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Geneva show: Holden designing new Opel

Future Opel: Holden will have a hand in the design direction of future GM models.

Opel confirms Holden hand in new model set for European launch by 2013

Opel logo2 Mar 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

FRESH from designing the five-door Cruze hatchback for international markets, Holden Design is penning one of three new aspirational models to debut under Opel badges in Europe – and probably Australia – by 2013.

The Australian design connection was revealed by Opel vice-president of corporate and product planning Frank Weber at yesterday’s Geneva motor show opening, where he gave Australian motoring journalists a glimpse of new-model plans for the German-based subsidiary of General Motors over the next two years.

General Motors is planning to roll out the Opel range across Australia under its own brand name in 2012, as a premium alternative to the Holden range.

Mr Weber said Opel would launch in Australia with its core models – the Corsa light car, Astra small car and Insignia medium car – before spreading into a broader model range with some of Opel's wide range of niche models.

He said that in Europe, those Opel niche models would be expanded over the next two years with an additional three vehicles coming on stream, including a hot Astra GTC coupe, a small SUV codenamed Junior and an all-new four-seat cabriolet.

52 center imageLeft: Opel vice-president of corporate and product planning Frank Weber. Bottom: 2005 Holden Tigra convertible.

Mr Weber did not rule out a hard-top coupe version of the cabriolet, as a form of latter-day Calibra, saying there was still plenty of desire for such a model in Europe.

“We have not announced (it) officially, but a car like this could make sense,” he said.

Asked if Holden had a hand in the design of any of these up-coming models, Mr Weber said: “As you know, our design operation is global. And I think there is one car (by Holden) that is going to be an Opel in the future.”

Asked if that car was the cabrio/coupe, Mr Weber shrugged and smiled.

General Motors vice-president of design Ed Welburn told GoAuto at Geneva that he had recently visited Holden's design studio at Fishermens Bend in Melbourne to view projects underway there.

He said the Holden design team was extremely busy on a range of projects, including the next-generation Commodore.

But he added that Holden was also working on global projects for GM – an apparent reference to jobs such as the new Opel.

GoAuto understands the Astra GTC – a three-door hatchback with a blistering turbocharged four-cylinder engine – is likely to make its debut at the Frankfurt motor show later this year as a 2012 model.

Mr Weber said a small, Corsa-based 'Junior' SUV would arrive in 2013 with 2WD and AWD variants, available in both left- and right-hand drive, to suit Opel's British sister brand, Vauxhall.

Describing it as “like a Meriva, but an SUV” - a reference to Opel's small Corsa-based people-mover – Mr Weber declined to be drawn on whether this model would make it to Australia, but said it would include a full-electric powertrain variant.

Mr Weber said the cabriolet would replace the Astra convertible, saying: “There is one spot in the portfolio.”

He indicated that simple chop-top convertibles of existing models had seen their day, even though rival Volkswagen has just announced the return of the Golf Cabriolet.

“When you take a base compact car and turn it into a convertible it has all sorts of limitations to it,” he said. “I think you could do it in the past, but not now – they sort of get stuck in between.

“I think it takes a car that is extremely well styled and presents as a whole package – that is something that you want.”

Although Mr Weber refused to compare the new Opel convertible with others such as the VW Eos or Peugeot 308 CC, he said the Opel cabrio would “go beyond what you currently know, Astra Convertible”, indicating it would be bigger than Astra with a unique body style.

“If you do four seats, and you are spending that money for open air, I think the car should be positioned between Astra and mid-sized (models),” he said. “It is not just an Astra or Insignia convertible.”

However, he indicated that the new convertible would retain the folding metal roof of the current Astra Convertible, adding that it would go into production in late 2012.

“So 2013 will become a very interesting and emotional year for us,” he said. “Convertible is coming, Junior is coming, GTC will already be there, so in 2013, all the things are happening to emotionalise and stimulate the brand.”

The Holden-designed Chevrolet Cruze hatch – one of several models from the Australian design studio in recent years – made its formal debut on the Chevrolet stand at Geneva today.

Alongside it were two other vehicles with a strong Australian connection – the Camaro Convertble and Chevrolet Aveo (Barina), which were both being previewed ahead of their European launches.

Like its coupe twin, the topless Camaro was engineered and designed in Australia, while the Aveo's design was largely done by an Australian designer at GM’s Korean design base.

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