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Holden’s Chev SS is go in 2013 – and so is Commodore

Racing to market: A camouflaged Chevrolet SS goes through NASCAR testing ahead of its racing debut at the Daytona 500 in February - several months ahead of its showroom release in late 2013.

VF Commodore to make its Holden debut ahead of Chev SS export model next year

Chevrolet logo18 May 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

HOLDEN'S lighter, more fuel efficient and more powerful new VF Commodore will land in Australian showrooms next year ahead of the North American debut of its export variant, the Chevrolet SS, in late 2013.

GM Holden last night confirmed the 2013 rollout for the locally designed and engineered large-car twins, with the left-hand-drive American version set to go on sale in limited numbers as a premium high-performance SS sedan.

The company did not rule out exports of Chev-badged Holden Utes and Commodore Sportwagons to the US alongside the SS sedan at a later point, with Holden engineering executive director Greg Tyus telling journalists in a phone hook-up from Holden’s Melbourne headquarters: “We are discussing sedan at the current time.”

And exports of the Chevrolet SS to other markets such as the Middle East and Europe might be on the cards. “If something arises, we will consider it at that time,” Mr Tyus said.

Mr Tyus confirmed the Chevrolet version of the Australian-developed rear-drive sedan would carry General Motors’ hopes in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, making its debut in the legendary Daytona 500 in Florida in the last weekend in February.

A photo of a camouflaged Chev SS NASCAR test car, along with another image of the 'SS' badge, were released by both Holden and its global parent General Motors overnight.

The Aussie Commodore is likely to make its own local racing debut in the first round of the 2013 V8 Supercar season under the new Car of the Future rules around the same time in late February/early March, ahead of its local showroom debut later in the year.

If so, Holden will have to publicly out the car somewhat earlier to facilitate team testing, with the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney in October a logical date.

The much-anticipated export program to North America was announced by Mr Tyus, who said the new Chevrolet model would be based on “our beloved Commodore”, but would be a “limited production derivative” and a “niche opportunity”.

“This means for the first time in 17 years, Chevrolet will offer a real-wheel-drive sedan to sell in the US, and we consider that is pretty exciting for us, as well as for Chevrolet,” he said.

137 center imageFrom top: Holden engineering executive director Greg Tyus, an artist's impression of the VF Commodore by GoAuto, Pontiac G8, Chevrolet SS logo.

No details of the Chevrolet SS powertrain, pricing or projected export numbers were released. Mr Tyus said Chevrolet would reveal more closer to launch time.

The new export deal helps to assuage the pain of the previous Holden Commodore export program to North America where it was sold as the Pontiac G8 before becoming a casualty of the global financial crisis and GM's slide into chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Chevrolet SS owes its existence to the chorus of American muscle car fans who called on GM to find a way to revive the Aussie performance car in that market.

Former Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss – now GM’s North America president – also championed the program, despite problematic currency exchange rates that seemed set to skittle any such export deal.

Mr Reuss said that, as a passionate race fan and performance enthusiast, he was thrilled with the Chevrolet SS announcement.

“I am delighted to say that Chevrolet will deliver a true rear-wheel-drive NASCAR racecar in the SS that very closely links the performance sedan that will be available for sale,” said Mr Reuss.

“The Chevrolet SS is a great example of how GM is able to leverage its global product portfolio to deliver a unique performance experience that extends well beyond the track and I am personally looking forward to driving it.”

The Chevrolet SS, which will be V8-powered, will join Holden’s other North American export, the Chevrolet Caprice PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle) on the ships from Holden’s manufacturing base in South Australia.

Although the numbers are expected to be relatively small – like those of the Caprice PPV to date – Mr Tyus said: “It always makes sense to maximise plant volume.”

Mr Tyus described the export project as “icing on the cake” for Holden, which had shaped its manufacturing business around the domestic market with the Commodore and Cruze.

“Good volume and good profitability is never a problem,” he said.

Mr Tyus said Holden had streamlined the operation of the Holden factory at Elizabeth over the past few years, and it would be able to handle the anticipated volume without extra personnel, at least initially.

“Only time will tell if it (the exports) grows bigger and larger – then we will respond,” he said.

Mr Tyus played down the potential for an American backlash against the imported model.

“If that sentiment does exist, it should not affect what we are trying to do at this niche premium level that we are pursuing,” he said.

Mr Tyus said Holden was renowned in North America for providing high-performance rear-wheel-drive sedans, as well as the Chevrolet Camaro coupe built on the Holden-engineered Zeta platform.

“There are always individuals looking for true performance vehicles, and we think they will find it in the vehicle we provide, the Chevrolet SS,” he said.

Mr Tyus said Holden had been committed to the Chevrolet SS program since its inception after the demise of the Pontiac G8, despite the unhelpful high Australian dollar exchange rate over the past few years.

The Australian dollar was sitting at parity with the US greenback last night, after reaching a high of $1.08 in February and then falling to about 98 cents in the past few days.

The export program was welcomed by the Australian government, which helped to fund the “light-weighting” program for the VF Commodore and its Chevrolet offspring under Canberra’s now defunct Green Car Innovation Fund.

Industry and innovation minister Greg Combet said Holden had again demonstrated to the world the quality of Australian technological innovation and the design and engineering skills of our manufacturing workforce.

“In what are challenging times for many manufacturing businesses, Holden is designing and making products wanted in markets across the world,” he said.

“This achievement shows what Australian manufacturers can do and is possible because of the co-investment support of the Australian Government through our $5.4 billion New Car Plan.”

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