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Torana plan backed by senior GM executive

Getting sporty: Torana to offer dynamics similar to a BMW 3 Series.

General Motors car tsar says a new-generation Torana is a logical choice for Holden

9 Oct 2007

A NEW-AGE Torana is a logical choice for Holden, according to General Motors product development chief Bob Lutz.

Mr Lutz, who made a flying visit to Holden in Melbourne today, said the car would offer BMW 3 Series dynamics at a much lower price.

Details of two new small rear-wheel drive models based on the new Alpha platform to be built from 2011 were leaked by the United Auto Workers union in late September.

Mr Lutz said the business case for the Alpha models has not been finalised, but admitted the cars were part of GM’s forward plans.

GoAuto understands the new Alpha-based cars would be produced in the US as Cadillacs and Pontiacs, as well as being exported to Australia as Holdens.

Lutz said the Alpha cars would give GM an edge.

"Everyone has highly competent front-wheel drive sedans and they all look, more or less, the same. If you want to grab market share then you have to do something different," he said.

"Everyone else is doing small front-wheel drive cars, which are excellent cars, but hey let’s do something else for Pontiac.

"Pontiac wants to be a sporty rear-wheel-drive brand. So we have several brands that would be potential beneficiaries of a small rear-wheel drive architecture. Holden obviously being one of the logical ones."

13 center imageMr Lutz said the key to the Alpha cars would be that they would offer 3 Series dynamics for a lot less money.

"That is the whole premise, in that you would do a 3 Series type car, but priced at a much more affordable level, so that people basically get, 3 Series ride, steering and handling, all of the dynamic qualities of a small-ish rear-drive sedan, the lighter weight and the ability to use four-cylinder engines and not have to carry around a big V6 or V8 lump up there and have a nice four-cylinder engine.

"You would have a very nimble, agile, dynamically very pleasing car, reminiscent of great German rear-wheel-drive sedans, but at a much lower price point."Holden has already signaled its interest in a new-age Torana with the TT36 concept car it presented at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney in 2004.

The stunning concept, complete with hatchback tail, was a cut-down version of a VZ Commodore but it laid down a heavy hint that Holden was keen for a sporty rear-drive car to sit below its traditional family sedan.

Lutz said it had not yet been determined which division of GM would take engineering responsibility for the Alpha platform.

Holden, which has the lead role for the larger Zeta rear-wheel-drive architecture, would not necessarily head up the development of Alpha, Mr Lutz said.

"That is uncertain at this point because we have just started to look at the architecture.

"I think one thing is for sure – we would not develop a small rear-wheel-drive architecture for Holden and another small rear-drive architecture for the rest of the world, so, and without making any firm predictions, the way I see it is working out that it will be one Alpha rear-wheel-drive architecture which, regardless of who has the responsibility and where it is done, there would be big Holden component in there some place," he said.

The revelation GM is planning a small rear-drive model range represents an embarrassing security breach.

Lutz said the UAW "let the cat out of the bag" during the wage and benefit negotiations in which they were given an outline of GM’s future models plans.

"We weren’t going to announce Alpha for some time, and then when our labour relations people had to give the UAW some indications of which plants would stay open in the US and which plants would get what," Lutz said.

"In the past when they did that they would always say 'Springhill gets new product codenamed Y, or new product codenamed X' and this time they put the names in and then they published it."Mr Lutz said the US media and GM rivals "went nuts with joy".

"Here is our whole future product plan laid out including introduction timing, vehicle descriptions and the whole nine yards, so we were not pleased," he said.

Mr Lutz said GM wants to go ahead with Alpha-based models, but added that the plan was far from concrete given government proposals to introduce strict new emission controls.

"A lot of these plant allocations are somewhat tentative and the UAW knows that, we have yet to do a complete business case on Alpha.

"A lot depends on future fuel economy regulations, because any rear-wheel drive car is always going to have some fuel economy deficit versus a similar front-wheel drive car - not huge, but three or four per cent.”

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