Bob Lutz Says Odds Are A Ute is Coming for GM's American Buyers
By: Mike Levine Posted: 09-19-07 00:17 PT
© 2007

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One of these statements isn’t true.

We were smoking La Gloria Cubanas this evening with Bob Lutz. Or, it’s likely we’ll see an American version of the new Holden VE Ute this January in Detroit at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.

Of course we weren’t smoking Cubanas with Bob. This is California, jeez! There ain’t no lighting up anywhere, even if you’re ‘Maximum’ Bob.

But if you’re reading this you’re probably interested in smoke of a different type – like the kind accompanying the sound of squealing tires from a rear wheel drive Aussie V8 ute hooning on tarmac north of the equator.

To this General Motors Vice Chairman of Product Development tells, “Odds are it will happen.”

But wait, there’s more.

We asked Mr. Lutz to elaborate on his recent e-mail exchange with GM Inside News member MonaroSS, recounted in a discussion thread on GMI. MonaroSS wrote to Mr. Lutz, "Hope the new Ute gets a more Chevy [El Camino] look if it goes Stateside, to which Mr. Lutz wrote back, "Well, that's what we want to do, but it won't be a Chevrolet!"

Mr. Lutz now says, “We’d love to do it. The biggest challenge is exchange rates [between the U.S. and Australian dollars] but I think it would do sensational over here. Over in Australia it’s the working man’s Porsche but it’s perfect for pickup owners with light loads and it gets close to 30-mpg with a V6.”

But it still won’t be an El Camino.

“The Chevy product portfolio is too full to add this to it,” says Mr. Lutz. “We’d do it as either a Pontiac or GMC.”

So which brand has the inside track? You might think Pontiac (and so did I) but Bob says not so fast.

“A GMC version would be nice. They [GMC] have the heritage and we’d do it with a GMC front-end. It’d be good stuff for GMC,” says Mr. Lutz.

GMC produced El Camino-based Sprints from 1971 to 1977 and the more famous Caballero car-based pickup from 1978 until 1987.

And for the record, Mr. Lutz is in favor of resurrecting the Caballero nombre if GM decides to bring over the Holden as a GMC saying, “Why not call it a Caballero?"

But the question for GM is where does it make the most sense?

Making the Holden a GMC would add extra engineering and marketing costs versus going the relatively easier Pontiac-badged route. Pontiac’s all-new 2008 G8 sedan is based on the Holden Commodore, which is the same Zeta RWD platform as the VE Ute. So think identical front sheetmetal and probably some type of branding under the G8 umbrella.

There’s been much discussion online of late amongst '–amino' enthusiasts about the volumes needed to justify bringing over the VE.

Mr. Lutz wouldn’t comment on specific unit targets but he did say, “We’d be doing this as a niche vehicle in small volumes. We really don’t have the line capacity to do it otherwise because [a GMC or Pontiac Ute] would be coming off the same line producing Holdens and G8s for Australia, Asia, and U.S. markets and the capacity is only around 300,000 units.”

We’ll know by January whether this is going to happen or not.

“Come to the Detroit Show and find out,” says Mr. Lutz.

Want to learn more about the history of utility-class pickups? Check out our look back at these car-based haulers.

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