By on January 14, 2010

GM’s Australian Holden division has been developing the kind of big-bore RWD vehicles we tend to think of as being quintessentially American for quite some time. But every time GM hints at repatriating one of these old-school machines to its spiritual homeland in the states, something goes terribly wrong. One classic example of this disfunction was the offshoot of GM’s last effort to bring Holdens stateside as the Pontiac G8, the G8 Sport Truck, a rebadge of Holden’s Ute. The travails of the G8 have been well documented, but the Sport Truck was killed before it even had the chance to lose GM money and be cut along with the Pontiac brand. Now, just as the memory of that savage tease was fading, GM’s Mark Reuss reveals that the El Camino could be back after all.

GM’s new North America honcho, former Holden boss Mark Reuss tells

I thought we’d have a hard time putting Ute into Pontiac, but I know it was part of the broader strategy of doing that because they were both VE, there are reasons why you do that, but I think another brand with the Ute would be pretty attractive,

Huh? Reuss says Chevrolet would be a better fit for the Ute, especially because it would clear the way for a return of the El Camino name. Plus, freed from the performance pretensions of the Pontiac brand, GM could bring new versions with a direct-injection V6 that allow better fuel economy.

You have to look at this strategically and say, VE has got to be able to stand on its own on the world stage and I think now it is getting to be able to do that, from a fuel economy (perspective) and you will see mass come out of the car… It only gets more attractive on an export basis.

More practicality sounds like a good thing, given the distinct lack of comparable utility-oriented trucklets on the market. Not to mention the fact that GM still has no plans to replace its aging Canyon/Colorado pickups. But then, good luck building a utilitarian Ute, shipping it from Australia to America, charging a reasonable price and making a profit in the process. If GM is for real about bringing Utes to America, it should seriously consider producing them alongside the Caprice police vehicles instead of importing, as Reuss suggests. Whether the American market can soak up enough volume to justify such a move is still a huge open question.

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7 Comments on “Truck Thursday: GM Teases The El Camino Faithful With Holden Ute Hint...”

  • avatar

    Holden is all small volume, so it doesn’t have to be a huge seller in the US. 

    Holden already makes both fleet-minded and civilian high-performance Ute variants.  But I doubt for such a low volume car that GM would want to sell one without A/C and steelies in the US.  But you never know. 

    The Ute is already produced with the Caprice in the same plant, Holden’s plant, all of their RWD cars are the same underneath and the line produces both the regular and longer wheelbase.  All of them roll off the same line. I have no doubt the US-bound Caprice will be Holden’s highest volume export to the US.  More sales of multiple Holden models in the US add volume to the same plant.  It’s a win for GM and Holden.

    I have no doubt that the Commodore sedan (sold as the G8 here) would have fared much better as a Chevrolet from the get-go with a simple badge change, as it’s sold in the Middle East.  The same for the Ute, it is naturally a modern El Camino SS.  Add the Sportwagon to the mix and you would have an attractive, halo, trifecta for GM’s strongest brand and the one known best for mainstream, blue-collar, RWD performance. The Statesman is also sold as the Buick Park Avenue in China. I could easily see GM doing the same in the US. That would give Holden five export models to the US which would be an excellent padding to their plant.

    Bring it on GM.

    • 0 avatar

      “Add the Sportwagon to the mix and you would have an attractive, halo, trifecta for GM’s strongest brand and the one known best for mainstream, blue-collar, RWD performance.”
      Amen to that! I’m off to send an e-mail to Maximum Bob!

    • 0 avatar

      Small volume production or not, these would end up being priced high enough that they’d end up sitting on lots collecting rebates after all 12 El Camino fanatics had bought theirs.

  • avatar

    As much as I love the Holden chassis – and Holden, more generally- I see 3 problems with giving them Chevy production volume and nameplates.  The first is political, the second political, and the third political. 

    First, I fear that if CAFE continues to separately regulate trucks and cars, GM would pass on a car-based El Camino that can’t bolster truck CAFE numbers.  We all remember Chrysler’s effort to get PT Cruiser listed as a “truck” for CAFE.

    Second, GM is always criticized for putting production outside the US and Canada, from both Left and Right.  The Opel decision notwithstanding, why further bait union activists and “Government Motors” types, given the obvious political climate and Washington’s apparent (if not actual) interventionist stance?

    Third, we all know GM is the archetypal “not invented here” engineering and marketing outfit.  Together with the truism that big bureaucracies exist first to feed themselves, why would GM North America’s petty nobles agree to give their product and career futures over to the Australians, no matter how promising the product?  

    And that product is promising.  I’d love to own a new El Camino.  Or just see more  Commodore/Impala/Caprice mojo at the Chevy dealer.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that GM could get the El Camino in as a truck for CAFE.  With the high performance engines and limited numbers, it won’t do much to bolster truck mpg though.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ute would no question be a truck.  A separate pickup bed makes that clear.  The Forrester is a truck with regard to the EPA, and the Baja was.  That qualifies it for the less restrictive truck CAFE ratings, and also exempts it from the gas guzzler tax.

      The ute’s problems are that:

      1) It no longer comes in crew cab format, and
      2) It’s never going to be a large volume suburban pickup truck here, so it’s going to have to compete agains the Ranger on economy, except for the one or two Maloo level Utes that they may be able to sell to those who are rich and ironic.

      GM’s replacement for the Colorado/Canyon is in Mexico, not Australia:

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Bear in mind the Holden ute is coilsprung IRS, not leaf springs/beam axle.

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