“I believe 2013 will be a year that Australia decides whether it wants to have an auto industry or not,”
-Mike Devereux, Holden’s former Managing Director, in November, 2012
Those ominous words spoken by Mike Devereux last year have taken on an almost eerie significance in light of yesterday’s events. After more than a half century of building cars in Australia, Holden will now become a “national sales company”, ostensibly selling rebadged global General Motors products, manufactured in places like Korea and Thailand.
But veiled remarks about the Australian auto industry aren’t the only words uttered by Devereux that caused us to take notice. At the launch of the latest VF Commodore, Devereux made a vague statement about the Commodore’s future, implying that it would be built on a global platform at the Adelaide factory. While the latter is no longer possible, there’s still hope that the Commodore could live a GM architecture. The only question is, which one?
If you want to see the future of Holden in Australia, this is it. Yes, it’s the same car that Jack Baruth took to the woodshed in today’s edition of TTAC, but it’s also a harbinger of things to come for the iconic Australian marque, with the announcement that Holden’s Elizabeth, Australia plant will be tooling up to produce the first ever front-wheel drive Commodore. And even that looks doubtful.
I have this feeling that our most impressionable automotive years are our high school years. Maybe it’s because I was so eager to drive that I noticed anything with wheels. Maybe it’s that auto shop class where I got to wrench on a Wankel (that sounds wrong doesn’t it?). Whatever the reason, it seems many of my brand and model name identities were formed in the mid 1990s. For me, “Impala” doesn’t conjure up the W-Body abomination GM has been selling for the past 13 years. Instead “my” Impala has always been the 1994-1996
Caprice Impala SS with the 5.7L Corvette LT1 engine. This is my benchmark on which every Impala must be judged.
Motor Trend reports that Cadillac’s long search for a flagship is over. After debating a number of options, including importing a stretched Chinese-market STS, GM has decided that the “Super Epsilon”-based XTS will be the future range-topper for its luxury brand. The XTS was developed on a stretched version of the platform that underpins GM sedans including the Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Malibu and the forthcoming Buick Regal, and was shown in concept form as the XTS Platinum concept at the Detroit Auto Show. That concept was shown with a theoretical plug-in drivetrain made up of Cadillac’s 3.6 liter DI V6 and the plug-in components from the canceled Vue plug-in, and according to MT, the recent cancellation of the Converj plug-in means “there’s profit and green image to be had in the plug-in XTS.” Until that technology is production-ready, choosing the XTS’s engine options will be an interesting challenge.
The Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept, which debuts today at the NAIAS, is a look at the new Cadillac flagship which goes into production in early 2012. The XTS’s brief is to replace the moribund DTS and STS sedans, a task that Cadillac desperately needs done properly if it wants to be taken seriously as a luxury competitor. So why is the XTS concept little more than a glorified Buick LaCrosse?
Enthusiasts have been adamant that GM’s decision to sell a police-only version of its RWD global Lumina platform (Holden Statesman) creates a fantastic opportunity for GM to return the Impala to its RWD roots. Such a decision would seem to make sense from a business perspective as well, adding civilian sales volume to what otherwise would be a fleet-only platform. No such luck though. Bob Lutz tells Inside Line that the forthcoming Impala replacement (due in 2014) will be based on GM’s global FWD midsized architecture (Epsilon II). The rationale for this decision appears to be fuel efficiency: Lutz mentions the need to compete with the Ford Taurus’s efficiency achievements as a factor in the decision. By going FWD, GM also hopes to be able to shoehorn the two-mode hybrid system from the discontinued Vueick CUV into a future Impala. In addition to forgoing an opportunity to leverage the Caprice police special architecture, this decision also adds to GM’s epic midsize FWD sedan bloat. From the Malibu to the Buick LaCrosse and Regal, from Impala to the Cadillac XTS “flagship,” GM’s default decision seems to be to base all of its sedans on a single platform, making pricing and content differentiation an ongoing challenge to its product strategy. Vive le sameness!