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Future models - Holden

Holden back in Opel frame of mind

Open for business: The Cascada was previously destined for Australia as an Opel, but is now one of three new models to arrive wearing Holden badges.

Cascada rag-top and sporty Astra, Insignia models here with Holden badges in 2015

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Holden logo1 May 2014

HOLDEN will play its part in keeping General Motors’ production facilities in Europe ticking over while expanding its own product range with Opel models sold here under the lion brand, starting in the first half of next year with the Cascada convertible, Astra three-door hatch and Insignia mid-size sedan.

The Astra nameplate in particular has performed well in the past with a Holden badge, however there are no moves at this stage for the European small car to become a volume-selling proposition before the locally built Cruze becomes a casualty of GM’s decision to close its Australian manufacturing operations in 2017.

Announcing Opel’s return to Australia (as a Holden) after it pulled out last August after only a year on sale as a standalone brand, GM International Operations president Stefan Jacoby said the company was determined to offer its Australian and New Zealand customers “the best possible products that we can source from our global operations, as we build a strong future for Holden”.

“It’s critical we focus on consumer and market-driven product strategies that enable global scale while engaging customers at a local-market level,” he said.

“The Astra, Cascada and Insignia are proof positive of our strategy.”

The Cascada will come to Australia for the first time after its launch was abandoned when GM pulled the pin on its Opel operations in Australia last August.

As was the case when it was being prepared for sale here as an Opel, the four-seater soft-top will be offered with a new 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

It should arrive here priced from less than $40,000, and equipped with a high level of standard equipment.

As GoAuto reported from our first drive in Europe last year, two trim levels were under consideration for Australia – the base ‘Edition’ and higher-spec ‘Cosmo’ – with standard features across the range running to 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, key-operated electric roof, electric heated front sports seats that automatically slide forward to give access to the rear seats, and a powered front seatbelt extender.

The Cosmo was to add satellite navigation, active front cornering lights, a front-mounted camera, adaptive chassis controls, Nappa leather upholstery and automated parking.

The Astra, meanwhile, will return to Australia as a three-door hatch in both GTC and VXR guise.

The GTC will no longer offer a 1.4-litre turbo-four engine, with Holden going it alone with the new 125kW 1.6-litre turbo four (and six-speed manual/auto options) as found in the Cascada – and which had just entered the previous Opel GTC Sport line in auto form before the brand was disbanded.

The 1.6 GTC was previously priced from $34,990, with the auto/upgraded engine combo adding $2000.

Previously sold here as the Opel Astra OPC priced from $42,990, the Holden Astra VXR ups the ante over GTC with the familiar 206kW 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox only.

Similarly, the Opel Insignia OPC (previously priced from $59,900) returns with a VXR badge but has the same attention-grabbing performance credentials based around a 239kW 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 – an engine produced at Holden’s doomed engine plant in Melbourne, which will close down in conjunction with the rest of the Australian car-making business.

The go-fast Insignia drives all four wheels through a standard six-speed automatic gearbox.

GM Holden chairman and managing director Gerry Dorizas, who last month stressed that the company needed to refocus on its imported models and become a “multinational” brand – all with aim of achieving market leadership by 2020 – said today that the “commitment to performance and quality evident in the three Europe-sourced models aligned with Holden’s heritage and brand”.

“Astra, Cascada and Insignia will be niche vehicles in terms of volume for our company,” he said.

“(But) their performance credentials and premium execution are a perfect match for Holden and will provide yet more fantastic choice for our customers.

“We are building a strong future for Holden by focusing on our customers, our dealers, our employees and our products.”

There is no word yet on whether other models such as the light-sized Corsa OPC will return, although more product announcements are to be made in due course.

The Zafira Tourer people-mover and Mokka city SUV were on the agenda for sale here in the Opel stable, but are not anticipated to arrive here with Holden given factors such as the Zafira’s poor previous sales performance and the Mokka’s closeness to the Holden Trax.

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