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Commodore US exports still on the cards

Hanging in there: The Pontiac G8 might be dead, but Holden's export hopes are not.

Holden confirms its is working on export plan to replace lost Pontiac business

6 Aug 2009

GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss has hinted the company is making headway with an export deal that would see the Commodore return to the US after it was killed off as a Pontiac in April.

Asked at this week’s announcement of new V6 engines for its locally produced cars if he could ‘put a probability’ on the Commodore getting back into the American market, Mr Reuss replied: “I could, I could, but I really don’t want to do it here.

“We have been working on export programs to replace some of the export volume that came out of Elizabeth with Pontiac going away in the United States, and I’ll leave it at that.” Mr Reuss will return to Detroit next month to take up his new role as General Motors global engineering vice president.

He was one of an inner-core of ten people who guided GM through its recent bankruptcy and ensured Holden would have a role in the new GM.

As reported by GoAuto, GM is keen to introduce the Commodore as a law enforcement vehicle in the US, while other plans to re-badge the car as a Chevrolet seem unlikely to succeed.

A new export deal could be enough for the Elizabeth operation to return to two shifts.

The plant dropped from two shifts to one after a fall in local demand and a dramatic cut in export production in May, but Holden has retained the full workforce by working a half-on/half-off roster and paying 50 per cent of wages for those not working.

13 center imageLeft: Holden MD Mark Reuss.

Holden denies retaining the workers to avoid a redundancy cost blowout, arguing that it will save money by hanging on to its current employees as it will not have to invest in retraining when resumes the second shift.

It has been generally accepted that the plant would only return to two shift when Elizabeth started producing the Cruze small car mid-way through next year, but Mr Reuss has raised the prospect that it might occur sooner, regardless of any new export deal.

He suggested increased local sales of the Commodore, thanks to the addition of the two lean direct injection V6 engines, could trigger a production increase.

Asked by a reporter if the plant would definitely stay on one shift for at least the rest of the year, Mr Reuss said: “Well, I don’t know, because this thing right here. I think we are way underestimating what we think the retail take up of something this dramatic in fuel efficiency because we have never done this before.” Mr Reuss said it was difficult to predict if production volume would increase sufficiently to justify the return of the second shift, but said Holden was already seeing some recovery.

“It is kind of like asking me when we will come off the volume we are at today, and I can’t do that,” he said.

“All I can do is fill the place with new programs and new opportunities and I am doing that.

Mr Reuss said once Holden had seen abut six months of recovery, it would look at bringing back the second shift.

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