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Exclusive: Holden vents future links with Buick

It’s a sign: Holden’s camouflaged Series II Commodore appears to have Buick-style vents on the bonnet.

A little bit of Buick appears on the bonnet of Holden’s last Commodore SS


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5 May 2015

WHAT appear to be two little vents on the bonnet of the upcoming VF Series II Commodore might be a hint of Buick in the future of Holden’s product line-up.

Called “ventiports” in Buick jargon, the vents – just ahead of the A-pillars – are new to Holden, but have been a design signature of many Buicks dating back to the 1940s.

Holden’s engineers have disguised the vents on development mules for the Commodore and its American Chevrolet SS export sibling as they work on the VF Series II update due in showrooms late this year.

Appearing as lumps under the camouflage, the vents might be a design device to help smooth the transition from the current Australian-designed, Chevrolet-oriented Commodore to the next-generation imported model that might be more aligned with Buick’s design language.

The next Commodore is expected to share the styling and underpinnings of the new-generation Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and its Buick Regal clone that are due out in Europe and the United States in the second half of 2017, just as Holden closes its Australian factories.

This would put the 2018MY Commodore, Insignia and Regal all on the same development footing, using GM’s new front-/all-wheel-drive E2XX architecture.

The design project is being led by Opel head designer Mark Adams in Germany, using Opel’s 2013 Monza show car as inspiration.

Before signing on with Opel, British-born Mr Adams headed up design for Buick which, while important in North America, is GM’s key brand in China where Shanghai GM sold 111,245 Regals last year – more than Europe’s combined Opel/Vauxhall Insignia sales (92,694) in 2014.

This rise of Buick in China means GM’s oldest brand will have a big say on design themes for models shared with both Opel and Holden. If Shanghai GM wants bonnet vents like those on its current Regal – even if they are fake – it is likely to get them.

Apart from Insignia and its clones, the Opel team in Russelsheim will spawn a large SUV based on the same E2XX platform.

This will be sold globally under the Opel, Vauxhall, Buick and Holden badges in line with GM’s strategy to marry all four of these brands in one global mid-level operation with shared products, sitting between Chevrolet and Cadillac.

In North America, this SUV is expected to replace the Buick Enclave, and will be aimed at rivals such as the Ford Edge global SUV – the replacement for the Melbourne-built Ford Territory in the Australian market – and others such as the Toyota Kluger, Nissan Pathfinder and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Naturally, Holden would love to have a competitor for these vehicles in Australia where GM’s only large off-roader is the heavy-duty, ute-based Colorado 7.

In Holden’s range, the Enclave could sit above the Holden Captiva replacement that GoAuto believes is likely to be based on the new mid-sized Buick Envision that is already on sale in China and about to hit the streets of North America.

And in turn, the Envision could sit above the Mokka, the compact SUV that was once earmarked for launch in Australia under its original Opel branding until GM pulled the pin on that venture.

The Korean-built Mokka is expected to replace the related Chevrolet-sourced Trax in the Holden line-up, completing the transition to the Opel/Buick SUV line.

Holden’s design studio in Melbourne is heavily involved in the Buick-Opel-Holden product strategy, as evidenced by the Holden-designed Buick Avenir large car concept revealed at the Detroit motor show in January and shown again at the recent Shanghai auto show.

As GM Australia design director Richard Ferlazzo told GoAuto in March, the Australian design team will have a hand in the Commodore replacement project, and while he declined to divulge any specific information about the car, he commented: “It’s fair to say it is a Commodore.”

While the current Insignia and Regal twins share both sheetmetal and an assembly line in Germany, the most obvious difference is the grille, with Buick adopting its traditional “waterfall” look for its version. This is likely to remain, for Buick at least.

At 4831mm long and 1877mm wide, the current Insignia/Regal is 135mm shorter and 21mm narrower than the VF Commodore, but that can change on the new platform.

The all-new Chevrolet Malibu for North America – also built on the new E2XX platform – is said to be 99mm longer in the wheelbase than before.

The one-sized larger Buick LaCrosse – also currently based on the Epsilon front-drive platform – is 5001mm long and 1857mm wide, making it about the same size as Holden’s long-wheelbase Caprice.

A hot prospect for a Buick/Holden flagship sedan is a production version of the Avenir large car that has had observers swooning at motor shows this year.

Although probably quite expensive, it would give Holden a rear-wheel-drive, Australian-designed large car with a choice of big-bore engines to keep traditional Holden sedan buyers happy.

However, a question mark remains over the production potential for Avenir, which is said to be based on GM’s new aluminium-intensive Omega architecture.

Asked at the Shanghai auto show about Avenir’s future, GM executive vice-president of global product development and former Holden chairman Mark Reuss said: “We are looking at that as a potential architecture for a car like that, but at the moment, we don’t have any plans.”

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