An HSV Cruze could broaden the customer base, while staying loyal to the brand. Artist impression pictured.
ENGINE wizards at Holden Special Vehicles hold the key to a go-fast upgrade of the locally made Cruze.
If they can make the right numbers for an upgraded Cruze then the car is likely to get a go-ahead to join the Commodore in the HSV family.
Work is already underway with less than a year to final sign-off to any program. "I already have the spanners turning at Clayton," Phil Harding, managing director of HSV, tells Carsguide. "But until I have something that's true to the brand then I won't commit to doing it. We're not going to do a half-baked car."
An HSV Cruze has been a focus for the hot Holden shop since the decision to put the compact hatchback into local production in Adelaide. HSV has rarely done much with small cars, although it did import, tweak and re-brand the European Vauxhall Astra VXR for a small number of local buyers to the end of last year.
"We sold a few more than 130 cars," says Harding.
HSV has looked at a couple of other European imports in recent years, including the current Astra hatch and mid-sized Insignia, but plans did not go far. "The business case just didn't work," Harding says.
He says a lot of work is going into a business case for the Cruze, which could become a benchmark car for HSV.
"I think the brand is strong enough to be seen on a platform other than Commodore," he says. "If we can get it right, why not do it?"
Harding says the key to the project is the engine. He refuses to comment on a potential turbocharger or supercharger upgrade, but deflects any suggestion that HSV might go to a supercharger expert like Harrop Engineering in Melbourne for help on a power upgrade.
"We can do it ourselves. We have the expertise," he says.
So, where is the program going? "It's a case of looking at the kiloWatts and the driveline. The chassis and looks are OK, so it's down to the engine. We're looking at a couple of options."
Harding also says it will be easier to get HSV buyers into the Cruze - if the car happens - because it has a racing history with victories in the World Touring Car Championship and last weekend's win in the British Touring Car Championship with Jason Plato, who is best known in Australia for crashing an HRT Commodore he was sharing with Peter Brock at the Bathurst legend's last start at Mount Panorama.
"It's got a racing heritage. It looks good. That would help us, if we decide to do something," Harding says. "But at the moment we have not made a decision and I will not be saying anything more until we have a signed-off business case."