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HSV sweats on GM Europe sale

Just out: The Vauxhall Insignia VRX all-wheel-drive turbo flagship is on the cards for HSV - new GM Europe owners permitting.

Hot Euro VXR import plans clouded by Vauxhall/Opel ownership switch

8 Jul 2009

HOLDEN Special Vehicle’s aspirations to add the latest hot European contender to its Australian range alongside its locally-made V8 E Series models have been clouded by the imminent sale of GM Europe.

The Melbourne-based, Tom Walkinshaw-owned company is awaiting the outcome of talks between General Motors and potential suitors – led by parts-maker Magna International and Chinese car company Beijing Auto – for the sale of GM’s European operations before looking to lock in a business case to import the just-released mid-sized all-wheel drive turbo V6 Insignia VXR.

HSV hopes to be in a position to announce its European import plans at the media launch for its locally made E Series 2 midlife facelift in early September, by which time the GM Europe ownership issue should be well settled.

HSV’s group manager, external affairs Simon Frost told GoAuto: “We hope to say a bit more about those products at that time, but our plans going forward are clouded a bit by the ownership issue.

“I don’t think any final decisions have been made yet. Things are still being worked through with various contacts we have at Vauxhall.

“But if it ends up that they are not part of our world, it makes it very difficult to go down that path.”

 center imageFrom top: Vauxhall Insignia VXR sedan, VXR wagon and Vauxhall Astra.

HSV’s big sister, GM Holden, is also looking to import the Insignia as a premium mid-sizer – a move that would make it easier for HSV to bring in the VXR variant, as the two companies could tag team on Australian Design Rule certification and shipping and parts arrangements for their combined volumes.

The Insignia VXR – the performance flagship of the mid-size replacement for the Vectra in Europe – went on sale this week in the UK and Europe after making its public debut at England’s Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend.

Known as the Insignia OPC in continental Europe, the hottest Insignia packs 239kW of power and 435Nm of torque from its Holden-made 2.8-litre V6, which is boosted by a twin-scroll turbocharger. This powerplant is essentially the same engine that Saab uses in its V6 models.

Available in both sedan and wagon guises, the Insignia VXR can race from zero to 100km/h in six seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h.

In the Vauxhall range, it is only out-performed by the HSV-made 6.2-litre V8 Vauxhall VXR8. Insignia prices start at £30,995 ($A63,417), slipping under the VXR8’s £35,275 ($A72,175) entry pricetag by £4280 ($A8757).

If it makes it to Australia, the German-built Insignia VXR will line up beside the European-built, Astra-based 177kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo HSV VRX, which is due to be superseded in Europe in 2011 – up to two years after the new sixth-generation Astra cooking model goes on sale this year in the UK and Europe.

The future of HSV’s Astra VXR also may depend on the outcome of the GM Europe sale, not to mention Holden’s possible axing of Astra to concentrate its small-car marketing efforts on its Korean-built Cruze and, from next year, locally made small car.

Without a Holden base model, supported by Holden’s large-volume import operation, it might get all too hard for the small numbers required by HSV.

Instead, a turbo variant of the Holden-built small car might be an attractive alternative.

In Europe, the new Astra VXR again will be based on the yet-to-released three-door Astra Sport Hatch, with a lower roofline and what UK’s Autocar describes as “a far more outlandish shape” than the current three-door model.

Despite the ownership conundrum, Vauxhall/Opel are forging ahead with the production launch of the mainstream Astra this year, announcing that the right-hand-drive five-door hatch for the UK will be built at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant in northern England.

Canadian-owned Magna remains the favourite to take over GM Europe, which runs both Opel and Vauxhall.

GM has set a deadline of July 15 for final bids, and a decision is expected to be made quickly after that.

Read more:

First look: HSV’s turbocharged Insignia mid-sizer

First look: Insignia wagon joins sedan, hatch

Insignia set for Oz

HSV confirms E Series 2

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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