General Motors is wrestling with development of the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro.
GM views the current car as a big success, and the automaker is cautiously taking steps to avoid -- well, let's call it screwing up the redesigned Camaro. The car is due in the fall of 2015.
What's the issue? There are several, says Al Oppenheiser, Camaro's chief engineer.
Weight reduction is one.
"We always get hammered for mass, and that's not going to be getting easier going forward" with expected stiffer corporate average fuel economy regulations, Oppenheiser said. "Displacement, number of cylinders, all of these things you need to think about."
Then there's styling.
"This is a very successful car," he said during an interview this month at a Chevrolet press event. "In some ways it is actually going to be tougher" to create the redesigned car, which will be the Camaro's sixth generation.
"Do you make it look like a second gen?" he said, referring to the 1970-1981 Camaro. Or "do you make it look like the first gen?" -- a reference to the 1967-1969 model.
Oppenheiser won't say which direction the team is leaning.
In 2011, Camaro held a 42 percent share of the rear-wheel-drive performance coupe market, leading the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and a recent newcomer, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
Chevrolet sold 88,249 Camaros last year, followed by the Mustang, 70,438, and the Challenger, 39,534.
Hyundai sold 32,998 Genesis vehicles last year, but that includes the coupe and sedan. Hyundai does not release separate numbers; the Automotive News Data Center estimates coupe sales at around 40 percent of all Genesis sales, which would be about 13,200 coupes.
This year the Camaro has nearly 40 percent of the market. Mustang sales are up, giving it about a 35 percent share.
On the horizon is the redesigned Mustang, expected as a 2015 model to mark the car's 50th anniversary. Although Oppenheiser didn't mention it, the new Mustang has the potential to surpass the Camaro in sales.
Oppenheiser stays in close communication with Tom Peters, design director for GM's performance cars. Peters' group is designing the next Camaro.
"We talk with our teams about what would you do to top [the current Camaro] or not top it, at least make sure you don't lose what you have today," Oppenheiser said.
"We always have to stay fresh and ahead. [But] we do not want to lose the fact that we have nearly 40 percent of the market."