The name Scott Settlemire isn’t unfamiliar to many GM enthusiasts: the man is, after all, the Fbodfather — the product manager for the fourth-generation Chevy Camaro.
Currently, Settlemire is in charge of Specialty Vehicles and Special Events at General Motors, and he has been assisting the fifth-gen Camaro team, so it is with great pleasure that we read and relay to you his thoughts (originally published the week of March 25 here) about the 2014 Camaro, the general sentiments behind developing a vehicle such as the Chevy sports car, and pleasing everyone, no one, and/or some. Take it away, Mr. S:
Good afternoon, Camaro Comrades, Firebird Friends, and Corvette Cousins.
The past week has certainly been eventful and it’s certainly caused a lot of conversation…..and without question, Chevrolet has shown the world that performance is indeed back – and in a BIG way……….
But before I get to that – let me apologize.
I hate lying to anyone. And I lied. I lied when I said to some “There isn’t a Z28” – which, now that I think about it, is a ‘half-lie’ if there is such a thing. You see, there ISN’T a “Z28” – rather, we unveiled a “Z/28” and there IS a difference – quite a big one….but more about that in a minute or two…… Anywhoo – I had to ‘lie’ about there being a Z/28 – -because to talk about it would have cost me my job. If I’d even put a ‘winkie’ after some of your posts, I would have been summarily fired.
We were so security conscious that we had an internal name for the new Z/28…
When we talked about “shooting steve” – -no one would have thought about us taking pictures of a Z/28, now would they?
(….although it may have made a few people in law enforcement sit up and take notice……)
One would think that working on the Camaro CORE team is nothing but nirvana.
To a point, it is – but let me assure you that there are many rough spots and there are long hours and missed family engagements, and weekends are usually non-existent. That goes with the territory. But as to the privilege of being “custodians of the brand”, it’s necessary that we give up a lot in order to ensure that the Camaro and all that surrounds the design, engineering and building of these legendary cars is as is it should be – and we must hit ‘all the targets’ deserved by such a hallowed brand.
Please note: NO ONE within ‘Team Camaro” takes their job or their responsibilities lightly.
Decisions are agonized over – because it’s THAT important to you as a valued Camaro Enthusiast. More importantly – and I think this is something overlooked by many of you: We are Camaro Enthusiasts, too. And we’ve been Camaro Enthusiasts for many, many years — (in some cases long before many of you could even say ‘Camaro!’)
I use the word “agonized” because we know that no matter WHAT we do or choose, we will be wide open for someone to be critical. That’s just the nature of an automobile that creates such passion. That said, it’s sometimes very difficult to have horrible insults thrown at you – or worse, the insults directed at that “labor-of-love” you’ve worked so hard to make better.
Dateline: New York – Wednesday, March 27, 2014:
Approximately 50 Camaro Enthusiasts were invited to the unveil of the 2014 Camaro at the New York Auto Show. Frankly, there were hundreds more Camaro Enthusiasts there – because many members of the press and other people who work in and around auto shows happen to be Camaro enthusiasts in addition to their jobs.
I wish each of you could have felt the excitement as the SS/RS drove onto the stage – there were cheers and roars of approval and clapping.
I also caught some “looks of surprise” when the Red Rock Metallic SS/RS did not pull onto the turntable in the middle – but rather to the side……it was like “…….what????…….”
And then the excitement grew as the sound of an LS7 V-8 roared to life behind the stage – and then the LED screen exploded (figuratively – not literally) with the sights and sounds of Z/28s of the past – and then from behind the stage came the new 2014 Z/28 – to cries of joy.
I was so happy to be able to watch this thru other peoples’ eyes. That’s just the greatest feeling. I was delighted with the response to both Camaros………
My Blackberry started to vibrate as dozens of emails landed – nearly all of them overwhelmingly positive. I suspect that was to be expected as a lot of the dyed in the wool enthusiasts happen to have my corporate email account.
(…that can be a double edged sword at times…)
………and then I went onto a couple of enthusiast sights that evening and was dismayed at some of the language being used by a few people – and even more upset to see some people bashing our engineers and designers – and even worse, the Disciples.
I continually remind myself that much of this behavior is driven by passion. I’m also not naive enough to believe that it’s all passion. It stuns me to see remarks turn into a ‘contest’ of sorts to see who can hurl the best ‘insult.’ I don’t know when this became proper behavior in our society – but in my book, it’s improper and some people should be ashamed. Frankly, I’m more inclined to take opinions from well thought out posts than one that utilizes bad language and insults.
