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Next Commodore gets Holden design input

Holden on: GM’s Australian design studio is working on the look of the 2017 Commodore, but it will be the first version of the car to be built in another country.

Holden’s Australian design studio working on the next-generation Commodore

Holden logo9 Mar 2015


GENERAL Motors’ Australian design centre is playing a significant role in shaping the next-generation Commodore large car due for release at the end of 2017, despite the Port Melbourne-based centre losing its capability as a primary studio in conjunction with Holden’s exit from local manufacturing.

Speaking with GoAuto at the opening of the ‘Shifting Gear’ exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria last week, General Motors Australia design director Richard Ferlazzo said the local studio would “absolutely” be involved in shaping the first fully imported Commodore.

“It’s how the whole global system works,” he said. “Because we are a major player … we work very closely with the other studios. I can’t tell you too much about that vehicle of course, but fair to say it is a Commodore.”

Mr Ferlazzo would not specify which General Motors design studio is leading the still-secret Commodore project, however GoAuto understands Detroit is the designated ‘homeroom’.

He admitted that it was a “challenge” dealing with the fact that Holden no longer had ownership of the model in terms of design, engineering and production, but added that were many examples of shared development over the Commodore’s 36-year history.

“The early Commodores were modified Opels, from the (original) VB and then by the time they got to VH (1981) it was more localised, and likewise we adapted the VN from another version and the VT was loosely based on another Opel,” he said.

“But that is part of the global process – that you don’t have to reinvent everything if there is an applicable solution.

“Pride and sentiment has a place but this is a business. It then allows us to remove all of the donkey work. Some of the engineering work is already done, why replicate that?”

13 center imageLeft: General Motors Australia design director Richard Ferlazzo.Mr Ferlazzo said the fact that the 2006 VE Commodore and Chevrolet Camaro were designed and developed in Australia proved the capabilities of the Melbourne-based design and engineering teams.

But the economics of the US auto giant’s business have ultimately counted against the Australian operations.

“VE was the first ground-up Holden since HQ. So we were spoiled there and it was a damned good car and that’s why we had great export opportunities, but you know, the way things have transpired it’s not viable,” he said.

“But equally, we designed and engineered the Camaro for North America. That’s a big one to give up. That is a blue-blooded American pony car, but it says a lot about their faith in our ability to take an icon like that and execute it. It’s a big call.” Holden confirmed in January that customer feedback had prompted it to retain the Commodore nameplate for the redesigned large car, which will be the first iteration to be produced offshore following the closure of the company’s Australian manufacturing operations in late 2017.

The underpinnings of the 2017 Commodore are yet to be made official, but two possibilities are firming.

One is the full-sized rear-wheel-drive Omega platform that will form the basis of the Cadillac CT6 and potentially a production version of the Australian-designed Buick Avenir concept from this year’s Detroit motor show.

The other option is a front- or all-wheel-drive Commodore based on the next-generation Epsilon platform, dubbed E2XX, which will spawn a number of GM mid-size and large models including the next Opel Insignia and Chevrolet Malibu.

In May last year, GM International Operations reversed an earlier decision to shut all Holden engineering programs, confirming that it will retain the Lang Lang proving ground in country Victoria and a scaled-down engineering team.

Holden’s design studio will continue to work on small and large projects alike for all brands in GM’s global portfolio.

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