More MBS Coverage TRAVERSE CITY, MI – General Motors Corp. Performance Div. Chief Mark Reuss defends the Chevrolet SS lineup during a Management Briefing Seminars panel here.

When asked by a moderator if “there is a chance you are diluting the SS brand” by offering so many variants and some with less-than-eye-popping performance specifications, Reuss fires off a concrete “no.”

“If you look at history, the SS has been a trim package from day one,” he says, referring to the Super Sport performance kit that was born in the early 1960s and spawned a hyped-up vehicle line by the middle of the decade.

“We've had inline-6s on Novas that were SS for folks who didn't have quite enough money to buy the 396s or the 350s, or the high-spinning small block,” Reuss says, comparing the Nova SS coupes of the past fitted with a smaller inline 6-cyl. engine with the 350 cu-in. (5.7L cu.-cm) and 396 cu-in. (6.5L cu.-cm) V-8 that powered the iconic Camaro SS.

Reuss says 240-hp Malibu SS does not dilute Chevy's performance division.

While Chevy still offers high-powered halos – the Corvette and SSR among them – the division is concentrating its SS efforts on spreading the moniker to eight models by year's end.

However, the move has prompted concern that SS could lose credibility, especially as it matriculates to vehicle packages not seen as particularly aggressive, such as the 345-hp Silverado SS pickup and 240-hp Malibu SS sedan.

Three of the SS vehicles are based on truck platforms and are the only models of the eight to offer rear-wheel drive, which is associated as a must-have for performance derivatives.

Also lacking is a sports coupe such as the Camaro, which historically went

head-to-head with Ford Motor Co.'s Mustang. GM's Pontiac GTO qualifies but is neither an SS model nor a Chevy.

Reuss defends Chevy's strategy. “Chevrolet still remains high value, and you should be able to buy an appearance package,” he says. “I still don't think there is anything wrong with that.”'

Additionally, having a wide-range of SS models promises to help boost residual values for vehicle lines and gives an array of buyers something to aspire to.

Says Reuss: “A young person who doesn't have enough money to spring for the supercharger right now might buy the (Cobalt) with the wing and appearance package…and then have enough money to buy a crate motor and put it in that car along the way.”

The auto maker will offer a 205-hp Cobalt sporting a supercharged engine for about $22,000, but buyers can opt for a cheaper sport package with hopes of adding GM-certified parts, such as an engine, after purchase.

Reuss also deflects criticism suggesting Chevy's SS models are not up to spec. He says the vehicles were developed at Germany's Nurburgring race circuit and are tuned for optimal performance in areas such as cooling, braking, steering and powertrain.