Now – for my thoughts on the 2014 Camaro:
Everything we do on Camaro is to improve it – make it better – offer ‘more than expected’ and to keep it fresh. The Camaro was first offered to the public in early 2009 – just about 4 years ago this month. We know that styling is one of the top reasons for purchase in this segment. Thus, it’s crucial that we update the styling…if we don’t, the volume will simply deteriorate. Deteriorated Volume doesn’t bode well for any brand…it’s the way brands disappear into the history of the automobile industry…
The bad news? No matter what you do in terms of styling or content, you’ll be criticized by some. That’s just the way it is.
People complained about the tail-lamps in the Camaro Concept. Not everyone was a fan – but we made the commitment to ensure that the production car looked as close to the concept as possible. Nevertheless, I received some nasty-grams about them……
When it was discovered that the car would have a ‘B-Pillar’ – some questioned if we – the members of “Team Camaro” — had all just escaped from an asylum.
When people saw the back-up light slits in the rear fascia, some questioned as to whether or not we could even spell the name “Camaro”…..
When they saw the original 2010 Camaro steering wheel, some were certain that we’d time-travelled back in time to cause the Lindberg Baby Kidnapping……
The SS fascia versus the V-6 fascia? We evidently created the hurricanes that devastated various parts of the world……
Color changes? Well – according to a few, we simply can’t walk and chew gum at the same time……
……and yet the new Camaro became number one in the segment.
And people got used to seeing all the things that caused so much uproar. And we continued to ‘wow’ the enthusiast community at large………
…and THEN we changed the steering wheel.
Some claim this caused 50,000 people to become sterile for simply laying their eyes on such hideousness. (some of the very people who HATED the original steering wheel now claimed that it was the most magnificent steering wheel the world had ever known…and that in changing it, we should be hanged by sundown…..how they now forget or try to hide the past posts they made…)
And then we changed the SS wheels for 2013….. There’s a vicious rumor that this caused peoples’ teeth to fall out……
And then we discontinued Imperial Blue (….in order to offer Blue Ray Metallic….) Some claim this caused thousands of dear little kitties and puppies to suddenly throw themselves in front of cars, trucks, and high-speed trains………
(…are you noticing a trend here?)
Fast forward to earlier this week.
The new SS/RS was shown to the public.
The SS hood has evidently caused millions of people to suddenly slap their Mamas……
The rear tail lamps? Spring Flowers will no longer bloom.
And yet I suspect that once 90 percent of the people see the new 2014 Camaro in person, they’ll realize that perhaps they overreacted.
And the sun WILL come up tomorrow………
The Camaro MUST ALWAYS be recognizable as a Camaro.
It must have Camaro styling cues.
We refreshed the front fascia to make the car more intimidating. We made the car look wider. AND – we made the SS look different than the V6 model. (at your request, by the way….) Further, there’s more differentiation between an RS Camaro and a non-RS Camaro – both in the front AND rear. (again, by your request…)
The tail-lamps are a tribute to the 1969 Camaro. (go study the 1969 Camaro tail-lamps — both RS and Non-RS and you’ll start to appreciate why we did what we did.)
Remember those ‘poor unfortunates’ who hated the slits in the rear fascia for the back-up lights? Well – we listened to you. Shame on us.
The back-up lights have been moved into the tail-lamp assemblies. For those of you who felt the rear was “too busy” or “too tall” – well – we fixed that…
For those of you who told us we should have put LED tail-lamps in the car? Well – we did on the RS models…
Some hated the ‘mail-slot’ front fascia on the SS. (some even went so far as to fill the slots on their Camaros in with various types of filler……) Well – we listened to you as well. (off with our heads…) The air extractor on the SS? It’s functional. (you asked for it….) It also just happens to be the same width as the reverse Mohawk in the roof.
And for the record – the V6 does not have the extractor in the hood – once again differentiating the SS from the non-SS.
Somehow, I suspect that Spring Flowers WILL bloom – and that most people in the coming months will say either:
“I LOVE it”
“Well ….that wasn’t so bad after all…”
A few others will still hate something about the front or the back — Just as there are still Camaro Enthusiasts – however few – that still don’t like the 5th gen, period – luckily they are far and few between as sales figures prove……
So – for those who were disappointed in the changes – I sincerely hope you’ll be able to see the new 2014 Camaro in person real soon – and that you’ll find that the changes are in keeping with what makes a Camaro a Camaro…………
Now – on to the Z/28……
I’ve said many times: “Wanna get a good fight going? Ask Camaro enthusiasts which is the ‘top’ Camaro – Z28 or SS………”
— and then put on a crash helmet and watch the fur fly……..
