The Truth About Cars » holden commodore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 04 Aug 2014 11:00:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » holden commodore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: 2013 Holden Commodore Ute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2013-holden-commodore-ute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2013-holden-commodore-ute/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853353   Luke Vandezande, Managing Editor of AutoGuide.com, submits his review of the Holden Ute. What if I told you that there’s a parallel universe where Europeans love muscle cars, have their own country music artists and care less for political correctness than Howard Stern in his heyday. Welcome to Australia. Holden is a subsidiary of […]

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Luke Vandezande, Managing Editor of AutoGuide.com, submits his review of the Holden Ute.

What if I told you that there’s a parallel universe where Europeans love muscle cars, have their own country music artists and care less for political correctness than Howard Stern in his heyday. Welcome to Australia.

Holden is a subsidiary of General Motors that develops, builds and sells cars for the island. Much the same as the fierce yet faded loyalty to old Detroit iron is found among Michiganders, Aussies harbor a passion for Holden as a beacon of the country’s once-glorious auto industry.

Now, most of Holden’s products are re-badged global products. For example, there’s a version of the Spark sub-compact and Colorado mid-size pickup truck bearing the lionized badge.

Genuine Aussie cars are failing to stack up against cheaper imported products. The Holden Commodore is one of the last legitimately domestic vehicles down under and it’s sold in several variations. There’s a sedan, wagon and most notably the uniquely Australian “Ute.” It’s a modern day version of the Chevrolet El Camino, muscle car status and all.

It also might be one of the most heavily hyped obscurities among automotive enthusiasts. It has all the right stuff: an available 6.0-liter V8 powering the rear wheels, a manual transmission and looks mean enough to curdle milk. With virtually no weight over the rear end, breaking the tail loose is easier than slipping back into smoking cigarettes.

Having spent over 30 hours travelling (including layovers), I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in for a disappointment. To a certain extent, I already knew things wouldn’t be as sweet as I had originally planned. The range-topping SS-V Redline model was booked by other members of the media until long after my planned departure. So instead I borrowed the SV6 model with an automatic transmission.

It seemed the sort of hooliganism I had been dreaming of for so long would have to remain a fantasy. Still, it will be a cold day in hell when I forget exactly how fortunate I am to be in the position to borrow cars in the first place. Color me grateful for the chance to drive one at all.

I set about familiarizing myself with the car by spending two hours bombing through the winding roads west of Adelaide. The 3.6-liter V6 and automatic does not disappoint. It makes about 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (converted from metric figures advertised there). It’s still worth noting that the stick is a better choice for more than the fun it offers. The SV6 is Holden’s entry-level sport Ute and as such it comes with a suspension better tuned for sporty driving than you’d expect. Manual models also come with a limited slip differential, but the automatic doesn’t.

I wasn’t in a position to drive anywhere near the point at which that sort of equipment would yield dividends, but it’s hard to ignore nonetheless. Consequently, I can’t speak to its merits. I can tell you how the slushbox V6 drives: surprisingly well.

Throttle tip in feels natural and linear. A light foot delivers moderate power while speed builds progressively when pressing the pedal further toward the floor. It allows driving for fuel economy to be easy without sacrificing any of the spirit that makes the Ute so much fun.

Electrically boosted steering essentially mutes feedback from the road, but the act of actually turning the tiller still feels responsive.

The SV6 model also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, reverse traffic alert, sport seats trimmed in either faux suede or leather and a soft tonneau cover. A rear-view camera, parking sensors, hill start assistance, six airbags, trail sway control, dual-zone climate control and a remote starter (auto only) are also all included in the standard equipment list across the model range.

The blind spot monitoring and parking assistance are both welcome features in the low-slung vehicle with challenging sightlines. Large a-pillars can make it tough to see through tight corners and looking for oncoming cars while waiting to turn is equally tough. At least the rear-view camera and radar sensors both make navigating tight spaces easy.

Of course, it isn’t a full-fledged truck and its ability to serve in that capacity is limited. It has almost no ground clearance and a payload capacity well under one ton, meaning any legitimate pickup truck will beat it on a job site with one proverbial hand tied.

In an effort to test how the pseudo-truck drives with a heavy load, I put approximately 525 lbs worth of beer and wine into the bed. Yes, Australians love to drink. No, this wasn’t a normal Thursday. I was helping a friend prepare for his wedding the next day. Impressively, the car’s trip computer reported 9.1 liters per 100 kilometers in fuel consumption (25.8 mpg), including cargo that would make Bo and Luke Duke blush.

Even with the multi-link rear suspension squatting under such a heavy burden, passing tractor-trailers on the highway presented little difficulty. Everything about driving it feels understandably more sluggish when loaded up, but performance remains admirably intact. Six cylinders are enough; the other two are like Vegemite on toast. It’s a lot of extra flavor, but you might not want it every day.

The two-seat trucklet is pretty tight on cabin storage space depending on driver and passenger height. You’ll have some storage to speak of with the seats slid back for maximum legroom, but it’s sparse.

Even halfway around the world, General Motors’ penchant for “frugal” interior materials is alive and well. That’s probably not enough to scare off patriotic purchasers, but the widely-used hard plastics are a weak point. Cheesy checker-pattern faux carbon fiber accents don’t help though the light blue accent lighting in the interior door latches is a nice touch.

With power adjustable lumbar support for the driver and well-bolstered sides, it might be a bit of a tight ride but at least its comfortable. You’ll feel bumps and imperfections, but it’s a pleasant place to be; even over dirt roads littered with little ridges from rainwater.

With a relatively low entry-level price and the potential for hair-raising hoonage, it’s hard not to agree with the Holden Ute’s generally positive reputation. Despite that, it’s a far-fetched option as a primary vehicle. On the other hand, it would make a hell of a supplemental choice.

