DETROIT Cruising the boulevard may never be the same. Two of America's favorite sports cars are nearing the end of the blacktop.
General Motors Corp. announced Tuesday the 2002 model year will be the last for the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
The Ste. Therese, Quebec assembly plant where they are produced will close next September.
GM blamed the demise of the Camaro and Firebird on a 53 percent decline in the sports car market since 1990. Even the muscle cars were not strong enough to beat back the growth in popularity of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
More than four million Camaros have been sold since it was introduced in 1967. Its peak year was 1978 when 260,201 were sold, but last year sales dwindled to just 42,131.
The Firebird's best year was 1978 when 175,607 were sold. In 2000, though, sales were just a tad over 31,000.
"The Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird have truly become an integral part of the American culture over the years," said John Middlebrook, GM vice president and general manager of vehicle brand marketing.
He said the automaker will be celebrating the cars with a 35th Anniversary Edition Camaro and a Collector Edition Firebird Trans AM.
The cars will not be directly replaced, but the new Chevrolet SSR, available next year, is expected to attract some Camaro and Firebird buyers. The vehicle is a cross between a roadster and the now extinct cult favorite El Camino.
Pontiac will offer the new Vibe GT, Bonneville SSEi and supercharged Grand Prix GTP.
The Ste. Therese plant opened in 1965 and has built the Chevrolet Celebrity and Monza, and Pontiac Grand Prix along with the Camaro and Firebird.
Most of its 1,065 hourly employees are eligible for retirement, as well as 380 employees currently on lay off, said Maureen Kempston Darkes, GM of Canada Limited president and general manager.
"This is an extremely painful and difficult decision," Darkes said. She said the company tried to find an alternative to continue manufacturing at Ste. Therese, but was unable to find one.