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Holden’s American Chevrolet program ‘approved’

Chev 'SS': An American website claims that Chevrolet will sell a version of Holden's next-gen VF Commodore in the US.

US website says GM documents reveal green light for Holden ‘Chev SS Sedan’ exports

30 Mar 2011

AN AMERICAN web site claims to have copies of documents confirming that General Motors has approved a program for a Chevrolet version of the 2014 Holden Commodore for sale in North America.

GM Inside News (GMI) says the documents show America’s biggest car-maker has given the tick to the program for an ‘SS Sedan’ based on the Australian car after the project was pushed back two years from an original launch date of 2012 to fit with the arrival of Holden’s new VF model – thought to be a reskin of the current rear-drive VE.

The website says the documents also reveal that GM is considering adding the Commodore Sportwagon and Ute to the Chevrolet ranks in the US, with the ute being referred to in the documents as El Camino – the name used by Chevrolet for its legendary coupe ute between 1959 and 1987.

GMI, which is renowned for its internal GM contacts, cautions that the wagon and ute programs are still to be approved.

However, it says GM has approved a second generation of the Holden WM Caprice-based Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV) to follow the first version that is now being rolled out to enforcement agencies across North America, in patrol and detective car guises.

GM Holden has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny that such a ‘civilian’ Chevrolet Caprice program is underway at GM for North America, although Holden executives have made no bones about their desire to resurrect Commodore exports to North America after the 2009 demise of the VE Commodore-based Pontiac G8 in the middle of the global financial crisis.

GM Holden director external communications Emily Perry told GoAuto that Holden would have nothing to say to fuel anything that had been said on GM Inside News.

137 center imageFrom top: Caprice 'PPV' in testing in Melbourne recently, Pontiac G8, Pontiac G8 Sport Truck, Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle.

“It is great that they take such an interest in our program, but obviously we have said in the past that we are looking at other export opportunities but we are a long way from having anything further to say,” she said. “We are focused on the police programs right now.”

The police car export program, full production for which started this year, is helping to fill the gap caused by GM’s decision to kill Holden’s Pontiac G8 in April 2009. That decision also canned an export program for the Holden Ute, which was to be launched in North America as the Pontiac G8 ST (Sport Truck) in 2009.

The new police car program has prompted calls from both inside and outside of GM to offer a civilian version as well.

Former GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss – now president of GM North America – told GoAuto at the Detroit motor show in January that the cancellation of the G8 was a big loss for him, and that he loved the car.

While he stopped short of saying a new Commodore export program was being actively considered for the US, he said: “Somewhere along the way you’ll get a pretty big Commodore change … and if we ever did something like (recommencement of Commodore exports to the US) we would integrate it with those changes at Holden.”

GM global design chief Ed Welburn visited Holden’s design studios in Melbourne recently to look at the VF Commodore and other projects, telling GoAuto afterwards at the Geneva motor show: “I feel very good about that car (the VF).”

He also confirmed that Holden designers were working on other Chevrolet projects for international markets, and when asked if one of these would include a Chevrolet civilian version of the Caprice PPV, he declined to comment.

It is unclear from the GMI report on the SS Sedan whether the documents refer to the short-wheelbase Commodore or long-wheelbase Caprice, both of which are built on the Holden-developed Zeta platform that also underpins the Australian-designed, Canadian-built Chevrolet Camaro.

GoAuto recently snapped a left-hand drive Caprice in suburban Melbourne, which Holden later confirmed as simply being a PPV development car.

The American-based GMI website says the documents in its possession reveal the codes for the Holden-based Chevrolet cars, with the SS Sedan going under the tag Z2SC, the Sportwagon as Z2WC and the El Camino ute as Z2RC.

The ‘Z’ is likely to refer to Zeta – the name of the GM rear-drive platform under the Commdore and Chevrolet Camaro – while the ‘2’ might refer to the second generation of this platform for which GM Holden is the ‘home room’.

GMI said the documents showed that the Chevrolet SS Sedan would be launched in North America in early 2013 as a 2014 model.

As GoAuto understands that the Holden version of the VF Commodore will not appear until 2014, that appears unlikely, perhaps indicating that the timing on the documents held by GMI might be outdated.

However, GMI says it was able to confirm the 2013 timing through Holden contacts.

It also claims the documents reveal that if approved, the El Camino would launch at the same time as the sedan, with the SportWagon launching later in the 2013 calendar year.

“GMI expects that the approval of the El Camino and SportWagon will hinge on fuel prices in North America and potential profitability of the two models, as both would likely be very low volume products,” GMI says.

GoAuto understands that one of the issues surrounding the Commodore export program to the US concerns the tightening of America’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) limits that favour smaller, lighter cars.

US legislation introduced in 2007 requires car-makers to achieve a CAFE of 35 miles per US gallon (6.7 litres per 100km) by 2020.

Commodore’s range of V6 and V8 powerplants currently produce combined fuel economy ranging from 9.1L/100km to 12.9L/100km.

However, if the Chevrolet SS Sedan is marketing as a small-volume ‘four-door Camaro’ as some pundits suggest, it might make an insignificant difference to GM’s multi-million vehicle fuel average.

A bigger concern is the continuing high value of the Australian dollar against the Greenback, with the AUD hitting 30-year highs above parity, with one Australian dollar today buying $US1.03.

This makes the business case for such an export program harder to prove, although some parts such as engine blocks and transmissions will be cheaper, helping to offset some of the currency burden.

It is likely the Chevrolet SS export program will still have to negotiate a final ‘go/no’ decision by the GM board at some point, and Holden executives will have their fingers crossed that the Aussie dollar has gone into reverse by then.

GMI says GM’s high executive turnover rate since emerging from its 2009 bankruptcy had not helped the Holden cause, with each of the three post-bankruptcy CEOs having a different position on the importation of Holden products.

“It’s important to note that the Zeta program at GM has been a near constant source of drama internally,” GMI says.

“As our reporting has reflected, there has been a tremendous amount of back and forth about Zeta. GMI is, however, starting to see some consistency with regards to the future of the SS Sedan.”

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