The new Commodore will likely push Holden’s Elizabeth production line into overtime when it goes into production mid-year – but right now it is experiencing the calm before the storm.
Holden has dramatically cut Commodore production in the first six months of this year as buyers wait for the new model. The company plans to build just 2000 sedans, wagons and utes each month – less than last year’s record-low sales rate, and a fraction of the 8000-a-month during its peak in 1998.
But Holden is likely to make up for lost ground in the second half of this year, by at least doubling production as demand picks up in Australia, and as exports of the Commodore to North America recommence in November.
Holden would not reveal its sales and production forecasts. However, News Limited understands Holden will build more than 4000 Commodore sedans, wagons and utes each month from June onwards, with a contingency to add overtime shifts if required.
“We will be able to build however many cars Australians and, frankly, Americans want to buy from us,” the chairman and managing director of Holden Mike Devereux told News Limited. “We’ve got a lot of overtime shifts, we’ve got a lot of flexibility that we can put into our production plan.”
Car factories typically plan at least 12 months in advance how many cars it will build. When asked if Holden had enough parts supply to cope with a sudden surge in demand, Devereux said: “I would love to face that problem. Give me that problem to solve and I will solve it.”
The doubling of production in the last six months of the year is, however, unlikely to return the Commodore to top-seller status for the calendar year.
“The time for any one vehicle … to sell one tenth the cars in any country is an illogical assumption to make,” Devereux said. “No model of anybody selling any car in this country will [do that]. The market is so fragmented now.”
At its peak in 1998 Holden sold more than 94,000 Commodores (in a year Australians bought 807,000 new cars). Last year Holden sold just 30,000 Commodores, its lowest tally ever, despite a record 1.1 million new-car sales.
But Holden workers should feel more pride than ever before about the new Commodore, the most technically-advanced car to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia, Devereux said.
“I think [the VF Commodore] is going to change people’s minds about what we can do in this country,” he said. “Australians should say ‘look at what we can do, look at how good we can be, we do punch above our weight, big time’.
“Every feature that we could cram into this car, and frankly every feature that you can find on any car, is in this one. If you’re going to sell a car in San Francisco and in Sydney, or and in Miami and in Melbourne, or in Atlanta and Adelaide, it has to be world class. This is a no-excuses car.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling