Holden to cull Commodore range words - Bruce Newton
Model lines to go as Holden searches for improved VF Commodore quality
GM Holden will pare back the model range of the 2013 VF Commodore as it seeks to improve the build quality of its locally manufactured large car.
The models disappearing seem certain to come from the entry-level end of the range, where Omega, Berlina and Calais are crowding into a smaller sales space.
Exactly how the VF range structured may not become apparent until May, when it goes on sale, although it is expected that some details and the look of the substantial midlife facelift will be revealed in March.
Holden’s US export version, the Chevrolet SS, will break cover even sooner, firstly as a NASCAR racer in the next few days.
GM Holden Managing Director Mike Devereux said there were would be no culling of performance models, as sales have held up well even as Commodore sales have slid in recent years, dipping 26.6 per cent in 2012 alone.
“I think if you look at the retail sales of Commodore over the last 10 years even as …. more fleet buyers have moved to smaller engines and that kind of stuff, what has been interesting to note over that time period has been the steadiness and then the increasing sales at retail of the sports model.
“The stability of that volume is what gives us great hop for that segment... we do have bright spots in the equation.”
Mr Devereux said it was only necessary to study the market and see that Commodore entry-level models were where the adjustments would come.
“You guys probably know what you would do if you were in our shoes just in terms of cleaning up the range and we will do some of that as we launch the car.”
Mr Devereux said that cutting Commodore models would not improve profitability significantly but would assist quality because it would lower complexity at the Elizabeth assembly plant, where 55 different variations (between Commodore and Cruze) are currently produced.
“The fewer things the folks have to build the generally easier it is to build cars, and we would be in deep trouble if we didn’t have such a good workforce in Adelaide because it is one of the more complex assembly operations we have in GM with so many different variants coming down the line.
“Cost-wise, different variants isn’t a massive cost reduction. (It’s) Likely we will do some reworking of our model range for VF but it won’t be for cost reasons.”
Mr Devereux, who has now had several hours behind the wheel of pre-production VFs on different surfaces at the Lang Lang proving ground, unsurprisingly praised the improvements in the car over the seven-year-old VE.
“It is a significant upgrade. The car moves in textiles and materials … significantly upmarket. It is a very different feeling car to drive, which is wonderful. The upgrades are significant, it moves extremely upscale in its feel.
“The car feels a lot nimbler on its feet and the fuel economy numbers are great – world-class. The car feels quite different; it’s still a great driver’s car.”
Mr Devereux reaffirmed the VF, which introduces various fuel economy initiatives including lighter weight and better aerodynamics, will have a fuel economy figure that starts in the 8.0L/100km range.
However, he stopped shy of predicting a sales boost for Commodore on the back of VF.
“You guys (media) and the customers that buy the cars will have a lot to say about that. The vehicle will be a significant upgrade over what we have today in a number of ways. It has no excuses to make for anything.
“Will we sell more of them? We hope we do, but the market continues to fragment, people continue to flock to SUVs … so we are engineering a world-class car. The dealers in the USA have seen the Chevy SS and they are rapt with the vehicle.
“I am sure it will be sold out in the USA.”
However, Mr Devereux said it was “unlikely” that the Chevy SS will sell in larger numbers in the USA than the Commodore range will sell in Australia.