To gain approval to develop a new Commodore, General Motors did a top-secret deal with Holden to pair the next generation sedan with a Buick that was originally exclusive to the Chinese market. Holden won the contract to design the car, which was then due to be built in Australia and China. But now that Holden has decided to shut its Elizabeth car assembly line in 2017, China is poised to become the sole producer of the vehicle.
Documents obtained by News Corp Australia confirm every Holden fan’s worst nightmare: the next generation Commodore will be a front-wheel-drive car powered by a four-cylinder engine. Every top-selling Holden since the birth of the company in 1948 has been a six-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive sedan. The last time Holden sold a four-cylinder Commodore in the early 1980s, sales tanked. The four-cylinder Ford Falcon released last year has also failed to boost sales, accounting for less than 10 per cent of deliveries.
Holden insiders are now fighting to make a V6 available as an option on the future Commodore. When asked why Holden would continue with the Commodore badge given that the 2017 version bears no resemblance to the models before it, a Holden insider said: “It’s easier to explain to buyers that something has changed about a car they know, than to say ‘Here’s the new Holden XYZ’.”
The 2017 Commodore will lose its practical box-shaped body and instead take on sleek styling cues from Europe. Sales of European sedans have been revived overseas since they were restyled to look like four-door coupes.
A Holden insider says the new Commodore will be almost 5 metres long and almost as wide as the current car, but it will look smaller because of the low roofline. “It’s about making sedans look cool again,” said one Holden insider. “Audi’s done it, Mercedes has done, now we’re going to do it. It’s the only way to bring customers back to sedans.” Sales of traditional sedans have been in free-fall for 10 years as Australians embrace SUVs in record numbers. The shift away from traditional cars is so strong that there will be no wagon version of the new Commodore for the first time ever.
Strewth! No V8 mate!
The Holden V8 is likely to disappear from showrooms in 2018, once the Commodore becomes an imported four-cylinder front-wheel-drive sedan. Holden’s only hope of getting a V8 into local showrooms is if General Motors decides to convert the next Camaro coupe or Corvette sportscar into right-drive-drive, as Ford has done with the new Mustang.
The US media has reported that GM is considering a cheaper version of the new and highly acclaimed Cadillac performance sedan that could eventually replace the Holden-built Chevrolet SS. However, News Corp Australia understands there is as yet no approval for right-hand-drive versions of these vehicles. “Detroit don’t want to give up their (fuel economy) credits on a relatively low volume, low profit sedan,” said one insider.
“They’d rather reserve that for their high profit pick-ups. Then you’ve got the added hurdle of making a business case for relatively low volume right-hand-drive versions. The way GM’s thinking at the moment, it won’t happen,” the source said.