"Appealing to our enthusiasts is big, but more importantly, we need to appeal to that mass audience of people who are just entering the sports car market," says Camaro marketing manager Todd Christensen. "There are a lot of casual buyers looking for the latest and greatest cool thing."
Attracting them could help expand the Camaro's role from a niche halo car to a higher-volume contributor to Chevy's car lineup, which could use the help amid weaker sedan sales. Ford is already reaping the benefits of a more sophisticated Mustang, sales of which shot up 61 percent through September.
"We're finding our biggest source of conquests is from outside of the sports car market," says Erich Merkle, Ford's chief U.S. sales analyst.
Each nameplate has its zealots. But overall, muscle-car buyers can be a fickle lot, according to ownership data compiled by IHS Automotive. Its research shows the midsize sports car market -- comprising the Mustang, Camaro and Dodge Challenger -- had a 26 percent loyalty rate over the first eight months of the year, vs. the industry average of 36 percent. (Compact crossovers were near the top at 46 percent.)
"People are quick to move, not just among Camaro and Mustang and Challenger, but in and out of the segment," IHS analyst Tom Libby says.
That could help explain why both automakers are trying to offer something for everyone under the hood. For the first time in more than three decades, both the Mustang and Camaro will be available with a four-cylinder engine, in addition their V-6s -- traditionally the volume powerplant -- and the V-8s favored by the diehards.
But there are key differences in the powertrain approach, too.