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Holden Commodore looks beyond the large-car norm

On tour: Holden believes the Tourer variant will appeal to buyers of the VW Passat Alltrack and Subaru’s Outback.

Mid-sizers, SUVs in Holden’s crosshairs as Commodore broadens its appeal

12 Feb 2018

HOLDEN is expecting to court a wider range of buyers with the slightly smaller ZB Commodore, targeting mid-sized passenger car contenders such as the Toyota Camry and Mazda6 as well as crossover wagons including the popular Subaru Outback.

Speaking last week at the launch of the imported fifth-generation iteration of the long-running nameplate, Holden executive director of marketing Mark Harland revealed that while the large-car segment continues its decline, the Commodore has never had a broader reach than it does right now.

“Yes, the large-car segment is declining, but there is an opportunity also to fish some people out of the mid-car segment into this vehicle as well,” he said. “Yes, the majority of sales will come from current Commodore large-car owners, but we intend on conquesting, we intend on pulling people out of mid cars too.

“At the lower-end in the mid-size you’ve got Camry, Mazda6 and Mondeo… we think there’s an opportunity (here), it’s not the majority of our customers but we do think there’s (something there for Holden to appeal to),” he said.

“At the higher end in the VXR space obviously the Kia Stinger and Volkswagen Arteon… so we’ve got the full range in the package we have to offer, in the Liftback all the way up to the Tourer.

“No other Commodore in many years has been able to do this – cover a range of different buyers in different segments that we hope to pull from.” Mr Harland singled out the Tourer as providing something truly new for Holden buyers and highlighted the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack as competitors.

“Of course, the competitive set for the Tourer will be the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack,” he said. “The Tourer is a particular favourite of mine, and we’re going to launch the Tourer in a way that’s not the same (as other ZB Commodore variations), so it’s not the Liftback and ‘oh, by the way, here’s a Sportwagon’.

“The Tourer is relatively new for us, and we will have a campaign that is unique to the Tourer, so we have got to see where that comes up.”

Holden sold the conceptually similar Adventra, based on the Australian-made VY/VZ Commodore wagon, from 2003 to 2006.

Offered with AWD technology known as Cross Trac, as well as V8 and later V6 powertrains, it was undermined by skyrocketing oil prices and the advent of the successful Ford Territory SUV, so sales never met initial forecasts. The badge was dropped when the VE came on stream in 2006.

“I think there’s a growing market with Tourer,” Mr Harland said, “where Outback has gone and VW has gone it’s not tens of thousands of units. But there’s a market for people who want a car that performs but they need the functionality of an SUV… in the private buyer space.

“It looks great and the technology is great… we want to tempt those more pragmatic people in with the luxury features that you would expect in a much more upscale car.” As reported earlier, to make a successful case for the V6 Commodore (it was originally envisaged to be a four-cylinder-only range as an Opel Insignia), Holden decided to make the Tourer V6 AWD-only to maximise V6 volume, so there are no four-cylinder turbo-petrol or diesel variants offered in Australia. This may change if there is enough customer demand for the latter.

Holden went to pains to point out that despite being essentially a European mid-size segment contender (the Opel Insignia), the ZB Commodore in fact sits between the VT-VZ generation of 1997-2006 and VE-VFII models (2006-2017) in length and width, making it the second-largest Commodore in the nameplate’s 40-year history in Australia.

Being Insignia based, the latest Commodore’s roots are pure mid-size rather than large car.

In Europe and elsewhere the Insignia replaced the Opel Vectra line (sold here as the Holden Vectra for two iterations – including the locally made JS – from 1997 to 2005), while before that the Vectra succeeded the Opel Ascona in 1988 – and the latter provided the underpinnings of the Holden Camira (GMH’s first front-drive vehicle) built in Australia from 1982 to 1989.

The Camira’s direct predecessor was the Holden Torana/Sunbird, which was available in various shapes from 1967 to 1980.

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