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Holden plans lifestyle concept for Melbourne show

You ain't seen nothin' yet: Holden has some big plans to expand the ute range.

Last week's launch of the VU utility range could be the start of something big

18 Dec 2000

HOLDEN is expected to reveal a future vision for the recently released VU ute in concept car form at the Melbourne Motor Show in March.

Company executives are remaining tight-lipped but it is believed the concept will explore the ute's potential as a lifestyle vehicle.

It will not involve a dual cab or four-wheel drive, although the latter is a definite variant for the future if the Commodore 4WD programme gets the go ahead.

That approval is not expected to come from GM Asia-Pacific until the end of the first quarter of 2001.

Holden launched the VU utility range to the press last week as a base model Ute, better specced S and the 225kW SS, the fastest produc-tion Commodore ever built.

Holden is forecasting 10,000 sales in a full year for these three cars.

"At the minute it's a pretty one-dimensional product," admitted Holden large car marketing manager John Elsworth. "If you want to sell more of them you have to be more three-dimensional about the product. At the minute it'll get to 10,000 and that's it unless we change body styles.

"Some of the stuff we are looking at is more down the lifestyle route, more into recreational-style vehicles rather than true workhorse stuff." Another Holden source confirmed the drive for expansion of the ute range was coming right from the top: "I think (Holden CEO) Peter Hanenberger's put some challenges back to engineering, but it's got to make some business sense." "There are some exciting things but you'Ll have to wait and see." Another source suggested a wider range of utes would be in production to coincide with the introduction of the new HFV6 engine, which will be built in a new plant in Melbourne from 2003.

Mr Hanenberger confirmed plans for a 4WD ute: "If you have it for one platform then you can have it for all platforms. That is the beauty of this," he said.

But he was far less optimistic about the prospects of a four-door ute: "I never say no, but this requires very, very good research. We cannot do this by emotions and it requires really hard research figures behind it."

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