Waikato University graduate Dan Ammann’s reputation as the hands-on president of General Motors has gone up another notch or two.
The New Zealand high-flyer took to the track in the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to give US motoring writers hot laps of the Mountain Springs Motorsports circuit in Nevada. (The video is showing below).
The Camaro and its supercharged 477kW/868Nm 6.2-litre V8 engine – its most potent LT4 unit yet – will go on sale in the US later this year.
Ammann joined his global product chief Mark Reuss – GM’s highest-profile car enthusiast – to handle the joyrides. Asked why, he said: “It shows that we’re paying attention to what’s going on.”
Both men said the new Camaro delivers unprecedented levels of technology, refinement, track capability and straight-line acceleration.
Added Reuss: “It’s a 2+2 coupe offering incredible performance – acceleration, handling, braking, and perfect chassis damping, making it suitable for everyday driving”. As a yardstick, Ferrari’s 6.3-litre engine in the V12 FF delivers 486kW and 683Nm against the ZL1’s 477kW and 868Nm.
The ZL1 is the first GM product to get the company’s new 10-speed automatic transmission, which will find its way in eight other GM models by 2018. A six-speed manual gearbox will be a ZL1 option.
The 10-speed works with paddle-shifters tuned to match the engine’s prodigious output. The chassis is also tuned for performance, with Magnetic Ride suspension, an electronic limited-slip differential, and performance traction management.
It rides on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tyres, 285/30ZR up front and 305/30ZR at the rear. Six-piston Brembos with two-piece rotors provide the stopping power.
GM says the ZL1 is around 100kg lighter than its predecessor, thanks to new architecture that promises better handling. Chevrolet also added a new bonnet with a carbon-fibre insert, a larger front splitter, and a wing at the back.
A larger lower grille improves airflow along with 11 heat exchanges to cool the drivetrain. The cabin has Recaro seats, a suede flat-bottom steering wheel, and an optional Performance Data Recorder.
• Moving quickly at the wheel and in business is nothing new to Ammann – he has posted an advanced qualifying lap time around the Nurburgring, and his ascension to the boardroom at GM was just as rapid. Seven years ago Ammann was a New York investment banker working for Morgan Stanley and helping GM restructure after the global financial crisis forced its bailout by the US Government. His work caught the eye of then-GM chief financial officer and fellow Kiwi Christopher Liddell. Ammann, who turned 43 earlier this month, joined GM as its treasurer in April 2010 and became president in January, 2014. Has he always been a car guy, asked US Automotive News. Yes and No. He admits he harboured no ambitions about joining the automotive industry, but he used his first bonus from Morgan Stanley to buy a 1961 Cadillac Series 62 convertible.