And to a certain extent, it’s priced that way. Holden dropped the price of its SV6 Ute by $5,500 (AUD) for a suggested starting tag of $32,990. Strangely enough, that means the base version and uplevel SV6 carry the same MSRP. For some perspective, an SV6 Commodore sedan costs almost $5,000 more.

In an unusual twist, the current VF Commodore is much cheaper than the VE it replaces. In some cases by almost $10,000. Holden’s big rear-drivers are struggling to sell and it’s a damn shame.

GM won’t ever offer what would likely be a new El Camino to the U.S., but if that ever changed it would sure be a tempting alternative for anyone with a taste for muscle cars and a need to haul heaps of junk.

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Could The Holden Brand Die With The Commodore? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/could-the-holden-brand-die-with-the-commodore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/could-the-holden-brand-die-with-the-commodore/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 18:14:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852297 The next Holden Commodore will come from GM’s European product portfolio, but it won’t carry the Commodore name either. Aussie outlet Carsguide is reporting that despite pleas from Holden, GM is determined to kill the nameplate, since the new Holden large sedan will be so different from the iconic rear-drive model. According to the outlet, […]

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The next Holden Commodore will come from GM’s European product portfolio, but it won’t carry the Commodore name either.

Aussie outlet Carsguide is reporting that despite pleas from Holden, GM is determined to kill the nameplate, since the new Holden large sedan will be so different from the iconic rear-drive model.

According to the outlet, GM may even mandate a name change to Chevrolet if they feel that Holden has become damaged goods following the shuttering of Australian factories, stating

A Holden insider told News Corp Australia last year the switch to Chevrolet could happen if General Motors believes the Holden brand image has been damaged by the shutdown of its factories.

“There is no emotion in this,” the insider said. “It will all come down to money. If General Motors thinks sales will go down because the Holden brand is on the nose, then they will switch it to Chevrolet.”

Marketing experts say it would cost between $500,000 and $1 million to rebrand each of Holden’s 233 dealerships nationwide, and that General Motors would likely foot half the bill for each showroom, forcing Holden dealers to pick up the rest of the tab or lose the franchise.

One Holden insider revealed that the company has been forced to conduct exhaustive research with Australian car buyers to prove the case to Detroit that the Holden brand is worth saving.

“The amount of money we’ve spent trying to defend the Holden brand to Detroit is ridiculous,” the insider said.

“But when executives from North America come out to Australia, they take photos of Chevrolet badges that people have fitted to their Holden (cars), and use that against us.”

The next Commodore (or large Holden) will reportedly come from GM Europe, rather than China or America as previously thought. Holden’s HSV performance division has been spotted with an Opel Insignia OPC test mule, while Holden will be selling a version of that car, as well as other Opel products, through their dealers.

The Insignia will never be as great as a rear-drive Commodore, but it will not be a bad product for a future marketplace that is ready to shift away from large Australian sedans. The move to kill Holden in Chevrolet is mind-boggling, as Chevrolet’s failed foray in Europe demonstrated loud and clear. In a market with over 60 brands, the smart choice is on anything but killing a beloved brand in favor of an untested, foreign replacement.

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Hot Holdens In The Post-2017 Era: Get Ready For The HSV Insignia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hot-holdens-in-the-post-2017-era-get-ready-for-the-hsv-insignia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hot-holdens-in-the-post-2017-era-get-ready-for-the-hsv-insignia/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 14:55:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836265 Come 2017, Holden will cease producing cars in Australia, ending a decades long lineage of big, rear-drive, V8 powered sedans. But their high-performance HSV division is expected to survive the transition, albeit in a very different form. The re-hiring of HSV Chief Engineer John Stoddart is seen as a positive move by the Australian Motor […]

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Come 2017, Holden will cease producing cars in Australia, ending a decades long lineage of big, rear-drive, V8 powered sedans. But their high-performance HSV division is expected to survive the transition, albeit in a very different form.

The re-hiring of HSV Chief Engineer John Stoddart is seen as a positive move by the Australian Motor Press, who took his departure to be a sign of a bleak future for Holden’s performance shop. But as Carsguide rightly points out, there is no V8 slated for the post-Commodore world, and Holden’s next sedans are said to be front-drive models with four and six cylinder engines.

What could be in the cards? Apparently, an Opel Insignia mule with a twin-turbo V6 has been spotted, which would mean something like an Aussie Rules version of the Insginia OPC. I’m still holding out hope for something on the Alpha platform…even if it does come with two fewer cylinders than I’m hoping for.

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Holden Gets Rebadged Opels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/holden-gets-rebadged-opels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/holden-gets-rebadged-opels/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 13:31:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=813561   Holden may be losing the Commodore, but the brand will gain three new “premium” offerings, suggesting a possible direction for its famed HSV performance shop. Holden-badged versions of the Astra GTC and VXR, Insignia VXR and the Cascada convertible. Just-Auto reports that the Insignia will be a new “fully imported” premium sedan, while the […]

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Holden may be losing the Commodore, but the brand will gain three new “premium” offerings, suggesting a possible direction for its famed HSV performance shop.

Holden-badged versions of the Astra GTC and VXR, Insignia VXR and the Cascada convertible. Just-Auto reports that the Insignia will be a new “fully imported” premium sedan, while the Astra models will target the growing hot hatch segment. Holden expects the Cascada to go up against ragtop entrants from BMW and Audi.

The introduction of the three models suggests a possible future direction for Holden, which will be left without its signature, locally build models like the Commodore. Hotter versions of the rear-drive cars, built by tuning arm HSV, are a big part of Holden’s public image, and the Astra and Insignia could even be future candidates for the HSV treatment.

To some, its heresy to even suggest such a thing. But the three models, which Holden expects to be niche products, are critically acclaimed despite their lack of a V8 and rear-wheel drive. But with rumors of a front-drive Commodore continuing to circulate, a souped-up, front-drive HSV car might be a fixture in the future.

