Chevrolet Camaro Chief Engineer To Lead Electric Vehicle Programs37
In a high-profile engineering shakeup, it’s been reported that Chevrolet Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser has been tasked with leading GM’s newly formed AV/EV vehicle programs to focus on zero-emission-vehicle development. It’s understood to be a lateral move.
Replacing him will be Mark Dickens, current executive director of Performance Variants, Parts, Accessories, and Motorsports Engineering. Along with introducing several performance parts unveiled at SEMA every year, Dickens, a former racer, is also one of the masterminds behind the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and ZR2 Bison programs. He’s worked closely with the Camaro team in his previous role.
According to the report, GM spokesman Mike Albano said that the company has moved “some of our best talent” to work on current and upcoming electrification projects. The move is very indicative of the current situation within General Motors, in that the company has to get this high-risk, highly capital intensive electrification frontier just right. Or else.
Al Oppenheiser has been the face behind the Chevrolet Camaro since its reintroduction in 2009, surviving ruthless program cuts during the GM bankruptcy and the years preceding it. Since then, the Chevrolet Camaro has won several performance vehicle awards, including the 2014 Motor Trend Best Driver’s Car with the incredible 2014 Camaro Z/28 – a track star behemoth of a car powered by the LS7 V8 engine and enough tire contact patch to double as a steam roller. Under Oppenheiser, the fifth-generation Camaro program fanned out to include a spectrum of performance variants, from the 1LE package, to the extremely limited, fully-prepared COPO Camaro NHRA-approved dragster. In between was the fire-breathing 580 hp Camaro ZL1, which also came as convertible.
The sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro integrated the highly athletic GM Alpha platform, and thus shifted the car from a burly muscle car, and closer to a dialed in sports car. The Camaro became so good, that it was beginning to encroach on the more purpose-built Corvette in terms of both performance, and price. the 650 horsepower 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE has so far been the ultimate performance representation of a factory Camaro. Yet despite these groundbreaking achievements, the sixth-generation Camaro hasn’t captured the hearts of buyers quite like the fifth-generation has. Reasons for which we have fleshed out on more than one occasion.
With Oppenheiser at the wheel of some of GM’s future electric vehicles, one can safely assume that there’s going to be a lot of performance associated with it. We hope to learn more of this move in the days and weeks to follow.
Source: Car and Driver
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So the guy who made the Camaro less desirable compared to the Mustang and Challenger (as both are each outselling the Camaro) is now going to head electric cars for GM? Yikes…
I don’t think that’s a fair statement to make. The 5th gen Camaro, which he also led, blew the other two rivals out of the water for a good chunk of time. I currently own a 2017 2SS and I gotta say, this car is simply amazing. Yes…I’m biased, but still. I’m actually sad to see that he’s leaving the Camaro program, but am interested in seeing if he does add a strong performance aspect to that electric vehicle program.
I know we can go on and on about the different reasons why the 6th gen isn’t doing so great, but I personally believe it’s due to price (higher than the other two at first and the SS including the RS package standard), and the similar-ish appearance between the 5th gen refresh and 6th gen SS. While I absolutely loved the look of the car, I know a lot of others wanted more differentiation. I don’t think he “made the Camaro less desirable” though.
I kinda agree with yo. He was the chief Engineer not the designer or the guy who set the price. For the most part the Camaro was second to none in handling and performance. So in my opinion he did his job well. He most likely had not much if any control over other aspects of the Camaro.
I don’t know what makes a car desirable to you (actually I do < $). I do know what makes a car desirable to most shopping this category of car!
Too little, too late
There goes the Camaro, down the shitter!!!!!!!
Now that Tesla is off to the races, GM finally wakes up? Not surprising that the market cap of Tesla far exceeds GM.
When will GM announce the Camaro is being discontinued?
Don’t laugh! Volumes are really not very significant. Is the program even profitable?
Camaro may already be dead, just has not been made public yet? Precedent was set when they killed it before, there’s no reason, the way GM operates today, they won’t do it again.
