Since the Chevrolet Camaro returned late in 2009 for the 2010 model year, Al Oppenheiser has been the man in charge of the program. Under his watch, the Chevy muscle car stormed back onto the scene, leading the segment in sales every year from 2010 through 2014, while also offering up some of the greatest American performance cars ever. Of course, Oppenheiser was a very public leader of the Camaro program, attending enthusiast events and participating in track record efforts.
Unfortunately, the 6th generation Camaro hasn’t proven to be as successful as the 5th generation and with sales slumping, General Motors appears to be looking to shake up the program a bit. The automaker has moved Oppenheiser to the electric vehicle program, where he will oversee the future of the company’s EVs while Mark Dickens, current executive director of Performance Variants, Parts, Accessories, and Motorsports Engineering will take over the Camaro program.
This comes as a shock to many people, as Oppenheiser has played such a huge role in the modern era of the Camaro. Really, there are few names in the modern American auto industry which are more closely associated with the vehicle on which they work than Al Oppenheiser and the Camaro, but the leader of the modern muscle car program is off to develop EVs while the Camaro soldiers on without him.
Electric Vehicle Push
There is no question that General Motors is looking to bolster their electric vehicle program, with GM spokesperson Michael Albano telling Car and Driver that the company wants their best people working on EVs. In other words, GM is approaching this as promoting Oppenheiser to head a bigger program and it is a bigger role, but you have to wonder if he would have been taken away from the Camaro program if the Chevy muscle car was selling better.
In any case, we have to wonder how the future of the Camaro looks without the man who led the way for the entire modern era of the car. While there are likely still plenty of the same people involved in the program and in the end, the Camaro will always be a modern muscle car, it will be interesting to see if there is any major change to the program with a new chief engineer.
Hopefully, a new person calling the shots in the Camaro program will breathe some new life into the muscle car while at the same time, having Oppenheiser in the EV program will lead to some electric vehicles that are more fun to drive than most of the current options in that segment.