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Holden sticks to winning Commodore formula
If it ain't broke don't fix it - that's the word for Series II Holden VX, WH and VU models
30 Aug 2001
By BRUCE NEWTON
HOLDEN calls this the Commodore VXII. It may as well be known as Steamroller MkIV.
Just like the VT, VTII and VX Commodore that have gone before it, VXII is set to dominate the Australian new car sales charts.
Since its launch in September, 1997, the current generation Commodore has not once been toppled from the top of the sales race.
Falcon has been smashed, Camry and Magna blotted out, Avalon never in the race.
A serious challenger does not loom until the September, 2002, launch of AV Falcon.
VT Commodore and its progeny have literally driven Holden back into a pre-eminent position in the Australian motor industry, underpinning a stunning sales dominance, healthy profit and increasingly lucrative export market.
VXII now has the job of carrying Commodore through to its mid-life VY facelift in September, 2002.
Holden has no doubts it will do the job, forecasting 87,000 Commodore sales in Australia this year, a result behind only the phenomenal 94,642 it sold in 1998, the first full year of VT.
In fact, 325,000 examples of this generation Commodore have been sold since launch.
Pricing is up, of course, but by only a per cent or two. In fact the biggest rise is reserved for the long-wheelbase Caprice which climbs 3.0 per cent and therefore breaks through the $70,000 barrier, the first Holden - other than a HSV - to do so.
Talking dollars, it's a measure of Holden's confidence that it invested just $16 million developing VXII and its WHII long-wheelbase brethren - VU ute is supposedly also updated, but there's even less to talk about here.
Those dollars have resulted in virtually undetectable exterior changes, few positive specification adjustments and underneath the skin, a chassis improvement for the sedans and wagons that is worthy, but may prove difficult to sell.
But why do more? The Elizabeth assembly plant is pumping out 580 Commodore short and long wheelbase sedan, wagon and ute variants a day and is about to up that rate to 604 - that means a Commodore rolls off the end of the line every 79 seconds - with a "sold" sticker firmly attached to every one. And it is not like there aren't other distractions for the team at Holden to consider at the moment.
Like the on-rushing launch of Monaro at the Sydney motor show this October, the mid-life VY Commodore in 2002, the just-approved four-wheel drive program, a V6 engine plant to be built and the design and creation of the new generation VE Commodore by 2005.
Then there's the import activity yet more Astras, the Cruze 4WD, the larger Vectra and a new generation Rodeo to bolster the light commercial range before the end of 2002.
"Series II is primarily a point in the model life where you can give the car a refresh," said Holden general manager marketing Megan Stooke.
"They are never meant to be huge visual changes, but it gives you a breakpoint to re-position the price point and so on.
"This time round we've tried to improve the value perception of Caprice - and Calais has had its value proposition in relation to Berlina improved with a smaller price increase, but it's just tweaking," Ms Stooke said.
But that tweaking of VXII has gone beyond the dollars.
Improvements to the rear suspension with the addition of a updated IRS and the replacement of those wobbly old stalks for the wipers and indicators are responses to repeated criticisms of Commodore.
Even more significant in the long-term potentially is the introduction of Holden Assist telematics into the range, standard only in Caprice and optional in Statesman and Calais.
But it will spread down the range as cost per unit improves while the safety and security oriented feature list currently offered will soon expand.
Holden is also taking the opportunity to do some real-life customer research with VXII, introducing some wild interior and exterior colour-key options on SS.
And just to make sure that the punters stay on-side, the value pack bombardment will continue with a limited edition Commodore set for launch in October.
With Commodore and Statesman dominating the sales charts and the ute meeting sales expectations - if not being able to catch Ford's super-successful AU ute series - Holden's tinkering with its locally built cars has been kept to a minimum. But there have been changes and here they are model by model.
THE fabled Control-Link independent rear suspension goes into all cars while the rubbery old stalk controls for the indicator, wiper and cruise control (where applicable) have been binned. There are also new optional metallic paint colours.
A limited-slip differential is now mandatory whenever a V8 engine is optioned.
MOST of the changes to the big selling base model are cosmetic. There are new-style wheel covers for the sedan and wagon, a revised "cross-hatch" grille treatment and a new micro-check patterned cloth trim with velour inserts.
The only equipment upgrade is an alarm system which operates from the remote fob.
Holden has taken the opportunity to prune back the range, eliminating the V6 and V8 manual wagons and the supercharged V6 sedan, the latter introduced just last year.
Air-conditioning and a passenger airbag remain optional on Executive despite being standard on the Falcon Forte, although the Holden has the advantage of standard ABS.
THE family Commodore gets the same cosmetic and alarm updates as the Executive, and also loses the supercharged V6, an option only made available with VX last year.
THE six-cylinder sports sedan gets two important additions - switchable traction control and the alarm system. Anthracite black leather trim is introduced as an option.
