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Holden eyes Cruze wagon for 2013

Glimpse: A future Holden Cruze wagon may look like this digital image.

Devereux confirms Cruze load lugger is on Holden’s new-model watch list

Holden logo30 May 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

GENERAL Motors’ still-secret Cruze station wagon is on the Holden agenda for introduction to Australian showrooms, adding a third body style to GM’s hot-selling global small-car range.

But unlike the Australian-made sedan and five-door hatchback variants of the successful four-cylinder car, the wagon would be imported, most likely from South Korea and probably not before 2013.

Asked about the possibility of a Cruze wagon for Australia, GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux told GoAuto in Canberra last week that Holden would “take a pretty good look at it”.

“There’s certainly a market for wagons – we do very well with our (Commodore) Sportwagon,” he said. “Whether or not the folks in the small car area would want a wagon, well, we will probably take a pretty good look at it.” Like the JH Cruze sedan that was introduced to the Australian market in 2009 and revised this year when the Series II went into production in Australia for the domestic market, the Cruze wagon has been penned at one of GM’s overseas design houses, probably GM Korea.

The Australian-designed Cruze hatchback is set to join the sedan on the Holden production line at Elizabeth in the third quarter of this year ahead of its October showroom launch in Australia.

13 center imageFrom top: Holden Cruze hatch, Holden Commodore Sportwagon, Holden Viva wagon, Opel Astra Sports Tourer.

But GoAuto understands the wagon is at least 18 months away, with GM focusing on bedding down the current sedan and forthcoming hatch before introducing a new variant.

The Cruze has been a global success story for GM, becoming Chevrolet’s biggest-selling passenger car in the US last month, with 25,160 sales – 180 per cent more than the April 2010 sales of the car it replaced, the Cobalt.

Mr Devereux described the Cruze an “an unmitigated success in this market and globally”.

He said Cruze had been the third best-selling passenger car in Australia last month, giving Holden two of the top three cars in the sales rankings for the month.

“Now with the new engine range and sports models (SRi and SRi-V) plus the hatch – which we are very, very proud of – we will just go from strength to strength, I believe,” he said.

Mr Devereux said he had been driving a Cruze for the past six weeks – the first Holden MD to drive a small car for such a long period.

“I think it is a spectacular car and I am proud to drive it, and for the features it has, you can see why small cars are the largest segment in this country,” he said.

Mr Devereux declined to comment on rival Ford’s plans to cancel local production plans for its Focus small car, diplomatically saying Ford offered a fine range of vehicles in Australia.

But he added: “In Adelaide we make the best selling and the third best selling cars in this country.

“I am not sure if we had Nostradamus working for us back then, to predict how good Cruze would become, but if you had to pick two vehicles to build in this country, I am not sure you could pick two better cars.” Mr Devereux said he was often asked if Cruze would overtake Commodore one day.

“I say, whatever Australians want to buy we will sell it,” he said. “If Cruze sells more than Commodore some day, so be it.” A Cruze wagon is expected to shift the balance even further towards the smaller range, offering a cheaper and more fuel-efficient alternative to the Commodore Sportwagon, which has been popular with private and fleet buyers alike.

A Cruze wagon would also open up new doors with fleet buyers, qualifying for Tier 2 (imported) list of the federal government’s approved cars for government departments and agencies.

The Cruze would be the only small wagon on the list, unless Ford or Toyota decide to import a similar version of their Focus and Corolla ranges.

The Cruze wagon follows in the footsteps of the Holden Astra and Viva wagons. The latter was discontinued in May 2009, while the former lasted until March 2010.

In Europe, GM sister brands Opel and Vauxhall introduced the wagon version of the new Astra – called Sports Tourer – late last year after revealing it at the Paris motor show.

Built on the same Delta II platform as the Cruze, that German-engineered wagon is likely to provide at least some engineering shortcuts for the Cruze variant.

Like its sedan and hatch counterparts, the Astra Sports Tourer uses GM’s sports-oriented Watts link rear-end, that is also offered on the sportier Cruzes made by Holden.

It is unclear if the Astra wagon will make the trip to Australia when the European-built small car returns to this market under Opel badges as a premium range in 2012.

Only three manufacturers offer small station wagons currently in Australia – Hyundai’s i30cw (priced from $22,090), the Volkswagen Golf Wagon (from $26,990) and the Peugeot 308 Touring (from $34,490).

Mr Devereux said Cruze was now the most fuel-efficient car built in Australia, but he indicated that Holden would not rest on its laurels in this regard.

“We will continue to look at alternative fuel possibilities for Cruze going forward,” he said.

However, he appeared to rule out an early release of an LPG-capable version, saying: “I am not sure it makes sense.

“We have a pretty profile of fuel efficiency – a fantastic diesel with at 5.6 litres per 100km for the manual version – the most fuel-efficient car built in Australia better than the Camry Hybrid.

“Cruze is a really good value proposition from a size and fuel efficiency standpoint. And we are pretty comfortable about where we are with that.” When it announced local production of the Cruze in late 2008, Holden said it would examine alternative fuel solutions such as LPG, CNG, ethanol and hybrid powertrains.

GoAuto understands that some engineering work has been done on an LPG conversion for the Cruze and that it hasn’t been ruled out entirely, rather put to the back burner behind other priorities.

Year to date, the sedan-only Holden Cruze has accounted from 10,028 Holden sales, up 12.3 per cent on last year.

It is the third best selling small car behind the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, but in April it out-sold the ageing Toyota champ to slip into second place for the month.

The arrival of the Cruze hatch in the fourth quarter of the year is expected to propel the locally made car to another level, as hatchbacks are the most popular body style in the small car market.

A wagon would only ever be a niche model, but if Holden believes the Cruze is a chance to become the top selling car in Australia, it is likely to tick all the boxes to make it happen.

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