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Next Holden Commodore To Be Made In China, Sport 4-Cylinder Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/next-holden-commodore-to-be-made-in-china-sport-4-cylinder-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/next-holden-commodore-to-be-made-in-china-sport-4-cylinder-engine/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 14:43:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=681450 Just as TTAC predicted in earlier editorials, Holden will be receiving vehicles imported from China as part of its future product plan – the vehicle slated to be imported from China is no less than the next generation Commodore. Previous reports suggested that the next-gen Commodore would be a Camry-sized front-drive model that would also […]

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Just as TTAC predicted in earlier editorials, Holden will be receiving vehicles imported from China as part of its future product plan – the vehicle slated to be imported from China is no less than the next generation Commodore.

Previous reports suggested that the next-gen Commodore would be a Camry-sized front-drive model that would also be sold as a Buick. Now the details have become clearer. The car was slated to be twinned with a Buick model made exclusively for the Chinese market and built in both China and Australia. But now that Holden has lost its Australian factories, China will be the sole location for the car’s production, and the Commodore will go ahead as a “Made in China” vehicle.

Holden will also offer a 4-cylinder engine for the first time since the 1980s, and Holden personnel are fighting to have a V6 available as an option. Holden last offered a 4-cylinder Commodore in the 1980s, and sales were dismal. Ford recently offered a Falcon with a 2.0L Ecoboost, but it accounted for less than 10 percent of sales.

According to NewsCorp, Holden feels that it’s easier to stick with the Commodore nameplate despite the drastic changes, rather than launch a whole new nameplate. The new car is said to be 196 inches long (one inch longer than the current car), and just as wide as today’s VF Commodore, but will look more like a European pseudo-coupe rather than the brawny, slab-sided look of the traditional Commodore.

There’s little doubt that a Commodore of this nature will be poorly received, with what’s left of the full-size Aussie sedan cohort rejecting this car as being an unworthy successor to the Commodore legacy. Holden’s marketing team is going to have a seriously difficult task on their hands come 2017.

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GM Looking To Shutter Holden, Re-Brand As Chevrolet After 2017 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gm-looking-to-shutter-holden-re-brand-as-chevrolet-after-2017/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gm-looking-to-shutter-holden-re-brand-as-chevrolet-after-2017/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 18:07:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678754 With the demise of Holden’s manufacturing and R&D facilities complete by 2017, General Motors is reportedly looking to kill off the Holden brand and switch over to Chevrolet instead. According to Australia’s News Corp, the plan to shutter Holden has been around since the early days of the financial crisis, when GM wanted to kill […]

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With the demise of Holden’s manufacturing and R&D facilities complete by 2017, General Motors is reportedly looking to kill off the Holden brand and switch over to Chevrolet instead.

According to Australia’s News Corp, the plan to shutter Holden has been around since the early days of the financial crisis, when GM wanted to kill it off along with Pontiac and Hummer. Only fierce resistance from Mark Reuss, who once headed up Holden, led to the brand being given a stay of execution.

Outgoing Holden boss Mike Devereux told News Corp that

“Holden is here to stay. Holden has been a part of Australia’s past … and it will part of its future for decades to come. Holden is one of the most valuable brands in Australia. We are committed to the brand for the long term. The brand is going to be a part of the fabric of this country for a very long time.”

But with Devereux scheduled to leave Holden for GM’s regional operations in Shanghai starting in February, 2014, Holden will lose another potential guardian.

GM insiders feel that with Holden becoming solely an importer of vehicles, there is nothing distinct about the brand, and it makes little sense to retain it. By contrast, introducing Chevrolet would allow for GM’s Australia division to take advantage of marketing efforts like the sponsorship deal with Manchester United, and avoid any negative backlash against Holden that would arise from shutting down its Australian factories.

Holden is also seen by some as having an image problem, too closely linked to Australia Rules football and other “bogan” pursuits. As part of its continued survival, Holden agreed to market the Volt as its own product, despite the fact that it is a major money-loser and sells in negligible volumes due to its high price and poor interior packaging.

Holden insiders told News Corp that  “The amount of money we’ve spent trying to defend the Holden brand to Detroit is ridiculous,” but GM executives would counter their work with photos of Holden Utes retrofitted with Chevrolet badges as proof of Holdens irrelevance.

On the retail front, re-branding dealerships would cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 AUD, with dealers picking up half the tab. Any dealer that did not comply would risk losing their franchise.

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Alpha: General Motors Last Hope For The Commodore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/alpha-general-motors-last-hope-for-the-commodore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/alpha-general-motors-last-hope-for-the-commodore/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678394 “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 […]

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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?

Originally, Devereux claimed that two global architectures were coming to Adelaide after 2016 – and one of them would be the next Commodore.

“This [Commodore] will run through to the end of 2016. After that time we are going to be putting two global architectures into the [Adelaide] plant, one of them will underpin the next Commodore.”

To make sure he wasn’t misunderstood, Devereux repeated: “There is another Commodore coming after this one. We’re going to build it in Adelaide on a [global] architecture.”

While production at Adelaide is off the table, there is still the matter of which architecture could be used, with two schools of thought on the matter.

The predominant theory is (or was – until Holden decided to close up shop) that the Commodore would move to the front-drive Epsilon II architecture, and become little more than a rebadged Chevrolet Impala or Buick Regal (media reports suggested that the next Commodore would be a front-drive car the size of a Toyota Camry and sold as a Buick in other markets).

There are plenty of good reasons to do this. Despite the broad fanfare the rear-drive Aussie sedans attract among North American enthusiasts, they are similar to other enthusiast pet interests, in that their sales and profitability does not measure up to the mythology surrounding them. Australian car buyer tastes have shifted away from cars like the Falcon and Commodore to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars – attributes better suited to front wheel drive platforms than rear drive layouts.