I was at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week. While there are eight or so Mustangs, all kinds, classic Shelby, side ways convertible display, no less than 3 Bullets, and others, there was only one unremarkable Camaro in the Chevy section, along with the one Impala, one Volt, several new Blazers and lots of pickups. Pretty soon, there won’t be a lot of product to offer from Chevy.
I think Camaro’s future probably has the word ‘unallocated’ attached to it. When the dust settles from Mary’s most recent axings. she’ll prance out for round two which will take down the Sonic and Camaro and Cadillac’s CT4 and CT5.
Oppenheiser is likely being reassigned because all the Alpha products are dying.
Don’t bet on it yet.
It ain’t over till the lady in black sings.
Look for an updated Alpha soon and LHD for the new cars that are coming. Now if the market keeps declining and sales drop off or profits drop then yes.
Selling lower priced high volume cars is much different than low volume more expensive cars.
Unless they make these Alpha vehicles what people want, they might as well just kill them now and save more cash for failure.
350 HP minimum – NOT 2.0T crap
And for the love of cars – quit the nothing standard, base model, terrible option choice crap.
As you put it ” The market keeps declining”
As I put it ” Building cars nobody wants”
There is a difference.
I agree whole heartily with everything you said, but lets not kid ourselves, electric cars ARE a niche market. Tesla sells well in spite of it’s electrification because Tesla is marketed as a Luxury car with the emphasis on tech and electrification as the luxury item. The green factor is a bonus.
And we both know, next to no one wants an electric Camaro. Just like no one wants a 4 banger Camaro…
The electric Camaro was one of the top cars at SEMA this year. All the gearheads I know would like a performance electric in their collection.
China is going 100% electric in 10 years. The Communist party has dictated it and no one will be able to sell a car in that market otherwise. India is heading the same way as well as Europe.
Like it or not, this is happening.
I’m confident the Sonic will stick around. It doesn’t make sense to cut it as it shares the same platform as the Bolt. The sonic is the only sedan in chevys lineup that has character, and isn’t boring. Chevy could make the Sonic a low range electric car.
If they start killing the Camaro, what else is this company going to cut. Is jettisoning Buick and perhaps GMC too far behind? If so we will be looking at a new “Big Three” in this country- Ford, Toyota, and FCA.
First of all, FCA isn’t American but it is doing very well at the moment. Their capacity utilization is the highest of the 3. Second, GM is doing far better than Ford at the moment and GM is well positioned for the future. Ford will soon announce over 25,000 job cuts and their credit rating will soon be cut to junk. There’s a very good chance that Ford will be sold to VW or be involved in some type of merger. Ford is heading into bankruptcy at the current rate of deterioration.
Don’t believe me? You will hear about this soon.
I sure hope you are wrong about Ford. We don’t need any more American company’s owened by foreigners. I may be a GM fan but I am an American first and tired of seeing American company sold to Foriengners. Is there something funtementially wrong wit how Americans run businesses or is it just greed? The Business can’t suceed being American owened but it can being Foriegn owened. There is something wrong with that.
The tariffs on aluminium and steel as well as the anti-American sentiment being generated around the world is causing great harm to both Ford and GM.
That part is self induced and could be the final nail in the coffin for the American auto industry. In this global world, you can’t survive in the US market alone and other countries won’t buy your products if you attack them. ex: GM sales in Canada are down near 20% and falling.
I think it is greed, shortsightedness, and sheer incompetence. A lot of American CEOs like Barra take the job because it is a blank check. In other countries like Japan,, being a CEO is considered a position of great honor and one that is held sacred. Many US companies are more interested in having a handsome or pretty face at the helm that can spew BS as opposed to someone who does their own thing. Look at John DeLorean. He did not make it to the top of GM because he did not fit the stogy mold that GM had engrained in their culture. About the time he left was when GM really started to fall from their lofty perch.
The sad part is when/if people like Barra get canned, she will have enough money for her, her children, their children and their children to live on for the rest of their lives while those who lost jobs and communities who lost their economy can be left to pick up the pieces.
Of I would take Ford’s and FCA’s management over GM’s any day- hands down.