Everyone has their opinion and 90 percent have an opinion that THEY are correct in their beliefs and that those with a different opinion are completely wrong and perhaps motivated by the Devil himself………………
The new Z/28 has blown some people away and we’re getting emails and letters and phone calls saying “THANK YOU! You FINALLY understand what a Z/28 really is after all these years of ruining the nameplate!…..”
It also has some people saying:
“You RUINED it! I can’t get *insert favorite option here* and so you are a bunch of…..*insert foul words here*….”
“ ……what do you MEAN it’s not a drag car???……”
“…..this car should come in at 40K!…” (even though we’ve not discussed price as of yet—and frankly, 40K is as attainable as me being elected as President of the United States………)
(and for those who think the Z/28 should be 40K – take a 1LE and start counting the costs of all the awesomeness we’ve added to the Camaro in order to make it a true Z/28 – and then take into consideration the costs for engineering and validating – and then consider we have to ensure we don’t lose money on the program….)
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
The ONLY reason for the original Z/28…
(note I once again used ‘Z/28’ and not ‘Z28)
….. was to go road racing. SCCA Trans Am racing had a rule that no competing car in the series could have an engine displacement larger than 305 cubic inches.
Our Camaro SS-396 was FAST…..but it wasn’t really a ‘track’ car. So the purpose of the Z/28 was to compete in Trans Am Racing – meaning it had to stick to the road like Velcro. Tidbit: None of the 602 1967 model year Camaros with option code Z28 had a nameplate that said Z/28 on them. It really wasn’t meant to be a main-stream entry.
As we moved into the 2nd gen years, the SCCA engine rule went by the wayside…….. And with increasingly stringent fuel and emissions standards, performance was on the wane……at a startling rate. Fast-rising insurance rates certainly didn’t help things…… And by the early 70s, there really wasn’t room for both a Camaro SS and a Z/28 as we knew them. By 1974, performance was so diminished that the Z/28 was dropped at the end of the model year because it had become to many of us a ‘caricature’ of what it once had been. The SS had been taken from the line up at the end of 1972……
When the Z28 came back in 1977 (note the difference in the name…..there was no “/”….) it was definitely a road hugger – and it DID offer more performance than any other From then on – whether right or wrong, the Z28 was the ‘performance’ Camaro….until the IROC came along. The Z28 was then relegated to ‘2nd fiddle’ and that didn’t set well with Z/28 purists. But – on the other hand, the Camaro was the “International Race Of Champions” chosen brand – and one could go down to their Chevy Dealer and buy a new Camaro – an IROC Camaro – that sure looked a lot like the real race car.
…….And then Chevy pulled out of IROC racing — and the Z28 was once again the ‘ultimate’ Camaro…that is, unless you ordered one with 1LE.
Fast forward once again to the advent of the 4th gen. We offered a Camaro Sport Coupe with a V6 engine – or a V-8 Camaro Z28 with an LT1 small-block with a ‘blistering’ 275 horsepower.
(to some of you young-uns – that was a LOT of horsepower in 1993…)
Yes – the Z28 was the ‘ultimate’ Camaro back then………and then Ed Hamburger at SLP Engineering came to us and said something along the lines of: “…Chevy -You’ve done a magnificent job with the Z28 – but I’ve got plans to take it to the next level…”
and we said “Sure!” …and the Camaro SS roared back to life. That also put the Z28 as ‘second-in-line’ and again, Camaro Z/28 purists were not happy! I very much remember getting several phone calls, letters, and emails that weren’t –shall we say – ‘charitable’ in their content…
It all became moot when the Camaro went onto Hiatus in the late summer of 2002……..and I continued to say to you, our Camaro Enthuiasts – to “keep the faith…” – -that GM understood the importance of the Camaro nameplate. Yes, there were a few people within the corporation that proposed moving the name to the J-car platform.
(…they were last seen being shoved into a fleet of black suburbans – never to be seen again……)
As John Heinricy said in a meeting that I attended: “The ugliest sight I can imagine would be tire smoke coming from the FRONT tires of a Camaro!..”)
As I’d said before, as Custodians of the Brand, it was crucial that we ensure that the 5th gen Camaro build upon it’s rich 35 year heritage. And yet, as I mentioned earlier in this article, we were questioned at every step of the way. And that’s not a bad thing, I suppose.