Smaller cars like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30 are dominating the sales charts currently, along with pickups like the Toyota HiLux. Hanging on to fifth place is the Holden Commodore, which is enjoying its strongest sales in some time. But even then, front drive rivals like the Toyota Camry aren’t far behind (the Camry currently sits in 9th place). The market for sedans is still there, but which wheels are driven may not matter as much.

However, the Commodore brand is not just another nameplate. Is is arguably Australia’s national car, and a front-wheel drive Commodore would be a dramatic departure from the familiar formula that Australians are used to. General Motors experiment with a Holden badged Malibu (based on Epsilon II) hasn’t been terribly well received either.

That leaves another global platform in GM’s selection, one that drives the proper wheels and crucially, has the potential for scale. The Alpha platform, currently used only on the Cadillac ATS and CTS, and eventually, the next generation Camaro, could make for a very nice next-generation Commodore. Its use as a CTS shows that it can be adapted to the size that Aussie full-size buyers (or what’s left of them) expect in a Commodore. The platform can accommodate everything from GM’s 2.0T 4-cylinder, to the 3.6L V6 in both turbo and naturally aspirated forms and crucially (for marketing, purposes at least) whatever V8 the next-generation Camaro opts for.

The three nameplates using Alpha right now won’t allow for significant volumes, given that they are luxury and nice sports car vehicles. But a new Commodore – sold as a Holden in Australia, a Buick in China and the United States and perhaps even as another sporty Chevrolet as a successor to the SS – could help Alpha get the volume it needs, while leaving Commodore diehards happy. Of course, it wouldn’t be built in Australia. Only GM’s Lansing, Michigan plant and a factory in Shanghai build Alpha. A Made In China Commodore, no matter how good, is probably the opposite of what Holden wants to deal with from a marketing perspective.

I’m not going to pretend that this is anything other than a bit of wishful thinking sprinkled with a basic understanding of auto industry economics. Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that GM would go to the trouble of engineering an all-new rear-drive architecture and restrict it to three nameplates that will do 99 percent of their volume in North America. There has to be further use for Alpha, and I hope that the next Commodore is one of them.

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Holden To End Australian Manufacturing By 2017, Transition To “Sales Company” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/holden-to-end-australian-manufacturing-by-2017-transition-to-sales-company/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/holden-to-end-australian-manufacturing-by-2017-transition-to-sales-company/#comments Wed, 11 Dec 2013 05:41:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=677634 Holden informed the Australian federal and state level governments that it will cease car production in Australia by 2017, citing a “perfect storm” of unfavorable exchange rates, high production costs and a small but competitive car market that has seen sales of traditional Australian-made rear-drive sedans and Utes plummet in recent years. An estimated 3000 […]

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Holden informed the Australian federal and state level governments that it will cease car production in Australia by 2017, citing a “perfect storm” of unfavorable exchange rates, high production costs and a small but competitive car market that has seen sales of traditional Australian-made rear-drive sedans and Utes plummet in recent years. An estimated 3000 workers are said to be directly affected by the closure of Holden’s manufacturing facilities.

The news delivered a crushing blow to an industry still reeling from Ford’s departure earlier this year. Shortly afterwards, Holden appeared to re-affirm its commitment to Australia, but now it appears to be for naught. In a prepared statement, outgoing GM boss Dan Akerson said

“We are completely dedicated to strengthening our global operations while meeting the needs of our customers.

The decision to end manufacturing in Australia reflects the perfect storm of negative influences the automotive industry faces in the country, including the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, high cost of production, small domestic market and arguably the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world.”

Long-time TTAC readers will be familiar with our extensive coverage of Holden’s on-again off-again manufacturing decision. At first, there was said to be two new global sedans, including a new Commodore (said to be based on the front-drive Epsilon II architecture), with Holden boss Mike Devereux publicly committing to building a new Commodore in Australia at the launch of the most recent generation.

Just as TTAC predicted, Holden will become a “national sales company”, presumably importing GM cars made in Korea, Thailand and even China.  The Thai built Colorado and Korean built Cruze and Malibu will comprise the future of Holden’s lineup, as demand for the Commodore and Ute has fallen consistently. In addition to the aforementioned factors, the end of protectionist tariffs on imported cars is also cited by many as the downfall of the traditional Australian car, with consumers opting en masse for Thai-built trucks and more fuel efficient Japanese, Korean and European vehicles.

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Australian Car Industry Dead As Devereux Out, GM Tools Up For Front Drive Commodore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/australian-car-industry-dead-as-devereux-out-gm-tools-up-for-front-drive-commodore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/australian-car-industry-dead-as-devereux-out-gm-tools-up-for-front-drive-commodore/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 18:44:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=641865 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 […]

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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.

It hasn’t been a good week for Holden, and news of the Holden Ute’s likely demise was just the first blow. Last week it was announced that Holden boss Mike Devereux will be departing for GM’s Consolidated International Operations in Shanghai.

Devereux’s departure is seen as a serious blow to Holden’s future. The British-born, Canadian-raised veteran of GM was widely seen as the man who could help turn around Holden with a 5-year, the widely-praised, outspoken executive was credited with helping shake up a badly underfunded division of GM that was at once perpetually on the brink of collapse and unable to recognize its own poor financial health. promoted to Vice President of sales, marketing and aftersales at GM’s Consolidated International Operations, which is based in Shanghai and covers more than 100 countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The ongoing uncertainty regarding Holden is creating a political climate where subsidies for Holden and other auto makers (including Toyota) are rapidly becoming unpopular with the public. But that isn’t stopping Holden from forging ahead with retooling its factory in the South Australian town of Elizabeth to build an all-new large sedan, that will be front wheel drive and likely based on the Epsilon II architecture that underpins the Chevrolet Malibu, Impala and other sedans. This new Holden has all but been confirmed to be the new Commodore, and would mark the first time since its introduction in 1978.

