which is under pressure to cut costs, make money and meet stricter fuel-economy regulations?
“Absolutely,” Mark Reuss, GM vice president of global engineering, told AutoWeek.
In fact, the SS line could be better -- or at least more clearly defined. Reuss envisions cars outfitted on a case-by-case basis, rather than somewhat generically adding horsepower and red-letter stitching to Chevys across the board. Or as he put it, “Not trying to peanut-butter SS for everything.”
“If you look at Chevrolet's heritage, it's important to remember where SS was,” he said.
Reuss recently took over as GM's top gearhead after leading its Holden operations in Australia -- the origin of the company's enthusiast-oriented rear-wheel drive underpinnings.
That platform, called Zeta in GM speak, is also safe under his watch, and the company is at work on a sedan in Australia that's expected to return impressive fuel economy in that market from a 3.0-liter engine.
For rear-wheel drive to have broader applications, and possibly play a larger role in GM's U.S. lineup, Reuss said the cars need to get stellar gas mileage and have reduced weight.
Though the performance of these cars can be enjoyable, he's adamant about the need for RWD to be usable and relevant to modern realities. The underpinnings for the Camaro and the Pontiac G8 came from Holden.
“We strove to make Zeta, rear-wheel drive in Australia, relevant to the rest of the world,” he said.
Update on 60-day return policy
Meanwhile, Ruess also offered an update on GM's 60-day guarantee program, which allows consumers to return their new cars if they aren't satisfied. Out of about roughly 220,000 sales since the program's launch, 53 cars have been returned, and another 140 customers have started the process, he said.
Now, in a rather unorthodox move, Ruess and his team are calling some of the returnees -- per the suggestion of GM Chairman Ed Whitacre -- to try to improve products and customer relations.
One customer, for example, didn't like the interior and paint finish of a Chevy Silverado. GM vice chairman Bob Lutz has also recounted the story of a buyer who swapped a manual transmission Corvette for an automatic version.