General Motors’ so-called Alpha platform has been something of an enigma since it was first conceptualized by Holden as the TT36 Torana for the 2004 Sydney Auto Show. The TT36 concept was Holden’s pitch for a sub-CTS RWD global premium sedan, although, in proper GM fashion, that job went to the late, unlamented BLS. Though fuel economy issues were said to have killed the possibility of introducing an RWD model below the CTS, the penalty wasn’t huge, making the decision to go with a Saab 9-3 rebadge all the more strange. “As a lightweight rear-wheel-drive car that is going to add about 1mpg compared to an equivalent lightweight front-wheel drive car . . . we just have to sort of wait a while and see where we are,” is how Bob Lutz explained it to Go Auto last year. More likely, GM simply had no money to develop the platform in those pre-bailout days. Now that taxpayers are footing the bill, what can we expect from Alpha?
“Torana is a rear-wheel drive vehicle smaller than the Zeta architecture and smaller than the current CTS Cadillac architecture. It is, or would be, about the size of a BMW 1-Series — maybe just a tiny bit bigger to enable larger wheels,” Mr Lutz told Go Auto in January 2008.
Now that is the architecture that has been bandied about the US press under the name of ‘Alpha Architecture’, and Alpha is still under consideration, but we haven’t kicked off any design work or any engineering work because we have to sort our way through this 35mpg (6.72L/100km) task . . . If we proceed with the Alpha Architecture, I think it is safe to say that Holden would be vitally interested in participating in that project.
If, in January of ’08, Lutz was still referring to Alpha as an “if,” the platform still has major engineering work to be done. And despite having previously made Holden GM’s RWD “global home room,” it seems that the Alpha platform will be developed in the United States. In 2004, when the Torana TT36 concept came out, Holden was raring to build it. “It could be designed and produced off a number of GM platforms, taking advantage of the virtual maths-based processes and component sharing which enabled us to build this working concept in a very short space of time,” said Holden’s design chief at the time. So if Holden came up with the Alpha idea and serves as GM’s in-house RWD developers, why aren’t they developing it? No word for now.