While TTAC has been reporting on a possible shift to an FWD Commodore for years, the latest developments appear to be the final blow for the division’s existence as anything but another brand for GM’s global architectures. The line of unique cars and engineering carried out down under will likely die with the VF Commodore, while 2016 will mark the year that the big rear-drive Australian sedans took their last breaths.

All of these developments reflect an overarching and unavoidable theme of today’s automotive industry: consolidation. Despite being the darling of enthusiasts, Holden is losing money hand over fist, particularly with Australian-built, market-specific vehicles built on the Zeta platform, such as the Commodore, Ute and other variants. In a market with 60 brands competing for 1 million sales, unprofitable players like Holden are suffering from shifting consumer tastes (towards crew cab pickups, Japanese compacts and more premium cars), a freer economic market for new vehicles and increased fuel prices.

On the corporate side, Devereux’s move to Shanghai is a reflection of China’s increasing importance in GM’s international operations. It’s possible that as Holden wanes, GM could copy Ford’s move of bringing the once distinct Australia/New Zealand markets under a regional umbrella, with Holden becoming little more than a brand selling Thai-made pickups and Korean made Cruzes. And maybe, if they’re lucky, an Epsilon sedan that is made in Australia, not Korea.

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Holden Prepares To Euthanize The Ute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/holden-prepares-to-euthanize-the-ute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/holden-prepares-to-euthanize-the-ute/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 17:21:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=638369 2016 will be a pivotal year for Holden’s Commodore-based Ute. Declining sales and shifting production capabilities could mean that the traditional Aussie Ute could become extinct, as both the Commodore and Ford Falcon Utes die off. While the Falcon is slated to die within the next three years, Holden is at a crossroads regarding the […]

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2016 will be a pivotal year for Holden’s Commodore-based Ute. Declining sales and shifting production capabilities could mean that the traditional Aussie Ute could become extinct, as both the Commodore and Ford Falcon Utes die off.

While the Falcon is slated to die within the next three years, Holden is at a crossroads regarding the Commodore. Executives from the Australian GM outpost have issued vague statements about a global platform for Australia, which could very well be a front-drive layout – if Holden even sticks around to build cars in its home country.

Ute sales have been decimated by an influx of mid-size pickup trucks built in Thailand, where labor costs are significantly cheaper. Auto makers can also take advantage of a free trade agreement to import Thai-built vehicles with zero duties. By contrast, Australia, where Utes are manufactured, is a much more expensive country to build cars in, and has seen its domestic auto industry nearly wiped out due to cost concerns.

Sales of the redesigned Commodore and its variants are up 15 percent year-to-date, but Ute sales have fallen 31 percent in the same period. While over 100,000 Thai built pickups have been sold so far this year, just 4100 Holden Utes and 3500 Falcon Utes have been sold in 2013. Trucks like the Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navarra, Ford Ranger and Holden’s own Colorado dominate Australia’s best-selling vehicle list, with the HiLux selling 40,000 units in 2012 – double that of the Holden Ute’s best year ever in 2004.

A combination of a boom in mining and a desire for a more practical family car has spurred sales of the Thai-built trucks. Unlike the two-seater Utes, the Thai trucks have four doors and two rows of seats as well as four-wheel drive, making them a replacement for station wagons and other utility vehicles.

For all the talk of the Ute being an icon of the Australian motor industry and its supposed desirability among enthusiasts, the cold reality is that nobody wants this car. And until that changes, it is on an inevitable death spiral.

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HSV Gen-F GTS: Imported From Adelaide, But For How Much Longer? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/hsv-gen-f-gts-imported-from-adelaide-but-for-how-much-longer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/hsv-gen-f-gts-imported-from-adelaide-but-for-how-much-longer/#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2013 14:38:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494845 Holden and HSV try their hand at the “Imported From Detroit” style car commercial. As someone who has always been partial to Aussie muscle sedans, it’s easy for me to say I’m a fan. No doubt the line about cars becoming “smaller, quieter and more vanilla” will resonate with many of us. In a country […]

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Holden and HSV try their hand at the “Imported From Detroit” style car commercial. As someone who has always been partial to Aussie muscle sedans, it’s easy for me to say I’m a fan. No doubt the line about cars becoming “smaller, quieter and more vanilla” will resonate with many of us. In a country where the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla have knocked the Commodore and Ford Falcon off the top perches of the sales leader boards, it carries extra significance.

The latest news out of Australia shows that Holden’s Australian manufacturing base is barely hanging on, searching for new product in the post-RWD Commodore era and hitting up the Australian government for yet another round of subsidies. The sad fact is that the Commodore, like the soon-to-be-departed Falcon, is an anachronism. As our own Marcelo De Vasconcellos put it

Welcome to the brave new world. A world where what’s available in your local markets is more influenced by what people predominantly prefer the world over, than whatever the locals may wish for.

In this case, that is a more efficiently packaged sedan, and that would suggest a transverse layout, smaller engines and a footprint appropriate for markets beyond Australia. There may be a chance that the next Commodore rides on some kind of Alpha platform, but long-standing rumors suggest that it will in fact resemble every other front-drive GM sedan out there already.Interestingly, an SUV such as the Captiva, has been ruled out for Australian production, despite being cited by some as a potential savoir for Australian car factories. The reality is that a Thai-built Captiva is far more profitable, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

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We’re Not Getting The Holden Ute, But Not For Reasons You’d Expect http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/were-not-getting-the-holden-ute-but-not-for-reasons-youd-expect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/were-not-getting-the-holden-ute-but-not-for-reasons-youd-expect/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 15:59:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490631 Every so often, the same tired rumor will pop up again, like a particularly resilient pimple that habitually reappears in the same conspicuous spot. Thanks to the incessant hunger for clicks among auto websites, these rumors refuse to die, no matter how asinine they are. How many times have you seen a “BREAKING” or “EXCLUSIVE” […]

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Every so often, the same tired rumor will pop up again, like a particularly resilient pimple that habitually reappears in the same conspicuous spot. Thanks to the incessant hunger for clicks among auto websites, these rumors refuse to die, no matter how asinine they are. How many times have you seen a “BREAKING” or “EXCLUSIVE” story on the next Toyota Supra or some absurd BS fabrication regarding a diesel Mazda MX-5?

