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Commodore is as Australian as VE-gemite

All Aussie: The VE Commodore owes nothing to any existing overseas General Motors vehicle.

The VE is a "clean sheet" and all-Australian design

20 Jul 2006

GM HOLDEN maintains the VE Commodore is the most Australian car it has ever built after developing the vehicle architecture and designing and engineering the car from a "clean sheet".

Acknowledging that about a third of the car’s components, including big-ticket and big-budget items such as engines and transmissions, are sourced overseas, GM Holden managing director Denny Mooney said: "This car was 100 per cent designed here when historically we’ve evolved from some other set of General Motors’ hardware. And this is really the first time we’ve been able to do what I call, you know, kind of a ‘clean sheet of paper’ car." "This was not a ‘take an existing General Motors set of hardware and kind of evolve it’ (exercise). This is the team here really benchmarking cars inside of General Motors, benchmarking cars outside. And the only other rear-wheel drive car that we really do at General Motors, or have done in recent times, is Cadillacs," he said.

"With this, the guys pretty much said: ‘Okay, we can’t make the Cadillac architecture work here for a variety of reasons, there’s nothing else in General Motors, so we’re going to have to do something new.

"If you look at our local content … two-thirds of what we buy … is purchased in Australia, by dollar value. We have a lot more local content than what is played out to be, and it frustrates me. You know, some of the suppliers, frankly, that have lost some of the business for VE, have been replaced by suppliers that are also in Australia." Lead VE architect Mike Simcoe, the chief designer for all North American GM cars who left Holden (post VE design freeze) in September 2004, added that the car was "the first genuinely complete Australian Holden".

"There is no component in the car – that’s from engineering, production, manufacturing and design – that is borrowed from another car in the corporation," he said. "This architecture, which is the underpinnings of the car, is local to Australia. That’s why it started – because there was no alternative." Mr Simcoe said Holden started the search for a VE replacement "platform" 10 years ago and soon discovered that a European donor rear-drive platform (which was the case with the 1997 VT Commodore) would be unavailable and that one from the US would be unsuitable. As a result, it developed the so-called Zeta architecture.

"With this, we could start from the ground up and could do largely what we want – so anything that we saw as an issue with the current architecture, the current space, the current efficiency, was fixed with this car," he said.

BMW 5 Series - The benchmark for GM Holden
LEAD VE designer Mike Simcoe has revealed to GoAuto that the BMW 5 Series was the car Holden has set out to emulate with its VE Commodore.

“Right from day one, the 5 Series BMW was talked about,” he said. “We’re not supposed to use competitors’ names and all that sort of stuff but, realistically, that’s what it was all about.

“This (car) had to punch above its weight – and we had to do that. We had to benchmark those sorts of cars to get something that was relevant, globally.

“You couldn’t keep doing things the way that perhaps the public had accepted them in the past. Two things had changed – the public had already gone past that, and there was more and more of the good European, good international stuff available in the market. So they’ve got to compare, even if they (buyers) couldn’t afford necessarily some of that European stuff they were still looking at it – and that became the benchmark. So it’s how do you do an affordable car with (top) levels of quality, levels of fit and finish and I guess structure and stuff.

“The value of this car (VE) is that it is good enough to be a real alternative to some of the high-end product – the high-end Japanese and high-end European – and by the way, you can actually afford it.”

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