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Next Holden Commodore to get overseas platform

Clay feat: Holden clay modelers – seen here working on the new VF Commodore in its development stages – have already moved on to the next model due in 2017.

GM Holden boss confirms Holden is already working on clay model for 2017 Commodore

10 Feb 2013

HOLDEN Design is already working on a clay model of a ‘design theme’ for the all-new next-generation Commodore that, unlike the just-revealed 2013 VF Commodore, will be based on an overseas-derived platform.

Set to go into production alongside the next-generation Cruze at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia from about 2017, the ‘VJ’ large car will share its underpinnings – and perhaps outer shell – with other cars in the General Motors world.

Although most pundits believe the switch to an architecture developed by another arm of GM will also mean a switch from traditional rear-wheel drive to front/all-wheel drive, a Holden insider told GoAuto: “Don’t rule out a Chevrolet rear-drive platform.”

The existence of the clay styling ‘buck’ at Holden Design’s Melbourne studios was revealed today by GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux after he lifted the lid on the new locally developed VF Commodore at a media event at Melbourne’s Docklands Studios.

He confirmed that the VF – a major reworking of the current VE range – would be the last Commodore built on the Australian-developed Zeta rear-drive platform that also underpins the Chevrolet Camaro and – from later this year – the VF-based Chevrolet SS Performance.

Mr Devereux’s revelation that work was already underway on the clay model of the next Commodore to replace the VF startled assembled Holden designers who had been careful not to spill details of the still-secret ‘VJ’, as it has been dubbed, to the flock of journalists hungry for tidbits of the car.

 center imageHolden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux and Holden design director Andrew Smith with the new VF Commodore.

The Canadian-born Holden chief said his reference on Friday to GM’s involvement in the next Commodore had been extrapolated by some journalists to mean that Holden would not have its usual design and engineering input into the next Commodore.

“Yeah, we are going to be using a global architecture that, yes, we did not create in Australia,” he said.

“I said to the media the other day that if they had peeked around the corner in our design studio, they would have seen a clay model of the theme for the very next Commodore. So yes our team is involved.”

On Friday, Holden staged a motoring media preview of the new VF Commodore at Holden Design’s high-security studios, with company staff making sure journalists did not wander into off-limits areas.

A key word in Mr Devereux’s statement today is “theme”, which in GM jargon means an early rendering or a pitch for a design job within GM, rather than the final “execution”.

A Holden designer commented that the design, even though it is at the clay model stage, was “not over the line yet”, meaning final approval was still pending.

However, executive director of GM International Operations design Mike Simcoe told GoAuto on Friday that one ‘theme’ done by Holden recently was a good chance of winning approval for development as a global production model.

Almost certainly, the Holden ‘theme’ for the next Commodore will be up against similar rough designs from GM studios all around the world, especially as this model is again likely to be shared with Chevrolet in North America, the Middle East and South Africa.

However, if the design has reached clay-model stage, it is well past the sketch point.

Holden’s role in the design might range from producing a specific Commodore version of a global design for Holden customers, or a variant of the model – like the Sportwagon – through to executing the entire design of the new large car regardless of which GM design studio in its global empire comes up with the winning theme.

GM vice-president of global design Ed Welburn visited Holden in Australia recently to drive VF Commodore and Chevrolet SS Performance prototypes at the Lang Lang proving ground, and he would almost certainly have taken time out to look over ‘VJ’ design work.

Holden engineering’s role in the ‘VJ’ Commodore is unclear, as Mr Devereux ruled out a replacement of the Zeta architecture developed by Holden for the VE and derivatives.

However, Mr Devereux and his team have been at pains to point out that the role of Commodore has changed in Australia, with the new VF focused squarely on a narrower band of potential buyers who want a well-equipped, high-performing large car.

In the US, the Chev SS will be aimed at an even narrower target market, essentially being sold as a five-seat, four-door alternative to the Camaro.

While numbers will be relatively small, the profile will be high, carrying GM’s flag in the huge NASCAR racing series from next month.

It seems unlikely that GM North America, whose president is former Holden boss Mark Reuss, would spend millions of dollars launching the new VF Commodore-based, rear-drive Chevrolet SS Performance nameplate in the United States if it was going to be a dead end in less than four years.

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