The latest round of bollocks concerns the Holden Ute, another car that tickles the fancy of enthusiasts on all sides of the globe, but would be a commercial nightmare if they ever tried to export it to America. One Australian publication is now claiming that a guerilla marketing campaign showing Mark Reuss lapping the Nurburgring in a brand new Ute is part of a ploy to export the Ute to America. Of course, other car blogs have been lathering themselves up into a frenzy over the prospect of a very expensive quasi-pickup that they will not purchase once it gets here.

Holden claims that there will be some kind of major announcement regarding the Ute next month. I’m going to be the first to say it will not be related to any Ute exports. There are two simple reasons here: the US-Australian dollar exchange rate is abominable as far as exports are concerned, and there is likely little to no demand for a very pricey product that is neither fish nor fowl. Who is going to pay $50k for Corvette powered pseudo-pickup wearing a Chevrolet badge. Did we discuss the UAW’s reaction to an Australian built pickup, or the whole “cannibalizing GM’s new ‘lifestyle pickup’ thing “either? Both of those matter, but would require their own articles to really get into.

One thing that is not a factor is the chicken tax. Not long ago, Holden used the chicken tax as an excuse for why it’s been unable to export Utes to America. TTAC commenters soon produced plenty of evidence showing that Australian cars and “light commercial vehicles” (i.e. pickups and Utes) can be brought to America duty free. So that excuse is out. I feel for Holden though. The Australian domestic car industry is going down the tubes, their signature product is about to become just another boring front-drive appliance and all they want to do is send some good product to world markets.

The problem is nobody wants it. No matter how loud the internet cries out for it.

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The Holden That Almost Became A Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-holden-that-almost-became-a-buick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-holden-that-almost-became-a-buick/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 15:08:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490080 The most famous Holden product to ever wear a Buick badge is the Chinese-market Park Avenue, a car that Buick dealers inexplicably rejected. But back in the mid-1990s, GM apparently planned to use the VT Commodore architecture as the basis for a new Buick sedan, previewed in the XP2000 concept above. Squint really hard and […]

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Concept Car Buick XP2000   (2000)

The most famous Holden product to ever wear a Buick badge is the Chinese-market Park Avenue, a car that Buick dealers inexplicably rejected. But back in the mid-1990s, GM apparently planned to use the VT Commodore architecture as the basis for a new Buick sedan, previewed in the XP2000 concept above.

Squint really hard and you can see a resemblance in the basic shapes of the two cars. Since the XP2000 was a concept, it’s likely that the Buick production version would have stuck closer to the Holden design, hardpoints and all. The concept used a 5.0L small-block V8 and GM’s 4-speed transmission, but a smaller displacement V8 was rumored at the time.

The XP2000 had a lot of features that were considering cutting edge for its 1995 debut but are relatively mundane today; a crude version of a lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control  as well as a vehicle key that could automatically adjust things like seat position, mirrors and climate control based on driver preferences. None of these would be earth-shattering today but they were pie-in-the-sky ideas nearly 20 years ago.

The biggest payoff may have been the readiness of the VT chassis to adapt left-hand drive. Without it, we would never have gotten the Pontiac GTO, and other export markets would have missed out on the Chevrolet Lumina.  If anything, the XP2000 is another footnote in the stilted story of GM’s attempts to bring the Holden Commodore to North America.

 

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Holden Sticking With Australia Despite High Costs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/holden-sticking-with-australia-despite-high-costs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/holden-sticking-with-australia-despite-high-costs/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 15:20:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489498 With the launch of the all-new VF Commodore just around the corner, Holden’s Mike Deveraux doesn’t Ford’s bad news to steal the limelight away from his very important product introduction. Amid a backdrop of constant squabbling between the governing party and the opposition, Deveraux urged both sides to find common ground over the fate of […]

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With the launch of the all-new VF Commodore just around the corner, Holden’s Mike Deveraux doesn’t Ford’s bad news to steal the limelight away from his very important product introduction.

Amid a backdrop of constant squabbling between the governing party and the opposition, Deveraux urged both sides to find common ground over the fate of Australia’s auto industry

“…both sides of the equation understand how critical the auto industry is to the economy and how plugged-in in terms of its viability. We have a pretty solid plan. We will need to work closely with the opposition and government to make sure that Australia’s policy setting are competitive globally.”

As of April, the Commodore was ranked #10 in Australia’s sales chart and in danger of slipping. With the tide turning against large rear-drive sedans, Deveraux and Holden have to figure out how they’ll build cars for the Australian market without turning Holden into just another outpost for rebadged GM global products. Rumors of the Commodore becoming front-drive would be a blow for enthusiasts, and bring an end to Australia’s muscle car era, but may end up aligning better with market tastes. Ironically, Chrysler could end up being the lone auto maker to offer a rear-drive sedan in Australia should that scenario take place.

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2014 Chevrolet SS: Suck On This, CAFE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/2014-chevrolet-ss-suck-on-this-cafe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/2014-chevrolet-ss-suck-on-this-cafe/#comments Sat, 16 Feb 2013 06:06:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477767 Here’s our first look at the Chevrolet SS. Silly moniker aside, it looks like a home run. My biggest fear with the car – that GM would add too much crap and excess detailing, ala the Corvette C7 – has been alleviated. The design looks clean and businesslike. I might be inclined to swap out […]

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Here’s our first look at the Chevrolet SS. Silly moniker aside, it looks like a home run.

