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Holden kills off Statesman

All alone: Holden's Caprice is the Australian brand's sole long-wheelbase contender after the death of the Statesman.

Caprice takes over as GM Holden’s long-wheelbase representative

31 Aug 2010

HOLDEN will discontinue its oldest nameplate – the Statesman – with the introduction of the WM Series II facelift this month.

The dropping of the Statesman badge will also see the VE long-wheelbase sedan’s range halved to just two models.

Taking a downmarket dive will be the WM Series II Caprice V6, replacing the outgoing Statesman V6 as the base model.

Coming in at $61,990, it will actually cost $2000 less than the cheapest Statesman in the old range, and a sizeable $9500 under the existing Caprice V6.

Furthermore, Holden has slashed $5500 from the price of the Caprice V8 flagship, which is now $69,990 – or $2000 more than the outgoing Statesman V8.

The V8 will also be taking a leaf from the VE Calais by adopting the V-Series “sports luxury” branding.

According to Holden’s sales, marketing and aftersales executive director, John Elsworth, the change “reflects detailed customer feedback” and makes for a simplified walk-up process for existing Calais owners.

“Market research consistently told us that the Caprice nameplate, with its definite sports luxury character, appealed to a far broader customer base,” he said.

“We believe that presenting a choice of two models which share the same strong brand appeal but differ in specification will now make the step up to Caprice from its short-wheelbase siblings, such as the Calais V, a more natural move for many buyers.”

13 center imageLeft: Holden Caprice Series II. Bottom: Holden WM Statesman.

Holden has not yet released full WM Series II specification, technical and pricing details (that comes at the September 10 media launch), other than the Caprice V6’s 3.6-litre direct-injection SIDI V6 will offer 210kW of power and economy of 9.9 litres per 100km – a four per cent saving over its MY10 equivalent.

Meanwhile, the Caprice V8 V-Series will employ a 260kW version of the Chevrolet-sourced 6.0-litre Gen-IV V8 with AFM (Active Fuel Management) cylinder-deactivation technology.

However, that is 10kW less than the existing V8 engines, which may be related to a two per cent reduction in fuel consumption (12.3L/100km). Being E85 bio-ethanol ready, there is also a CO2 reduction.

As before, a six-speed automatic gearbox with ‘Active Select’ facility is the only transmission choice on offer.

Exterior changes are slight, limited to minor alterations to the front and rear sections, different trim, and three new colours – Alto Grey, Mirage Glow (beige) and Sizzle (bright metallic red) – for a total of seven choices.

Inside, both Caprices boast Holden’s new touch-screen centre console, dubbed “iQ System”. Among its attractions are multi-media applications such as mega hard-drive storage, Bluetooth/iPod/MP3 player/USB flash drive connectivity, fancier sat-nav with traffic info, and a rear view camera.

The V8 V-Series adds a sunroof, Nappa leather upholstery, dual-screen rear DVD player (that can also play through the iQ system when the car is stationary), Bose audio and Holden’s tri-zone climate control system.

With the Ford Fairlane dead since December 2007 and just the ageing Chrysler 300C to contend with in the under-$100,000 Upper Luxury segment, Holden is currently enjoying a 75 per cent market share.

However, while Caprice sales have risen slightly in the first seven months of this year, the Statesman’s volume has fallen by almost 30 per cent over the same period, no doubt prompting Holden to cut it loose.

The Statesman was first released in July 1971 with the radically styled HQ series Holden range.

Based on the Premier, but built on the HQ wagon’s 2895mm wheelbase – something GMH neglected to do with the disastrous HK/HT/HG Brougham from 1968 – it was meant to tackle the then-popular and profitable Fairlane.

But the first-generation Statesman never achieved its volume targets, despite the introduction of the lavishly equipped Caprice at HJ Holden facelift time (late-1974), decent dynamics with the Radial Tuned Suspension-equipped HZ (late-1977), and almost completely reskinned WB (April 1980).

Strangely, the latter’s popularity grew only after its demise, prompting Holden to try again with the VN-derived VQ Statesman (and Caprice) in early 1990.

This time, real sales headway was made, setting the scene for the third-generation, WH Statesman to finally depose the floundering AU Fairlane from 1999. It also became part of a 97,000-strong export deal through subsequent variations.

By the billion-dollar VE/WM’s introduction in August 2006, the long-wheelbase Holden only had the unexpectedly resilient Chrysler 300C as a serious rival.

But Holden’s decision to differentiate the Caprice from the dowdier Statesman with a sportier-luxury vibe back in the WK days of 2003 helped to seal the latter’s fate, as it took over the old Fairlane market (as well as disenfranchised Toyota Cressida-style buyers) as the retiree’s choice.

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