Move over Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, the homegrown Holden Commodore has hit the big time in the USA. Australia’s favourite sedan was unveiled as a Chevrolet at Daytona Speedway overnight, and is due to make its first Nascar appearance this weekend in the hands of superstars Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick and 14 other top-level drivers.
The Commodore is also guaranteed to lead the Nascar field in its first ever outing – as the pace car for the Daytona 500, the season opener and the biggest Nascar race of the year, with crowds of up to 250,000 people on race day.
The former boss of Holden Mark Reuss – who hatched the plan to revive the Commodore’s export program and put it in front of one of the world’s biggest sport TV audiences – unveiled the car in an airport hangar behind the famous motor speedway. “I’ve been working on this deal since my first month back here in 2009,” Reuss, now the boss of General Motors in North America, told News Limited. “It might not be the biggest export deal for Holden, but it is the most significant to date. It’s the best example yet of Holden’s capability, and gives Chevrolet a type of car it has never had.”
The Commodore is Chevrolet’s first V8 performance sedan in 17 years, and is loaded with technology never seen before on its other models. Reuss revealed that the reason the new Commodore has so much technology – including several firsts for Chevrolet such as self parking, a heads-up display and a crash alert system – is because North America pushed for it. “We needed it on our car, so the Holden had to have it. It’s a win for both of us,” Reuss said.
Chevrolet has modest sales expectations for the new Commodore, which goes on sale in the US in November after its Australian showroom debut in June. But Reuss is quietly confident it will become Chevrolet’s “hero car”.
“This is a hero car for the whole Chevrolet brand,” Reuss said. “We’ve said before that we expect to sell about 5000 a year, but we have 3000 dealers across the country. So it shouldn’t be too hard to top that.”
The Chevrolet SS looks the same as the Commodore SS but has a different badge and a bigger, more powerful V8 engine. It has the same high-performance 6.2-litre LS3 V8 engine found in the Corvette and local Holden Special Vehicles models.
In US trim, the Chevrolet SS has a power output of 309kW and 563Nm (compared to the maximum output of 325kW and 550Nm from the HSV GTS), the same as when it was sold as the Pontiac G8 GXP in 2009.
Shipments of the Commodore to North America as a Chevrolet are due to begin in November. It marks the brand’s fourth attempt at an export program to the world’s second-biggest car market.
In 2004 and 2005 Holden shipped 31,500 Monaros as a Pontiac GTO – more than twice the number of Monaros sold locally over four years.
About 41,000 Commodores were shipped as Pontiacs between November 2007 and February 2009, almost equivalent to Holden’s annual sales of Commodore at the time. But the deal ended when the Pontiac brand was axed after the restructure of General Motors in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.
Holden began to export the Caprice limousine to North America as a police car in early 2011. It has shipped about 6000 to date – more than double the number of Caprices sold locally over the same period.
Reuss indicated Holden could keep building the new VF Commodore beyond the 2016 deadline – if US demand takes off. “That’s a champagne problem to have. I’m sure the guys at Holden can find a way to keep building it if they had to. General Motors and the guys at Holden can be very resourceful.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling