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Holden banks on local winners

Future Cruze: Holden is not denying that the next generation Cruze will be one of two vehicles built locally over the next decade.

Production volume key to Holden’s Aussie-built models in the pipeline to 2022

4 Sep 2012

GM HOLDEN says potential volume, not platform commonality, was the main criteria in its choice of two new vehicles it is proposing to build locally over the next decade.

Speaking at the media launch last week of the Holden Volt, Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux told GoAuto that Holden’s decision on which two models it would make locally had been dictated by the need to pick top-10 winners, not by the platforms on which they would sit.

He said such was the fragmentation at the top of the sales charts that a local manufacturer could not survive without producing two top-sellers in the Australian market.

“We are seeing smaller volumes across a larger range of vehicles,” he said.

“We end up with slivers of the market, instead of dominant market leaders like we once had. You have to pick your winners.”

Mr Devereux also indicated that Holden would not necessarily build a Captiva locally, despite reports that the global GM SUV will be built on a future Delta small-car platform – the same architecture as the next Cruze.

He said Holden comfortably built cars off two different platforms – Cruze on Delta II and Commodore/Caprice on Zeta – on one production line at its Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

13 center imageFrom top: Prototype of Holden VF Commodore Chevrolet Caprice PPV Holden Mailbu Holden Captiva.

“The issue is not the platforms,” he said. “The issue is the number of variants coming by the workers on the production line, and the complexity of that.”

Mr Devereux said Holden currently built 50 variants of the VE Commodore and JH Cruze, including multiple body styles, left- and right-hand drive, powertrain varieties and so on.

From next year, Holden will add the VF Commodore-based Chevrolet SS sports sedan to the production schedule for export to North America, alongside the Caprice PPV (police patrol vehicle).

This year, the Captiva is Holden’s third-biggest seller, behind the Cruze and Commodore sedan and Sportwagon.

The current Korean-built Captiva rides on the Theta architecture that also underpins the Cadillac SRX and Opel Antara.

According to overseas reports, these models are all likely to migrate to the new-generation Delta platform – apparently called D2XX – which is said to form the basis for at least 12 GM models, including the new-generation Cruze and Opel Astra, by 2018.

Mr Devereux said the current sourcing arrangement for Captiva from GM Korea was working well for Holden, and that was unlikely to change.

Although Holden has not formally announced its plans, it is not denying that a new-generation Cruze will be the first of the two new models from about 2016, even though the locally built version of GM’s global small car is not as profitable as the Korean version.

The vehicle to replace the VF Commodore and its derivatives later in the decade is open to much more speculation, even though Mr Devereux says GM already has told the Australian government of the model it wants to build and when (see separate story).

The Holden-engineered Zeta large car platform has been confirmed for the scrap heap, with Holden most likely switching to a front/all-wheel-drive format for its new model.

Contenders could include the next generation of the Malibu mid-sized car that is about to be launched in Australia to replace the unloved Epica, or a compact SUV – both of which could fit Holden’s need for a top-seller to make the business case worthwhile.

Although a Chevrolet Impala-based car might be a more direct replacement for the Commodore, the continuing slide in large-car sales in Australia would seem to make that unlikely.

An unanswered question is what happens to the Holden Ute, which is unlikely to have a future under any of the above scenarios.

Also up in the air are plans for Holden exports, which this year will account for about 10,000 units, adding handy volume to the Elizabeth production line.

These exports will include 3000 Caprice PPVs to the US, along with about 5000 Chevrolet Caprice sedans to the Middle East.

Holden also exports Commodores, Caprices and Cruzes to New Zealand.

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