DETROIT -- General Motors will introduce a rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet performance sedan in the U.S. market for the first time in 17 years, at the same time giving its NASCAR race car a makeover.
GM plans to start selling a limited production version of a full-size sedan with a V8 engine called the Chevrolet SS, which will reach dealerships in late 2013. The vehicle, drawing inspiration from Super Sport vehicles of GM's past, will double as Chevrolet's next NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car.
The version sold to the public will be very similar to the vehicle raced on the NASCAR circuit, Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran said.
"The NASCAR car is so closely related to the design of the production car that for the near future, when we take the new Chevrolet SS NASCAR car out for testing, it will be camouflaged just because it looks so much like the production car," Doran said.
Chevy will stop racing the Impala sedan in NASCAR after this year. That decision comes a month after GM revealed a redesigned version of the Impala in an effort to inject new life into the vehicle.
The 2014 Chevy SS is based on the same global architecture of the Chevrolet Camaro and the new VF Commodore, which will be sold under GM's Australia brand, Holden.
"The Chevrolet SS is a great example of how GM is able to leverage its global product portfolio to deliver a unique performance experience that extends beyond the track," GM North America president Mark Reuss said in a statement. "I am personally looking forward to driving it."
GM first sold a vehicle with the SS tag in 1961, when a high-performance version of the Impala was sold with a sporty suspension and power brakes.
The company currently sells an SS version of the Camaro as a coupe and convertible. Sales of GM's performance vehicles have been steady so far in 2012. The Detroit-based automaker sold 31,551 Camaros in the first four months of the year, up 2.4 per cent, and 4,328 Corvettes, up 0.8 per cent.
Doran said he anticipated skepticism of the SS from people claiming the Chevy SS is "just a civilian version of the Caprice," a Chevy that is sold only to law-enforcement agencies.
"The Caprice is a long-wheel-base version of the current Holden Commodore that has really been tailored for law enforcement," he said. "The new SS will be similar obviously -- it will be on the same architecture -- but they will not be the same car."
Doran said the Chevy SS would be sold mostly in the consumer market with few fleet sales.
"We don't expect this to have the same volume or appeal of a mainstream car like a Malibu or Impala," he said. "This is very much seen as a low-volume, limited-production car designed to appeal to performance enthusiasts."
Despite NASCAR's attendance troubles, Doran said GM still believes the racing league boosts the bottom line.
"It brings new people to the brand," he said. "Our success on the track helps raise our awareness with customers who will eventually end up buying our new products."
-- Detroit Free Press