When was the last time Barra sat down and met with the dealers and carefully outline the product plan? Jim Hackett at Ford did. The 25K job loss is a lie presented by some analyst. The job cuts at Ford are globally, not just in the US and Canada like GM’s. Ford is smart enough to work with a partner like VW to share capabilities while GM is too proud to do so.
When was the last time GM invested in a US plant to say build a new paint shop? FCA is building two in the Detroit area alone, and soon will be making more vehicles in Michigan by a large margin. FCA will be spending more on two plants in Michigan this year than GM will on its entire North American footprint.
I would not trust Barra and her bean-counter cronies to run a lemonade stand. They probably would go to the dumpster back of the supermarket to dig rotten lemons out of the dumpster because they are too cheap to buy fresh ones, they probably would dilute the lemons with storm water because they are too cheap to pay the water bill, and probably would sweeten the mixture with sugar packets gleaned from the local fast food because they are too cheap to buy it. They in turn would charge $5 a cup for the concoction so they could stuff their pockets.
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Maybe I’m missing something, but a guy with a solid ICE background seems a rather unlikely choice to lead EVs.
Oh, and perhaps the CEO should have had the next-gen leadership sorted out as a part of the job cuts/plant closings/model killing announcement last week.
Crazy, I know. Just a thought.
Here is what Al does. He is the guy who has been behind the GM RWD performance platforms not just the Camaro.
Al is the guy that makes the go stop and turn. I know there has a lot of piss and moan on styling price etc but I think we can all agree the Camaro goes, stops and turn in world class fashion.
The one thing we know is that Electric motors go well for what battery time you get. Even with standard suspensions the low center of gravity makes them turn ok even with Eco tires of limited size. Stopping hac been good but not Corvette good.
GM is looking to do EV products of all size and types. Also may just be the guy to make a real performance line of models that will be more focused in high performance not just appealing to tree huggers.
GM sent a big message to all of us in the COPO EV Camaro on what can be done. They will be looking for ways to attract people to a performance EV that unlike the Tesla that can make a limited number of quarter mile passes.
While cars like Tesla are one dimensional performance models Al is a 3 Dimensional performance guy.
As for the Camaro the high price many complain about are also keeping it alive. They need high volumes or higher price to make the needed profit. We are not using the Cruze formula here of just high volume and ultra low price.
Chevy has shown an indication that they are in the midst of reinvent the Camaro. The old formula of cheap economy model rebodied and enhanced with a big motor is dead. There is no cheap RWD cars anymore.
GM is looking to go global with even LHD in the next gen. The formula of the may go more true global GT coupe. This is a car that will have to appeal to more than 50 plus year old people.
The real hedge for the Mustang is and has been the sale of the non V8 cars to females. This has been an advantage.
The Challenger only holds an advantage of large rebates due to the cheap platform as it was paid for by Daimler over a decade ago. Also FCA has done a great marketing job with the low volume high HP models. They may not sell many but they move more standard cars since they all look similar even with s V6.
I am optimistic here. I have been bless to meet Al and really talk cars and hot rods with him. He is a true performance hero. He is much like us as there are things he would like to see and have for his models he just could not get approved.
Also the present Camaro is in good hands as Al was not the on,y gear head involved.
GM has Mark Stielow in house. He is the man behind many of the best handling GM cars front and rear wheel drive. He also has had more personal cars on the covers of Hot Rod, Car Craft and Car and Driver than of the best know hot rod builders. His Camaros are very well constructed and well known. I would like to see him move from just doing the suspension like he has been doing on the Camaro to doing the entire car.
Please dig deeper into what is going on and just who these people are as much of what is posted is groundless and uninformed.
I am not going to say the future is a sure bet as GM can change their mind six times before we see the results.
The key is what we do not know yet that matters. That will come in time. Till then read the Easter eggs like the EV COPO Camaro as a hint of what is to come.
How about an AWD Camaro with a hybrid drive like the coming Corvette will see.
Al has had the same thinking as the Corvette team. Big HP numbers mean little if you can not get it all to the ground. We see that at Chrysler as they are great for destroying expensive tires yet they struggle to get the power down to the ground in a car that you can drive 7 days a week.