INTERIOR colours are the story here. New optional leather seat trim in Red Hot and Hyper Yellow are colour-keyed to exterior paint options and come in a package with side airbags.
Anthracite black leather trim is also optional.
The SS also gets the new remote-operated alarm system.
THE entry level luxury car's grille now has a chrome surround, while the insert has diagonal "cross-hatching". There are also new rear badges.
Berlina's equipment level is upgraded with the Calais handing down the "Twilight Sentinel" headlight off system.
The supercharged V6 engine option has been dropped.
AS well as the exterior cosmetic touches it shares with Berlina, the top-spec short wheelbase Commodore's headlights are now outlined with black bezels.
Leather seat trim can be optioned to colour key with Cobalt, Light Shale and Dark Red exterior paint.
Anthracite black leather trim is also optional.
The most interesting option for Calais, however, is the Holden Assist in-car communications system. It is the only short wheelbase car that gets the system.
THE Control-Link rear suspension is standard equipment for both Statesman and Caprice, as are new-style 16x7-inch alloy wheels and some new metallic paint colours.
However, the self-levelling rear suspension now comes off the standard list to become an option.
A NEW rectangular grille, jewelled headlamps, wider chrome window surrounds and new rear badging complete the exterior changes to Statesman, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary. Inside there's a new-style geometric pattern velour seat trim.
Holden Assist has been added to the options list.
JEWELLED headlamps, side chrome window surrounds and new rear badging distinguish the WHII Caprice.
Inside there's new woodgrain and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with woodgrain inserts.
This is the only car in the range which has Holden Assist standard.
The supercharged engine option has been dropped. A 3.0 per cent price rise means the Caprice becomes the first Holden to cost more than $70,000.
THE only new features all utes can offer are stalks and badges, plus some metallic paint options.
The base model ute now gets anti-lock braking ABS - but only as part of an options package.
The base model misses out on the alarm system, which is now standard in S and SS, the latter also getting the optional colour-keyed Red Hot and Hyper Yellow leather trim/exterior paint option as well as the choice of Anthracite black leather trim for the more conservative.
Telematics triumphHOLDEN is the first car company in Australia to offer telematics as an integrated standard item in its car range - even if only the top-spec Caprice buyer gets it standard.
In fact, only Statesman and Calais buyers can even option it for the moment, at an additional cost of $1990.
Currently, Holden Assist offers security and safety features only: Remote door unlocking Remote engine immobilisation Unauthorised entry alert Automatic crash detection notification In future, however, it will introduce pay-per-use services such as: Turn-by-turn navigation News and sport updates Stock market reports Traffic information Holden insiders expect Ford and Mitsubishi to be next up in offering telematics, while Toyota officials have admitted it is two years away from following suit.
Pricing(Model, old price, new price, percentage increase)
Executive sedan V6 manual $29,490 $29,960 +1.59
Executive sedan V6 auto $30,220 $30,700 +1.58
Executive sedan V8 manual $32,050 $32,570 +1.62
Executive sedan V8 auto $34,290 $35,160 +2.53
Executive wagon V6 auto $34,290 $35,160 +2.53
Acclaim sedan V6 auto $35,850 $36,390 +1.5
Acclaim wagon V6 auto $37,680 $38,250 +1.51
S sedan V6 manual $35,240 $35,950 +2.01
S sedan V6 auto $35,970 $36,690 +2.00
S sedan V6 supercharged auto $37,490 $38,240 +2.00
SS sedan V8 manual $46,670 $47,370 +1.49
SS sedan V8 auto $46,670 $47,370 +1.49
Berlina sedan V6 auto $39,040 $39,630 +1.51
Berlina wagon V6 auto $41,800 $42,430 +1.50
Berlina sedan V8 auto $43,110 $44,090 +2.27
Berlina wagon V8 auto $45,870 $46,890 +2.22
Calais V6 automatic $47,550 $47,780 +0.48
Calais V6 supercharged auto $48,570 $48,810 +0.49
Calais V8 automatic $51,620 $52,240 +1.2
Statesman V6 auto $50,440 $51,200 +1.50
Statesman V6 supercharged auto $51,460 $52,230 +1.49
Statesman V8 auto $54,510 $55,660 +2.1
Caprice V6 auto $64,380 $66,050 +2.59
Caprice V8 auto $68,450 $70,510 +3.00
Ute V6 manual $23,570 $23,950 +1.61
Ute V6 auto $24,300 $24,690 +1.60
S V6 manual $27,970 $28,270 +1.07
S V6 auto $28,700 $29,010 +1.08
S V8 manual $32,770 $33,120 +1.06
S V8 auto $32,770 $33,120 +1.06
SS V8 manual $37,050 $37,600 +1.48
SS V8 auto $37,050 $37,600 +1.48
Read about the new Commodores' engineering and how they drive in our New Models section
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