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VE Commodore "will be great" - Mooney

Confident: Holden boss Denny Mooney (above) and GM's Saturn Aura concept (below) - a mid-sized sedan the VE Commodore will look something like.

Holden defends parts supply strategy as VE Commodore and its derivatives shape up

19 Dec 2005

HOLDEN chairman and managing director Denny Mooney has hit out at out suggestions the company has taken much of its supplier base offshore for next year’s VE Commodore – an all-new model he promises will be "great".

Mr Mooney’s comments come in the wake of a decision to source windscreens for the new model from Thailand, a move that saw about 100 workers from Holden’s current glass supplier Pilkington Glass picket the Port Melbourne HQ on August 3.

"We have a brand-new product coming up, and some of the suppliers that we do business with on the current VZ product don’t necessarily have the business on the VE product," he said.

"That doesn’t mean that that business is going offshore, by the way, but it’s being portrayed that way by certain interests.

"I can understand the concern, but we’re seeing a shift. This is going to happen when some of the other local manufacturers do their new products.

"Because we were the highest-volume manufacturer, I guess, you’ll see most of it when it happens, but I have to tell you that there are new suppliers that are going to be locating here. There are some existing suppliers that have the new business. Some of the new suppliers happen to be global suppliers." Mr Mooney said global hemming supplier Hirotec would supply VE Commodore doors and bonnets, while Johnson Controls would supply interior components, ZF would supply chassis components and Bosch would continue to supply ABS and ESP systems.

"We have, and have to have, a strong local supply base if we’re going to survive. (But) frankly, there are some commodities that you can’t be competitive (with) in our economy, and it doesn’t do any good to keep trying to pour money into those commodities and trying to be competitive.

"In the global business that we’re in, you have got to know whether you can be competitive or not. If you can’t, you can’t keep throwing good money after bad.

"There is not this wholesale shift of content going offshore as is being portrayed. I do feel bad when a local operation is going to shut down or loses business. I feel bad. It makes a lot of news.

"But that doesn’t mean that the local business is going under. You have to look at it in total."

13 center imageIn other VE news, sales and marketing chief Ross McKenzie told GoAuto that while only the sedan version had been officially approved for production by GM Holden’s Detroit HQ, other VE derivatives such as long-wheelbase, wagon and utility (but not dual-cab Crewman) versions were a foregone conclusion.

"Only the sedan is officially approved," he said. "These days there’s a complex product approval process, but ultimately everything’s approved out of Detroit. Let’s say the wagon and ute are not ‘unapproved’.

"Logically, if you were a betting man ... they’re both still very viable segments and they’re both certain to happen.

"Crewman’s been a fantastic car that hit the sweet spot, (but) the challenge is to figure out how to build that again off the VE platform – which is what we’re figuring out now. It’s fair to say that we snuck that through the system when Peter Hanenberger was here – it’s not as easy as that these days." Mr Mooney said he spent a day driving pre-production "Gamma 2B" versions of the VE Commodore both inside and outside Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in the company of competitive models two weeks ago.

"We spent all day long in these cars and they’re great, I have to tell you.

"I’ve got to tell you I wish we had the car in production right now. It can’t get here soon enough, but we’re absolutely excited," he said.

Big Holdens still king

HOLDEN’S Commodore-based cars, including the Statesman/Caprice and commercial vehicle offshoots, are still the company’s number one priority - despite Holden’s recent announcement that it will play a key design role internationally and throughout the General Motors world.

Tony Stolfo, GM Holden design director, says the future Commodore, Statesman and utility-based rear-drive models come first.

Holden revealed that it will employ significantly more design staff as it expand its Port Melbourne design centre to cope with the extra work.

Furthermore, its reputation for making big cars look right is good news as far as the who designs future Commodores beyond next year’s VE.

Edward T Welburn Jr, GM vice president of global design, said that he is particularly impressed by what he refers to Holden’s "great proportions".

"I love the proportions, the tyre-to-wheel relationship. It’s far more on Holdens than on any other Australian brand.

"One project in particular," he enthuses, "...has amazing new proportions. Holden is known around the world for developing vehicles with great proportions.

"This new product in development here has absolutely amazing proportions – just spectacular. To walk in the studio and look at the vehicle is spectacular," he underlined.

Neither Mr Welburn nor Holden will reveal what car that is, other than it is a "future product". It is likely that he is referring to the 2006 Commodore – although Mr Welburn could also be talking about the as-yet unconfirmed replacement for the outgoing Monaro.

It is worth considering that GM cars designed in Australia from now do not automatically mean that they will be built in Australia – and this includes the next Monaro.

"We can create cars for anyone, anywhere," says Tony Stolfo, Holden’s design director.

Speculation is rife that the next Monaro may end up being based on a North American rear-drive platform coupe devised over there as the next Pontiac GTO – which is what today’s VZ Monaro is sold as in the USA.

"But it doesn’t mean a future Commodore will be designed anywhere other than in Australia," Mr Stolfo assures us.

He also revealed that starting from next year, Australians will see the fruit of Holden’s overseas design work.

"(There will be) new products from 2006 that can be directly attributed to GM Holden Design – whether they are built here or elsewhere," Mr Stolfo said.

Aussies shine on GM Design

GENERAL Motors Design Vice President Ed Welburn says Australia has a unique environment to foster design talent as well as fresh ideas.

"I’m struck by the energy and great spirit here, the very creative design network here and the way the processes they use that they develop the designs – and that’s something all of us (at GM Design worldwide) can learn and benefit from.

"All of General Motors can learn and benefit from Holden Design," he added.

Mr Welburn gives credit to Holden Design director Tony Stolfo for his enthusiastic leadership of the design centre.

"We have known (for a long time) that the people of Australia offer great ideas. They have a real passion for real design, for bold design." Holden’s colours and trim rank especially highly.

"(They) are at a real leadership role in Australia (as a result of) customers that are at the leading edge in accepting new colours and trim," Mr Welburn says.

Believing that from now on this will have an effect on the look and feel of all future GM vehicles worldwide, he adds: "It has been Holden’s signature colours that have been brilliant".

Mr Welburn says Australia’s lifestyle – such as the great weather and natural beauty – has plenty to do with it. "Who wouldn’t want to work here?" he remarked.

The senior American executive is also impressed by Australia’s "car culture" – whereby people are passionate about cars whether they work for a car company or not.

Australia’s position compared to Europe and North America is another asset for Holden Design. Time zone differentiation means that Australians are just beginning work when North Americans are finishing for the day and when Australians are knocking off the Europeans are just starting the day.

So GM design globally is operating ‘round-the-clock.’ "It means the coming of age I would say ... a very significant role in GM Design worldwide and frankly in design in general – automotive and otherwise," Mr Welburn adds.

"Every car company has great quality ... and every car company has very competitive technology and pricing... (so today) the great differentiator is design.

"The leadership of GM recognises this and fully supports design." Mr Welburn says GM started 2005 with regional design centres that all knew each other "...but pretty much worked independent of each other. It has been my mission to change this.

"Today we are one seamless organisation. We have 11 design centres in eight countries working in collaboration to develop the most powerful design in the industry. With 1400 people we are the largest.

"More importantly, each of those 11 studios brings to the party different tastes, different cultures and different ways of working, and it is extremely important to me that they continue to represent those cultural and regional differences in this new global design organisation," he said.

After Mr Welburn spent two days reviewing Holden’s Design Centre in Port Melbourne, he was moved to say: “The designers are very passionate about cars and that runs through their veins, and that’s something that is recognised around the world.

"And my vision is to have a team of the world’s best designers to push themselves and each other in healthy competition for the best outcome (for GM).

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