We felt so strongly about the heritage of Camaro and ensuring that the new Camaro would “check all the boxes” that were important to Camaro Enthusiasts – that we drafted the 15 members of the Camaro Enthusiast Advisory Board (better known as ‘The 12 Disciples of which there are 15’)
So—after all that: The 5th gen Camaro hit the streets and blew people away…..it’s still #1 in the segment – so I think the team did a pretty good job, don’t you agree?
At the same time, we’d been working on a Camaro that took performance way past our SS. It had been in the product plan for some time – but with the Housing Melt-down of the mid to late 2000s – and the resultant Bankruptcy of GM (and Chrysler and many vendors) the “HP” Camaro was put on ice. That the “HP” car was put back into the program was a miracle in and of itself. Interestingly, it was internally called the “HP” and kept top secret….. but the intended name was to be Z28. Talk about controversy. There were emails, letters, threats, banging-on-desks – and perhaps some thinly veiled threats made……and it was finally decided that the original Z/28 had a naturally aspirated V8 engine. The “HP” Camaro was to have a supercharged engine…….so perhaps the Z/28 moniker wasn’t really appropriate. Our President, Mr. Mark Reuss – himself a Camaro Enthusiast since the time he was able to recognize a Camaro – made the final call…..the “HP” would be christened “ZL1.” What you DON’T know is that he had another plan in mind for the Z/28.
(Note the “/”…..)
Volumes will be written about the 2014 Z/28 – but what’s important to understand is that while we made “Z28” enthusiasts happy over the years with 275hp – and then 285hp – and then an LS1 based Z28………we continually disappointed the “Z/28” purist.
The 2014 is dedicated to the “Z/28” purist. This is a track car that makes no excuses. That this car is a full three seconds faster on a track than the mighty ZL1 speaks volumes to its intent. Make no mistake – this isn’t a slap at the mightly ZL1. Far from it. If you want a car that blows other cars off a road course on Saturday and Sunday – and yet will get you to the office in comfort on Monday morning – the ZL1 is the car for you. If you want blistering track performance at a reasonable cost – the 1LE is prescribed. And – if you want to shame exotics on a road course – with an automobile that’s not meant for daily driving, then the Z/28 makes no apologies and may grab you by the collar – shake you silly — and shout “LET’S GO MAKE HISTORY!”
So—that’s been a lot of words.
And that’s my take on why we’ve done what we’ve done.
Many already understood before I started typing away.
Some others now have a better understanding.
Yet others will say “Scott – go take a long walk on a short dock…..” Some of those are true Camaro enthusiasts and just are upset that what we’ve done isn’t in keeping with what they’d like or prefer.
And then there are the trolls………….who like nothing more than to start something………
As I said at the very beginning…..we at Team Camaro are ‘The Custodians of the Brand” – and we take our jobs very seriously. Every decision is in many ways, agonizing. But – we have to make hard and fast decisions.
And yes – it hurts when we’re constantly ‘called on the carpet’ – and yet rarely if ever get an apology afterward. We have broad shoulders and our skin is tough…but it IS discouraging and a bit frustrating to be constantly insulted. And for an old codger like me (I’m quite certain I’m the oldest in the group…..) I tend to lose my temper more than I used to when people become ‘surly’…
So – in the final analysis…………
………we hope you’ll go check out the family of 2014 Camaros when they become available. We hope that the family Camaros will offer you a great spread of choices
Let me introduce the family………
- 323 horsepower LS and LT
- 400 horsepower SS
- 426 horsepower SS
- 426 horsepower SS/1LE
- 580 horsepower ZL1
- And the new Camaro Z/28
…every one of them designed, engineered, and built to instill “Perma-Grin.”
What’s not to love?
Lastly – my heartfelt thanks to the men and women of Team Camaro and to the men and women at Oshawa — who have worked so diligently to make the 5th Gen Camaro the hit it’s been. I’m beyond proud and humbled to be but a very small part of a great organization…… A special thanks to Al and Russ and John and Cheryl for allowing me to ‘go along for the ride!’
Thanks for taking the time to read my ruminations and I hope you’ve got a better understanding of ‘why’………
It’s the best time EVER to be a Camaro Enthusiast.
Note: The opinions shared in this email are the opinions of ME….and not necessarily those of the company for whom I work…..
All things considered, Scott is spot on: the Camaro (especially the 2014 Camaro) is an awesome car — and there has never been a better time to be a Camaro enthusiast. So, thanks for the sharing the candid words, Mr. S — it was much appreciated, and made for a great read that was enlightening all the same. Now, would someone tell Camaro product chief Mr. Al Oppenheiser that we wouldn’t mind reading his thoughts, either?