My biggest fear with the car – that GM would add too much crap and excess detailing, ala the Corvette C7 – has been alleviated. The design looks clean and businesslike. I might be inclined to swap out the Monte Carlo SS-looking rims for something else, but I wouldn’t be embarassed to valet park an SS anywhere.

The one misstep is that Chevrolet didn’t offer a 6-speed manual with the 415 horsepower LS3. I’m sure it would have been easy to find a transmission, though cost issues relating to model mix may play a part here. I’m sure the take rate would be higher than it would be for a traditional sedan, but the 94-96 Impala SS didn’t offer a stick and it scarcely bothered the thousands of buyers who snapped up the entire run. The SRT 300C and Charger, the chief rivals of the SS, don’t offer a stick either.

Now all that’s left is a Jack Baruth track test.

 

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Holden Calais Previews Chevrolet SS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/holden-calais-previews-chevrolet-ss/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/holden-calais-previews-chevrolet-ss/#comments Sun, 10 Feb 2013 02:30:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477055 Holden took the wraps off of the latest VF-Series Calais, the luxury version of the Commodoe. Expect some, but not all of the styling cues to carry over to the upcoming Chevrolet SS sports sedan. This is also likely the last hurrah for the big, rear-drive Holden. Slow sales have sealed the fate of the […]

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Holden took the wraps off of the latest VF-Series Calais, the luxury version of the Commodoe. Expect some, but not all of the styling cues to carry over to the upcoming Chevrolet SS sports sedan. This is also likely the last hurrah for the big, rear-drive Holden. Slow sales have sealed the fate of the Commodore, with a 2016 death date scheduled.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail xlarge (5) xlarge (4) calais. Photo courtesy Holden.

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Death Warrant Signed For Aussie Rear Drive Sedans, Execution Called For 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/death-warrant-signed-for-aussie-rear-drive-sedans-execution-called-for-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/death-warrant-signed-for-aussie-rear-drive-sedans-execution-called-for-2016/#comments Fri, 18 Jan 2013 13:30:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474270 The big, rear-drive Aussie sedans beloved by enthusiasts overseas aren’t gaining traction in the Australian marketplace, and the smart money is betting on the death of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. The reports come as Holden officials confirmed that  Australian production the next generation VF Commodore would run through 2016, with new product lines […]

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The big, rear-drive Aussie sedans beloved by enthusiasts overseas aren’t gaining traction in the Australian marketplace, and the smart money is betting on the death of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

The reports come as Holden officials confirmed that  Australian production the next generation VF Commodore would run through 2016, with new product lines keeping Australian Holden factories online through 2022. One potential savoir for the Commodore could be production in America, under a common rear-drive platform shared with other GM brands, but that situation is a long shot at best. The two new products set to be built locally are a compact SUV and an unnamed front-drive sedan.

Meanwhile, the fate of the Ford Falcon appears to be all but sealed, with the “One Ford” strategy, the high Australian dollar and slumping sales conspiring to kill off the Falcon and its sister vehicle the Ford Territory SUV. While the Falcon was outsold by the Commodore by a 2:1 margin, the Mazda 3, Australia’s top-seller, outsold it by a 3:1 margin. Not even an Ecoboost 4-cylinder could help save the Falcon from irrelevance.

The irony is that Chrysler may be the only one left selling a big, powerful rear-drive sedan. The 300C SRT8 has become quite popular Down Under, and at this rate, it could be the last bloke standing in the segment.

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Chicken Tax Derails U.S. Success Of Holden Ute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chicken-tax-derails-u-s-success-of-holden-ute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chicken-tax-derails-u-s-success-of-holden-ute/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2012 16:34:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457412 “It should be right at home on the roads and farms of the US,” writes the Herald Sun in Australia,  “but tariffs and the strong Australian dollar could prevent the Commodore Ute following the sedan as an export.” It’s more the chicken tax than exchange rates what derails hopes of U.S. success of the Holden […]

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“It should be right at home on the roads and farms of the US,” writes the Herald Sun in Australia,  “but tariffs and the strong Australian dollar could prevent the Commodore Ute following the sedan as an export.”

It’s more the chicken tax than exchange rates what derails hopes of U.S. success of the Holden Commodore Ute.  The new VF Commodore sedan will be exported to the U.S., where it will arrive as a Chevrolet SS. The Ute will stay at home.

Holden’s SA corporate affairs manager, Sean Poppitt said the Ute was “not a serious option under the tariff regime”.

“The tariff triples when you go from Commodore to Ute. It’s under a light commercial heading, so it’s a 35 per cent tariff,” he said. TTAC commenters say Poppitt and the Herald Sun should consult the customs tables.

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Ominous Signs For Australia’s Large Rear-Drive Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/ominous-signs-for-australias-large-rear-drive-sedans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/ominous-signs-for-australias-large-rear-drive-sedans/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 19:12:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453519 As dismissive as I tend to be of the internet product-planning brigade, their constant cries of “Bring rear-drive, V8 full-size Aussie sedans to America” may have some credibility – the market for these cars in Australia seems to be going teats up, with SUVs and small cars taking their place. The Holden Commodore and Ford […]

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As dismissive as I tend to be of the internet product-planning brigade, their constant cries of “Bring rear-drive, V8 full-size Aussie sedans to America” may have some credibility – the market for these cars in Australia seems to be going teats up, with SUVs and small cars taking their place.

The Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon are clearly suffering; while they once vied for either of the top two spots, the Commodore is the 5th best selling vehicle in 2012 so far, trailing the Mazda3 by about 6,000 units, while the Falcon doesn’t even merit a spot in the top 10.

Some observers have cited SUVs as a possibly culprit for the demise of the Australian family sedan, but a look at the sales table for both 2011 and 2012 shows that smaller, fuel-efficient cars are eating the lunch of the “Aussie Rules” cars. The Mazda3 bumped the Commodore off a 15-year winning streak in 2011, and the market hasn’t looked back since.

