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Exclusive: Holden working on Colorado revamp

Workhorse: A Colorado has been spotted going through a series of tests at the Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria.

Colorado gets Holden engineering treatment in latest project for General Motors

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Holden logo24 Feb 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

HOLDEN engineers have been putting General Motors’ Colorado through secret towing, handling and load tests at the Lang Lang proving ground and on public roads in regional Victoria in an apparent development project for a future version of the one-tonne light truck.

Although the current Colorado was originally designed and engineered in South America by GM do Brasil, the Australian team clearly has been given a role in devising improvements to the pick-up that has emerged as a sales winner for the American auto giant, especially in North America where it was launched to wide acclaim as the mid-sized Chevrolet Colorado last year.

The focus on Colorado comes as major rivals Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi are warming up to release their all-new HiLux, Navara and Triton utes respectively in Australia this year, while Ford and Mazda have facelifts in the pipeline for the Ranger and BT-50.

The Ranger and related Everest SUV are key models in Ford’s Australian design and engineering portfolio in an operation that is fast becoming Australia’s biggest.

Although Holden’s engineering operation is being scaled back in line with GM’s decision to axe Holden manufacturing in 2017, the remaining engineers have been busy with a range of projects, including ongoing contract development of Opel cars and the Chevrolet/Holden Trax/Tracker mini SUV and its Opel equivalent, the Mokka.

GoAuto understands most of the Colorado work has been going on behind secure fences at Lang Lang in South Gippsland, but our photographer snapped a test mule parked outside a Holden dealership in rural Victoria.

Although the undisguised Colorado test vehicle looks like a regular Holden-badged production ute turned out by the Thai factory, our observer noted white marks accompanied by numbers on the rear chassis rails, visible under the rear wheelarches.

These could indicate major work to the Colorado’s rear end or its load-bearing structure on the GMT31XX architecture.

Colorado already boasts a class-equalling 3500kg braked towing capability and one-tonne payload capacity, so the work might relate to lifting those capacities to compete with next-generation rivals and/or improving handling under load, even with towing stability control.

The current Colorado has been on the Australian market since June 2012. Last year it was one of the bright spots for Holden, swimming against the tide to win an extra five per cent of sales while overall Holden sales fell about five per cent.

This performance was aided by Colorado’s first minor update that delivered a softer ride and more luxurious cabin interior in November.

While work now being done by Holden engineers is most likely destined for that major facelift due in 2016 or 2017, another possibility is that Holden has undertaken preliminary work for an all-new Colorado platform that GM has committed to developing with Japanese partner Isuzu.

As GoAuto reported last year, that model is still some years away, but was signed off by senior executives from both companies in the middle of last year after at least year of discussion. The vehicle will be built in Thailand, under Colorado and Isuzu D-Max guises.

Interestingly, GM stated publicly that this next Colorado will not be sold in North America, even though the current Chevrolet model has shot up the sales charts to become the number two mid-size pick up, ahead of the Toyota Tacoma and second only to Nissan’s Frontier.

The current American Colorado – named Motor Trend 2014 Truck of the Year in December – is built at GM’s Wentzville plant in Missouri where GM also turns out a GMC version, the Canyon.

The first pick-up in its class to get a diesel engine in the US and the only one of its size from a Big Three Detroit manufacturer, the Colorado has been a major contributor to soaring pick-up sales for GM. In December, sales of Chevrolet trucks were up 43 per cent.

As GM is unlikely to throw away such a handy contributor, it seems GM North America has another replacement in mind once the current model runs its course.

GM Brazil makes its own version of Colorado, called Chevrolet S10, at its own plant for South America and Mexico, but it is unclear if it will be the “homeroom” for the new-generation GM-Isuzu model or instead look to America for a partner in a replacement.

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