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Epica to be axed

Bye bye: The Epica nameplate will be dropped when the model is retired next year.

Holden admits Epica is not the car to tackle Camry as Opel-based replacement looms

11 Jan 2011


HOLDEN will replace the disappointing Epica as early as next year as it undertakes its most ambitious tilt at the medium car market – and the dominant Toyota Camry – since the ill-fated Australian-built JS Vectra of the late 1990s.

The next-generation Epica replacement, due from 2012, will be built on GM’s global Epsilon II platform that underpins the Opel Insignia, Buick Regal, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Malibu and even the second-generation Saab 9-5 II due out in Australia soon.

It is expected to give Holden a massive boost in what the company openly acknowledges is one of its weakest efforts in recent memory.

Like the Epica, production of the new model for Australia is most likely to come from GM DAT in South Korea, giving Holden a pricing edge against the Japanese-made Mazda6 and Belgian-built Ford Mondeo.

13 center imageFrom top: Chevrolet Malibu, Buick LaCrosse, Saab 9-5.

However, company sources insist that the newcomer will be two full generations ahead of the existing mid-sized Holden.

Chairman and MD Mike Devereux acknowledged that packaging mistakes and inadequate engine options have undermined the Epica’s potential in Australia, despite a handy price advantage over most competitors.

“The Epica is not competing as well as it should be with Camrys and Accords and Mondeos and cars like that,” said Mr Devereux.

“It was never intended to, and it hasn’t been engineered to, and it hasn’t been price-pointed to.

“We need to get a car that competes with the Camry – and the Epica is not the car.”

Asked if the Opel Insignia is the car for Holden, Mr Devereux dismissed it on cost grounds, but did reveal that a close relation is being developed as the Epica replacement.

“The Insignia is at a different price point – and at a higher price,” he said.

“But if you look at the Buick Regal, that’s a short-wheelbase Epsilon (platform) and the Buick LaCrosse is a long-wheelbase Epsilon, in much the same way we have VE Commodores and Caprices. So the platform stretches, to make longer and shorter vehicles.

“We will have a good short-wheelbase Epsilon-based Camry competitor coming at some point.”

Holden will not confirm timing, but the car is expected to be no more than two years away from dealerships.

Mr Devereux revealed that the newcomer would not be called Epica in Australia.

“I would say it would be unintelligent to call it an Epica simply because it isn’t at all,” he said.

“Epica can’t compete with Camry. We don’t even sell a four-cylinder petrol version of it and that’s what people want.”

Holden has offered a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel since 2008 to supplement the slow-selling 2.0-litre in-line six-cylinder model that betrays the Epica’s 1997 Daewoo Leganza/Magnus origins.

Holden has struggled to make any impact with Epica since its 2007 launch in Australia, barely managing a few hundred sales per month.

Mr Devereux admitted it was Holden’s weakest performer, but believes that Holden will be “stronger than almost any other GM brand” once the new model arrives.

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