Nameplates like Corolla, Cruze, i30 and Yaris have crept up on the big sedans, and dominated the first half of 2012, along with the venerable Toyota Hilux pickup. The Falcon and its stablemate, the Ford Territory, are nowhere to be found in the Top 10, a bad sign for Ford’s Australian operations.

Australia’s auto industry has been having subsidies pumped into it for a number of years, but things only seem to be getting worse. A journal published by leading Australian industries astutely noted that the Australian market is “…too small for manufacturing; too prosperous to ignore.” The short-term future seems to hold a continued injection of government money into the auto industry – and quite possibly, the demise of the rear-drive Australian sedan.

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Holden About To Confirm American Commodore Exports – And Not Just Sedans, Either http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/holden-about-to-confirm-american-commodore-exports-and-not-just-sedans-either/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/holden-about-to-confirm-american-commodore-exports-and-not-just-sedans-either/#comments Thu, 17 May 2012 14:23:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444814 Holden is expected to make an announcement regarding the export of its Commodore vehicles to North America – essentially confirming the existence of the forthcoming 2013 Chevrolet SS Performance – and apparently it may not be limited to sedans. Utes and wagons could be arriving at some point as well. Australia’s Drive, an auto publication […]

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Holden is expected to make an announcement regarding the export of its Commodore vehicles to North America – essentially confirming the existence of the forthcoming 2013 Chevrolet SS Performance – and apparently it may not be limited to sedans. Utes and wagons could be arriving at some point as well.

Australia’s Drive, an auto publication affiliated with the Sydney Morning Herald, said that Holden is coming “very soon”, possibly on Friday. And it gets even better

The export deal is expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and form the basis for a crucial new V8-powered performance model for Chevrolet. It could also expand to involve ute and sportwagon variants.

Drive suggests that the recent $1 billion investment in Holden by GM and the Australian government not only re-affirms the Commodore’s place in Holden’s lineup (despite a growing shift to small cars, and the Commodore becoming more of a fleet car for companies), and that the next generation Commodore lineup – including the sedan, wagon, Ute and long-wheelbase versions, could be built in North America.

The low volume nature of the SS suggests that the car may be a test program for another large, rear-drive sedan as well as a halo vehicle for Chevrolet. A perfect storm of unfortunate events helped torpedo the Pontiac G8, but a new Caprice, with a more mainstream Chevrolet badge and a more defined focus could gain more traction in the marketplace. The lack of a small pickup to replace the Colorado could help pave the way for a Chevrolet Ute. And how about those LPG versions that are readily available in Australia. Maybe a CNG version, in line with GM’s full-size trucks? The possibilities are endless. Holden’s focus, on the other hand, seems to be shifting as well. Lots more rebadged Daewoo cars, and a focus on helping engineer cars for China. Today, the big, rear-drive sedan Commodore plays a role akin to the Chevrolet SS – a halo player that’s not the star of the show, but important for reasons beyond mere volume.

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Ford Australia Secures Government Money, Raises Questions About Industry’s Future In Australia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/ford-australia-secures-government-money-raises-questions-about-industrys-future-in-australia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/ford-australia-secures-government-money-raises-questions-about-industrys-future-in-australia/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 19:25:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425861 Ford’s Australia branch is getting $34 million AUD (roughly $35 million U.S. dollars) plus an unspecified contribution from the government of Victoria (an Australian state), to sustain a Ford plant in Melbourne.  Total investment is said to be roughly $105 million USD. Holden, GM’s Australian division, is looking for some government funds too, and its […]

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Ford’s Australia branch is getting $34 million AUD (roughly $35 million U.S. dollars) plus an unspecified contribution from the government of Victoria (an Australian state), to sustain a Ford plant in Melbourne.  Total investment is said to be roughly $105 million USD. Holden, GM’s Australian division, is looking for some government funds too, and its raising questions about the viability of Australia’s domestic car industry.

Holden has been negotiating for their own package, would help develop a new Commodore. More significantly is the fact that some money would be earmarked to help develop a next-generation Holden Cruze (nearly identical to our Chevrolet version), currently the sole small, fuel-efficient car produced in Australia. While Australian cars are generally thought of as being large, V8 powered brutes, consumer tastes have been shifting towards cars like the Cruze, which was Australia’s 5th best-selling car. The Mazda3 also unseated the Commodore as Australia’s best-selling car for the first time in 15 years.

In 2008, Mitsubishi closed up shop after getting government assistance to produce the 380 (similar to our Galant) . Production lasted a mere three years, even though the 380 was supposed to be the begging of a turnaround for Mitsubishi’s Australian operations. The 380′s failure has cast a shadow on Australian vehicle production ever since, and more importantly, advanced a notion among some that continued bailout money merely prolongs the natural death of a financially unsustainable plant or vehicle.

Of course, the deal has strings attached – some of the money must go towards making the Falcon, and the Ford Territory SUV, safer and more fuel efficient. While the Australian government hasn’t exactly told Ford that it needs to “build a 40 mpg car“, we’ve seen shades of this before at home. The Falcon and Territory are under specific threat due to Alan Mulally’s  “One Ford” doctrine which demands global variants of vehicles rather than market-specific product.

One analyst pegs the amount of government money pumped into the local industry at about $500 million per year since 2001, in a program that is supposed to run until 2020. One opposition politician even suggested that the car industry in Australia couldn’t survive without government assistance. Compared to America, the culture of government assistance seems much more deeply entrenched, and opinion is starting to shift towards the view that a perpetual appetite for taxpayer funds, especially for an industry that produces increasingly irrelevant vehicles (anecdotal evidence suggests that most Commodores, Falcons etc are bought by government and private fleets) and exports little is becoming unsustainable.

 

 

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