Interview with Bob Walczyk of the Chevrolet SSR brand team

Thanks to David Caldwell for arranging this session. 

Bob Walczyk is one of the key people responsible for taking the Chevrolet SSR from concept to reality, defining the Chevy SSR’s equipment, content and marketing plans.

Before the questions and answers get underway, Bob Walczyk thanked us for our interest and enthusiasm, saying, “Thanks to everyone for their interest and enthusiasm for the Chevrolet SSR. Your enthusiasm, triggered by the original concept vehicle, is a big part of what is driving the team to get the SSR into production.” He also pointed out the SSR’s appearance at the upcoming Woodward Dream Cruise, and a benefit for Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) with die-cast models autographed by CEO Rick Wagoner being auctioned off. “OK, on with the questions!”

Chevrolet SSR instrument panel picture

1. What can you tell us about the engine going into the SSR (size, power, etc.)?

We will be making some major announcements in the coming months on several of the key aspects of the production version of the SSR, including the powertrain. So, keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, I can tell you that the SSR will have a great GM small block V8 engine. And, this small block V8 will be include new features not in use in any GM production vehicles today.

2. What transmission will be used in the SSR, and will it have the manumatic steering-wheel controls that the concept vehicle has?

As I mentioned, we will be announcing the powertrain combination in the not-too-distant future. In terms of the controls, we’re planning on a more traditionally-operated shifter device for the production vehicle. This is one of the areas in which we will slightly modify the concept vehicle as we move towards production.

Chevrolet SSR production 1

3. Will the ride height be similar to the concept vehicle?

Yes. The production vehicle will be extremely faithful to the concept vehicle. In particular, we will deliver a vehicle stance and appearance very much like the concept.

4. Can you estimate the price range for SSR?

We’re not at the point yet where we can discuss the specifics of the pricing. Value is a core attribute of every Chevrolet vehicle. The best estimate I can give at this point is that the SSR will fall somewhere in between a Camaro SS convertible and a Corvette, to use an example within the Chevrolet lineup.

Chevrolet SSR production 2
5. Can you estimate the production volume?

Chevrolet SSR will be built utilizing the speciality manufacturing process at GM’s Lansing, Michigan Craft Centre. SSR will be offered in very limited volume compared to most of Chevrolet’s other vehicles today.

6. How much will the Chevy SSR change from the concept vehicle?

The production version of the Chevrolet SSR will be true to the concept vehicle. The production vehicle will deliver the style, function and emotion of the concept — that is the team’s rallying cry.

Chevrolet SSR production 1

7. Will there be a long list of options offered on the vehicle when it goes on sale? What kinds of features might be included as optional equipment?

As a specialty vehicle, our plan is to offer the SSR with relatively few options. However, we are developing an innovative array of GM accessories that customers will be able to order with the vehicle. We’re looking at lots of ideas for these accessories now, which allows us to design and develop them in concert with the vehicle itself. This is something we haven’t talked about publicly yet, but it could be a very unique opportunity because the SSR itself is so unique.

8. When will the SSR be available?

The very first Chevrolet SSRs will be produced in very limited quantities before the end of 2002. Although production will continue to be limited, there will be more SSR vehicles available in early to mid-2003 based on current plans.

9. Will it have steel or some type of plastic or fiberglass body panels?

The body panels will be primarily made of steel.

10. What will be the gearing?

The vehicle will be rear wheel drive, and the gearing is something that is still under development and not finalized. The team is looking for the right gearing to achieve the acceleration, weight and fuel economy characteristics we’re looking for.

11. Are you planning new versions or changes to the SSR (performance enhancements, trim levels, colors etc.) that would be phased in over time?

Chevrolet has a great tradition in this area, and it is something we are looking at very seriously right now. We’re thinking of ways to enhance and evolve the SSR over time — this would include performance, appearance, colors, technologies. Whatever we do, though, will stay true to the original SSR concept.

12. Will there be a bucket seat and center console option, which was not present on the concept vehicle?

We are planning on using bucket seats and a center console.

Again, we would like to extend our sincere thanks to General Motors for taking the unprecedented step of releasing new information not only to a major publication, but also to an enthusiast Web site. For those of you who do not hang around the auto industry, this is really a significant change.

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