Lets hope the Camaro performance improves and drops the beltline.
It’s truly hard for me to look at what Chevrolet, what General Motors, has become. I grew up with LT1 SS Impalas, a 454ss pickup, LT1 & Ls1 F-bodies, a K5 blazer, red bowtie emblems, the mid-80’s Monte Carlo SS, and things like that. Even the SS Blazer Xtreme and S10 pickup Xtreme and all that jazz. GM feels so empty to me, so hollow. Now from what I’m reading, a performance leader in GM will be taking over the Camaro project but It’s my deepest prayer that GM will wake up. There is a whole market still screaming to make cars that the American general public want again, that includes enthusiast. We are not a dying market, we are still very much alive and well and we still deserve to be heard, more so than the chairman that sit at the top, not in tune with the customer and think only of the empty gains of a chinese car market that is kicking out our cars left and right because they are boring, watered down versions of things they already have. There are more than enough hybrid cars, turbo-4 cylinders and all that other crap out there. You want to sell cars again, sell the GM cars that we’ve come to know and love (and even miss). Give us cars that we can love and afford. Back in the day Chevy made reliable affordable cars both front and rear wheel drive. Not everything has to be able to chase down a Porsche 911 or BMW M4 on the racetrack or even out punch a Prius in fuel economy. It’s great to have cars that can do that but not everyone wants or needs all of that and for those who don’t want that, we shouldn’t have to be penalized with only turbo-4s or Nissan sounding V6s (although Nissan’s v6 sounds heavenly and the feeling of a turbo spooling is incredibly addictive). How about a modern day F-Body Camaro with an RS, a Z/28, an IROC-Z, an SS and even a ZL1. Seeing that the same aluminum block can be used to produce an engine from a 5.0L COPO V8 all the way up to a 7.0L V8 (not that a 427 is truly needed for the street, a 5.7L Z/28, with the optional 1LE package, a 6.6L SS and the LT5 supercharged ZL1 could make up the V8 Camaro lineup with a 4.3L V6 Camaro RS at the bottom. With 285hp and 305lb-ft of torque it doesn’t outshine the 3.6L Camaro’s 335hp, it does outshine the 2.0L Camaro’s 275hp and out-torques them both with the 2.0L Camaro pushing 295lb-ft and the 3.6L Camaro pushing out a lower 284lb-ft. I’m quite sure with a more aggressive factory camshaft setup, slightly different heads, exhaust manifolds and fuel delivery and mapping, the 4.3L OHV V6 could easily dish out a stout 315hp and 325lb-ft of torque, which would definitely outgun the Challenger/Charger V6 cars and put it much closer to the numbers the Mustang Ecoboost is putting out. Above that, you have the Camaro Z/28 with the current 5.3L V8 bored out to 5.7L pushing out about 420hp/430lb-ft of torque. Above that would be the 6.6L or the return of the SS-396 pushing 490hp/485lb-ft of torque which out muscles the Mustang and the R/T-392 Scat pack challenger/charger. Lastly drop the LT5 755hp 6.2L in the ZL1 and have yourself a Camaro lineup. A modern lift back camaro with improved visibility, a challenger matching rear legroom capacity, obviously more comfortable and capable than the F-body, a 1970 inspired dash and console layout, a few heritage inspired colors, 10-speed auto, magnetic ride, Pioneer stereo system, HUD, etc. Seeing that this guy is already part of GM Performance, there should be factory upgrades to intakes, exhaust systems, shorty headers, wheels, brakes, interiors, etc. Something like the old SLP Firehawks and cars like that.
