By James Stanford for PickupTrucks.com
Mark Reuss, General Motors' newly installed president of GM North America, says the Holden VE Ute may still come to the U.S. If it does, it could wear the famed Chevrolet El Camino badge.
Reuss raised hopes for a resurrected El Camino during an interview at the North American International Auto Show.
In January 2009, GM killed plans to sell the Ute as a Pontiac.
“I think another brand with the Ute would be pretty attractive,” Reuss said. Asked whether the potential brand for a U.S. VE Ute was GMC, Reuss volunteered “or Chevrolet”, raising the prospect that the model could be sold with the El Camino nameplate if it were to make it Stateside.
Reuss knows the Holden VE Ute intimately. He was the president of GM’s Australian division at the time the company developed its U.S. export program.
GM had announced that it planned to bring the VE Ute to the U.S. as a Pontiac G8 Sport Truck during the 2007 New York Auto Show. U.S.-specific development work, including engineering side airbags to meet federal safety standards, was carried out but the project was cancelled before a single ST made it into showrooms.
Reuss indicated he wasn’t convinced that the original plan to bring the Ute into the U.S. as a Pontiac, to be sold alongside the VE-based G8 sedan, was the best solution.
“I thought we’d have a hard time putting Ute into Pontiac, but I know it was part of the broader strategy of doing that because they were both VE, there are reasons why you do that, but I think another brand with the Ute would be pretty attractive,” he said.
Reuss said that, if anything, bringing a VE Ute and sedan to the U.S. was more compelling than it was the first time around given the cars now run upgraded V-6 engines, as well as a V-8.
“We didn’t have direct injection in these cars when we’re looking at this the first time,” he said.
“You have to look at this strategically and say, VE has got to be able to stand on its own on the world stage and I think now it is getting to be able to do that, from a fuel economy (perspective) and you will see mass come out of the car,” he said.
“It only gets more attractive on an export basis.”
As for a possible time frame, Reuss wasn't specific and mentioned he had a lot to do in his new role.
The business case for the Holden El Camino will be assisted by the fact Reuss is also looking at ways to return the VE sedan-based G8 to the US market.
Reuss indicated the VE models would need a significant redesign before re-entering the U.S. market.
“The exact G8 car coming back, I don’t know that we’d do that because we would get crucified for not having some of the uniqueness for another brand designed into that car that we did for Pontiac and we designed a lot into that car for Pontiac. It wasn’t just a facelifted VE, it had colors, dials, ride and handling that was different and it was for the American market,” he said.
Reuss was asked whether it be tailored in a similar way for another brand?
“If we did something with VE it would be the same approach with integrity of another brand,” he said.
GM Holden president, Alan Batey, who worked under Reuss as his Australian sales and marketing chief, said he was hopeful Commodore Ute and sedan could both be sold in the U.S.
“It is too early to say what is definitely going to happen, all I can say is that there is absolutely ongoing discussion as you heard from Mark,” Batey said. “He sees possibilities, we have to wrestle those down in the next few months, find out what we can do and when we can do it and come out appropriately with the right product plan,” he said.