AFTER disappointing three-pedal fans last month with news that Australia’s first right hand-drive Camaro will be offered as an automatic only, HSV has now revealed a manual version is indeed in the pipeline.
When HSV confirmed it would be converting Euro spec Camaros to right-hand drive for Aussie customers, the initial intel was that both manual and autos would be the focus, but the Clayton-based company dropped the bombshell in May that only autos were on the way.
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Now it seems that message has been rescinded and a three-pedal version will be on the way late next year.
“It will be late 2019,” said marketing general manager Damon Paull. “That’s the potential."
“We believe that auto will take the lion’s share of demand but we’re aware that there’s a customer base that wants that manual model.”
Manuals were initially scratched following the decision to convert higher-grade Euro specification cars – variants only available with the eight-speed auto, but Paull revealed the company was gearing up to apply its deft conversion hand to make manuals an Aussie reality, rather than taking lower-spec American cars with manual gearboxes.
“It would require unique engineering and development. It would be an investment to be had there.”
If the manual's arrival sticks to that rough timeline, it’s most likely the first examples will roll in wearing the 2019 facelift that was revealed in April, while the first auto versions due later this year will be the pre-update version we drove in the US in January.
Manual availability is another string to the Camaro’s bow in the battle against its Ford Mustang arch rival, which has been available in both auto and manual since its Australian debut in 2015 and launches in updated 2018 guise today.
While autos are expected to make up a majority of Camaro sales – following the trend of the Mustang – HSV cannot afford to lose a single sale in the V8 rear-drive muscle car battle, the likes of which has not waged on local soil sincethe early ’70s when the Monaro butted heads with the Falcon Hardtop.
Paull confirmed that the proportion of manual-to-auto sales could be similar to the final VF Commodore-based model split, providing a healthy boost to Aussie Camaro uptake.
“If it’s any guide, the mix of auto to manual was at least two thirds auto in the prior HSV Zeta-based platform range.”
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The news that a six-speed manual will slot into Australian cars will not harm the Camaro’s cause but it’s unlikely to overtake Ford’s muscle car sales with pricing a key point of difference.
With a 2018 starting price of $49,990 for the manual four-cylinder and $62,990 for the V8 GT, it’s likely Ford’s Mustang will continue the sales sensation it continues to enjoy.
Conversely, if HSV's manual conversion process is extensive, the local price could be inflated further to recoup the costs incurred - although the lower acquisition cost of a manual could cancel that out. As for whether manuals would be made a no-cost-option when it hits showrooms, Paull confirmed it was “too far out to make that call”.