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Holden to retire Rodeo

One Tonner: Chevrolet Thailand's facelifted Colorado.

Rodeo to become Colorado as Holden is forced to kill-off its 30-year-old LCV nameplate

4 Mar 2008

GM HOLDEN will retire its popular Rodeo nameplate within months because it does not own the right to continue to use it.

Once Australia’s top-selling light commercial vehicle name, the Rodeo badge will become history from about June because Isuzu, which manufactures Australia’s Rodeo in Thailand, owns it and will prevent Holden from using it following the formal separation between Isuzu and Holden’s parent company General Motors.

GM announced in mid-2006 that it would sell its remaining 7.9 per cent stake in Isuzu to raise about $US300 million following the US giant’s $US8.6 billion loss the previous year.

The announcement heralded the end of a successful product-sharing arrangement that began in 1971, and followed the sale of GM interests in Suzuki and Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries for a total of $US2.7 billion only months earlier.

The demise of the Rodeo name will come as a marketing blow to Holden and its representative in one of Australia’s most important vehicle segments.

The fifth-generation RA-series model, launched here in March 2003, suffered a 14.2 per cent decline in popularity in 2007, when 8978 sales made it Australia’s fourth best selling 4x2 utility behind Toyota’s HiLux, Ford’s Falcon ute and Holden’s own Ute.

The five-year-old Rodeo 4x4 has fared better against newer rivals from Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, finding 9428 homes in 2007 to be 18.1 per cent up – despite trailing HiLux, Navara and now Triton too.

Publicly, Holden will only say that it will not be without an entrant in Australia’s lucrative light truck market.

13 center imageGoAuto understands that from mid-year the current Rodeo will receive a final subtle facelift prior to being relaunched as the Holden Colorado – the same name worn by Chevrolet versions of Isuzu’s global light commercial.

Our sources say Holden’s current Rodeo, which should adopt the same sleek new face that appeared on the Chevrolet Colorado-badged version released by Chevrolet Thailand late last year, will be replaced by an all-new Colorado model to be imported from Brazil beyond 2010.

It is believed that the cost of altering the current Chevrolet Colorado to comply with the Australian design rules for just two years of service was not feasible.

However, in a further twist to the story, Isuzu itself will this year enter Australia’s light commercial vehicle market with its own version of the current Rodeo, under its global model name: D-Max.

Further complicating matters, GoAuto has learned the Isuzu D-Max will be sold through a national dealer network appointed by Mitsubishi Corporation, which owns 13 per cent of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

Mitsubishi Corp became Isuzu’s largest shareholder when it increased its stake from 3.5 per cent to 15.65 per cent following GM’s departure, and is believed to be in the process of creating an Australian sales office and retail distribution network.

It is unlikely that existing Mitsubishi dealers will sell the Isuzu D-Max alongside their own Triton utility, but the confusing deal will see Isuzu compete directly for the first time with Holden’s rebadged Colorado and Mitsubishi’s Triton, as well as HiLux, Navara and the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 twins.

However, it appears that Holden will offer a new utility before the redesigned, South American-built Colorado emerges in about two years time, with GoAuto sources confirming that GM’s Hummer brand is likely to make available a four-door utility version of its Rodeo-based H3 by the end of this year.

Revealed as the H3T at the Chicago motor show in early February, the dual-cab tray-backed Hummer is yet to be confirmed for right-hand drive production alongside its donor vehicle at the Hummer H3 wagon’s sole global RHD facility in South Africa.

It will enter left-hand drive production this year at the H3’s Shreveport plant in Louisiana, and is destined for the Middle East and Europe, but Australian Hummer dealers are already in possession of colour pre-sales brochures of the new 4x4 Hummer ute.

Apart from the H3 wagon’s 180kW/328Nm 3.7-litre inline five-cylinder petrol six, the H3T ute is also expected to come on line with a 5.3-litre V8 offering around 224kW and 434Nm. Also mated to a four-speed auto, it’s expected to power the H3 wagon from 2009.

It is believed that LHD versions of the H3, H3T and GM’s Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins will continue to be produced at Shreveport until 2011, when a replacement for Hummer’s smallest model emerges.

But global production of GM’s next-generation Colorado/Canyon ute, due to appear in the 2011 model year, is expected to shift to Brazil – the US auto giant’s new research, development and manufacturing centre for mid-sized pick-up trucks.

Meantime, Toyota’s recently acquired 5.9 per cent stake in Isuzu, Thailand’s largest commercial vehicle builder and one of the world’s largest diesel engine makers, is expected to result in a diesel-electric light truck powertain that could be made available in next-generation versions of both Toyota’s HiLux and Isuzu’s D-Max beyond 2010.

Finally, while the GM-Isuzu divorce will be all but complete once this year’s Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max are retired, it won’t be the end of the pair’s product sharing activity, at least in developing markets.

After the sale of its interests in Isuzu in 2006, GM announced a $100 million Yen Tokyo-based 50-50 joint-venture with the Japanese truck giant, to be known as the LCV Platform Engineering Corp and operational from September that year.

In a repeat of the current Rodeo/D-Max/Colorado arrangement, the pair will co-develop new models including a next-generation commercial utility for sale in emerging Asian, South American and African markets.

If Holden does source its next Colorado ute from Brazil, increased shipping and import costs are likely to put pricing pressure on its vital commercial ute, which currently enjoys duty-free access to Australia thanks to the Australia-Thailand free-trade agreement.

Read more:

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