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Holden Commodore-after-next shapes up as RWD

Looking forward: Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux is a fan of rear-wheel-drive for Commodore.

Holden ponders revolutionary 2020s Commodore ahead of 2015 VE-based re-body

Holden logo11 Jan 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

GM HOLDEN has revealed that a decision on the generation-after-next Commodore – due from 2018 – will have to be made within the next 12 months or so, as the company moves forward with its family car options into the 2020s.

The local GM subsidiary has also indicated it is pushing for a rear-wheel-drive design for that Commodore, despite some moves within GM to promote a front-wheel-drive switch for the big Holden.

Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux told GoAuto on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit: “We have the best selling car in a very important market.

“And we will do everything we can to make sure we design ‘a Commodore’ that is right for Australia.

“The first rule for us is, no matter what we do long term (seven, eight or nine years from now), we have to make sure that the Commodore is a Commodore. And what that means is that, in about a year from now, our team has to figure that out.

“And it sucks that you have to make such a long call so far in advanced on what that architecture will be. And in the next 12 months we will have to make that sort of call.” Although nobody at Holden would comment, it appears that rear-wheel drive (RWD) is poised to continue in the Commodore if the boss gets his way, as General Motors aims to retain Holden’s expertise in the field.

“The great thing about (today’s RWD Commodore) is that if you look at where that front axle is, and the length of the hood, and the space for some jewellery between the door and wheel arches … its just great proportions. It looks better. Cars like that just look better,” Mr Devereux said.

13 center imageFrom top: Holden Commodore production, Chevrolet Camaro and GM vice president for design Edward Welburn.

Before the 2018 Commodore happens, however, expect to see a rebodied version of the current-generation version in showrooms by 2015, employing the existing Zeta RWD platform that dates back to the VE of 2006, but boasting evolutionary new styling, completely revamped interiors, and significant powertrain updates.

Think of how Volkswagen has updated the current Golf and upcoming Passat as extensive reskins of their immediate predecessors to see how Holden is poised to keep its Billion Dollar Baby fresh.

A concerted weight loss program to help improve fuel consumption and lower emissions using chassis components like aluminium will also probably feature, though steel sheetmetal will again be employed on the grounds of lower cost.

Neither Mr Devereux nor anybody else at GM Holden would comment on what the Commodore of next decade would be.

However, he did play down rumours concerning the eventual adoption of GM’s all-new Alpha platform that is set to underpin a host of future Cadillac models beginning with the 2012 ATS full-sized luxury sedan, suggesting instead that there is still many years ahead for the Zeta platform.

Mr Devereux cited high costs associated with the exotic construction materials required to build what GM sees as its most serious assault on the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-class and Audi A6 segment, which would put overwhelming pricing pressures on a mainstream car like the Commodore.

The Alpha’s sizing, too, is not in keeping with the width Australian consumers expect from a full-sized family car, since the ATS’ chassis railings are said to be significantly narrower than the existing Commodore’s.

“There are obviously options for us to explore … but there are also issues like size Zeta is a larger architecture than Alpha, and that has its advantages and disadvantages,” he said.

Asked if excessive mass may mar the Zeta’s chances in the future, Mr Devereux explained that lighter materials have already been looked at for future applications.

“Weight is not as much (of a problem) as you might think when you start factoring in higher-tech materials that we can apply to Zeta in the new car and in the longer term.

“And there are things you can do, obviously to the architecture itself as well as to the panels that hang off.” Meanwhile, GM vice president for design, Edward Welburn, also weighed in on the Zeta’s future within Holden and GM globally at the company’s pre-NAIAS preview night, suggesting to GoAuto that a number of new cars using it might still be in the pipeline.

“There might be some cars or concepts coming from Holden that use Zeta … and this does not necessarily mean the need for any or all of these vehicles to be built or sold by Holden in Australia,” he said.

“Sure. (Front wheel drive) can be done (in a car the size of the Commodore) with Holden’s proportions.

“But having Mike (Simcoe) back at Holden (as GM’s executive director of international operations design) will help Holden retain the (current) Commodore’s big car look and proportions moving forward.” Mr Welburn also pointed to the existing relationship with the Chevrolet Camaro keeping the Commodore in good stead as both models move towards their next-generation outcomes, especially as the Holden-engineered and production-designed ‘pony car’ has toppled the Ford Mustang in sales for the first time since the mid 1980s.

“The Camaro as I see it will never be front-wheel drive,” he said.

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