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Holden designs new hatch

Voila!: Chevrolet Cruze unveiled at last year's Paris motor show.

Upcoming Australian-built Cruze small car styled and engineered in Melbourne

14 Jan 2009

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in DETROIT

HOLDEN designed the small car to be built at the company’s long-serving Elizabeth facility in South Australia.

Holden's engineers were also significantly involved in the development of the car - the replacement for the Astra and Viva, most likely to be called the Cruze - making it by far the most ‘Australian’ vehicle of its type in history when it is rolled out in 2010.

Furthermore, Holden hopes to trump Ford's locally-built Focus small car by beating it to market by up to a year.

Then it hopes to eventually rub more salt in its arch-enemy’s wounds with the possibility of fitting the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt’s range-extending electric vehicle running gear in the Australian-made Cruze in the next five years or so.

The latter possibility exists because the Volt has been devised on the C-segment Delta platform that also underpins the next Holden small car.

 center imageLeft: Chevrolet Cruze sedan.

These plans were revealed to GoAuto by GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss, who played a strong role during the development phase of the Delta small-car program before taking the reins at Fishermans Bend at the beginning of 2008.

Mr Reuss said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week he is confident of creating a small-car revolution in Australia next year.

“We are going to have a unique car for Australia,” he said.

“We will make it look like a Holden, and make it perform like a Holden, too.” The Holden boss is equally enthusiastic about the prospect of eventually building the Cruze with the Volt’s electric range-extending hardware, which GM calls Voltec.

“The Volt is based on the same Delta architecture ... so you can guess from that ... when we get our battery technology in place, and we are in the third or fourth phase of the Volt outside of the United States, then I would love to be able to build something like that. And the ability to build something like that is now there with the Delta’s modular layer build architecture.” While the Cruze eventually will be available in a variety of different shapes and sizes around the world, the two body styles most likely to be available in Australia will be the five-door hatchback and four-door sedan.

Holden’s stylists in Melbourne designed the hatchback that will be sold around the world as the cheaper of the two Delta vehicles being devised. The essential point of the Cruze is to be competitive on price against (mostly Asian) competition.

Meanwhile, the more sophisticated Delta platform car for Europe, which will probably wear both Opel and Vauxhall Astra badges, is GM’s premium small car and is the work of Opel in Germany.

We understand that, while the Delta Astra differs subtly to its Cruze cousin on the outside, there will be wholesale changes underneath.

This reportedly includes the adoption of a complex multi-link rear suspension to match the similar types pioneered by the Ford Focus more than 10 years ago and since copied by other big-selling rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf.

The Cruze will most likely stick with the cheaper torsion beam rear end similar to the one found underneath the current AH Astra.

Whether the Cruze also receives GM’s all-new direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engines earmarked for the Astra, as well as the latest common-rail turbo-diesel units, remains to be seen.

“The Chevrolet DNA that is in the Cruze is the Chevrolet DNA, and the DNA in the Astra is the Astra DNA, so the integration, technology and components that we have across the world on Delta, we are going to drop (into the Cruze),” Mr Reuss revealed.

“But we are going to create and integrate and design our own car from an appearance standpoint, with a specific Australian design.

“And since we are not going to tool up all-new components to do this, the formula that we have enables us to get in before the Focus.

“If you look at the suite of things that we have, such as the powertrains, performance, suspension, steering and so on, we can pick any of those and then design our own appearance for the car.

“We are going to integrate those components in a unique way for Australia, and we can do that faster than anybody because we have a truly global platform.

“So we are not going to be taking cars from other regions and putting them in there with a Holden badge on it.

“It will be our own deal – and that is pretty cool.” Mr Reuss added that, since announcing the small-car deal, Holden dealers have become much more positive.

“The reaction has been really nice,” he said.

“I talked with the dealers four months ago about what we are planning with this thing technology-wise and it was the first time that we really exposed the future to them and what we are creating right now.

“The dealers were very enthusiastic, and they’ve never had that kind of detail shared with them before. Now I get notes from dealers almost every day about how excited they are with the Holden franchise for the future.” So does Mr Reuss believe the Cruze has what it takes to vanquish the Toyota Corolla as king of the small cars in Australia? “I think it is,” he said.

“From a price standpoint, the business case for it is very, very compelling, and the performance of the car itself is really good.

“I was involved with that in my prior job, so I know that first-hand. I think the value for the customer is going to be unmatched.

“And it is going to look like a Holden, act like a Holden, and it is going to be built locally so I know that the quality is going to be good.”

Read more:

Small car just speculation

Second car for Holden plant?

First look: Holden's Viva to Cruze


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