The Impala SS needs to return, the real impala SS from 94-96, rear wheel drive, seats five comfortably, handles, not sloppy 6.6L V8, 10-speed auto, etc. Next the Trailblazer SS-396, a Malibu SS-350 with a coupe option like the ’85 Malibu, a full size off road Blazer 5.7L, an SS-396 Silverado, a Colorado Xtreme and a Blazer Xtreme (get rid of the RST on these vehicles), drop the 4.3L V6 in these two, and call it a day. I mean obviously the Impala SS wouldn’t be the only impala, an AWD “Crossover”, and a regular 4.3L V6 Impala sedan would make for an interesting lineup Albiet that these car can provide what it truly needed and that is good performance (320hp) a more dynamic chassis (VSS-R platform) comfortable inteiror, good styling, etc. America still likes sedans but not boring ones. I would say Drop Buick, bring Holden (HSV) to America as the car lineup of GMC, Bring back vehicles such as the GMC Typhoon and Syclone, restructure Cadillac and bring back cars & names like Fleetwood Brougham, Eldorado & Seville. Move Corvette to Cadillac, bring back the red outlined bowtie on performance models, heck just give us back our American cars. IF some people don’t want them then fine, but for the ones of us who do. let us have them. You’re sales are dropping because nothing is being offered that we want to buy (Camaro is nice, digging the silverado) but yeah, give us our Chevy’s back. The one’s we are yearning for. Oh yeah, and if the malibu is to stay around, it needs to adopt the VSS-R platform, slot between the Camaro and Impala, and offer a coupe, sedan and an AWD “Crossover wagon.” Complete with an SS package that has the 5.7L V8 w/ 10-speed auto.
Your desires do not reflect the current market and the desires of the millenials. And export potential of those cars are zero. A mid 1980’s Monte carlo? Seriously? That was a POS chevy Lumina with a butt ugly body kit. Urrrrhhhh!
Look around, the top selling engine in the US, in terms of numbers, is a 4 banger. Muricans LOVE Asian cars
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Honda Civic. KBB.com Expert Rating. …
Toyota Camry. View full gallery. …
Honda CR-V. View full gallery. …
Toyota RAV4. KBB.com Expert Rating. …
Nissan Rogue. View full gallery. …
Ram Pickup. View full gallery. …
Chevrolet Silverado. View full gallery. KBB.com Expert Rating. …
Ford F-Series. View full gallery. KBB.com Expert Rating.
Note all on your list are up in sales but the Camry, Civic and F150.
I think GM is on the right track here. Whether you like the 6th gen or not, everyone agrees it is a blast to drive and he was directly responsible for that. GM knows that if they do decide to go “all in” with electrification, they have to BRING it. The cars must be engaging and fun to drive, and if they aren’t, customers will buy the japanese brands instead and that would be the end of GM.
I would say we are witnessing a bit of history here. Because what are we all really concerned about, at the end of the day? That electric cars are going to ruin our fun. That the conversion to electric entails a loss of freedom to drive our own cars. A loss of true performance driving. Giving it all up to the bean counters. We don’t want that to happen.
And so GM is doing the right thing, hopefully intentionally. They know that a significant portion of their customer base takes performance very seriously. And they also know that the average lay person looking for economical transportation will have a plethora of options available to them in the next 10-20 years, and that the best reason for choosing GM will be the driving experience. Taking over and owning the performance electric vehicle segment and letting those concepts trickle down into the rest of their fleet could revitalize the entire company.
So they take the guy who is responsible for arguably the best sports car for the money, in the world…and let him loose on the electric vehicles. If I’m being charitable, it’s a stroke of genius and a sign they know their market extremely well. Personally I’m psyched to see what he comes up with. And we will hold our collective breath and cross our fingers hoping the GM bean counters don’t hamstring him. But Al has been in this situation before, and he showed that he will fight and win battles for performance. I believe we should all be VERY glad that he found a reason, his reason, whatever it is, to stay in this game for one last hurrah. He could go out a hero for revitalizing the company and our faith in the future of driving.
Perhaps this is the cynic in me, but doesn’t it seem that GM is acting out of desperation right now for its AV/EV programs? We have read reports that both are behind schedule. It seems that Barra is placing high-level execs in these positions to give them legitimacy while in reality we have not even seen a prototype of one of the 23 EVs that were promised by her.
Great, so GM’s EVs will feature ridiculous outward visibility, tiny trunk openings, and juvenile styling.
Al O had nothing to do with styling. He was responsible for the mechanicals only, styling is a completely different team.
The chief engineer oversees all. If Oppenheiser had wanted proper outward visibility and other practical daily driver attributes then the design team would have worked to his specs.