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Detroit show: Americans say 'Come in Crewman'

Stretched genes: Aussie Commodore crewman meets US pick-up. DIGITAL IMAGE: Chris Harris

A new VE model is about to emerge - a dual-cab ute designed with the USA top of mind

21 Jan 2008


GENERAL Motors product czar Bob Lutz has revealed that GM is set to display a VE-based SUV in the form of a four-door utility.

Speaking to Australian media at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, Mr Lutz hinted that it might herald the unexpected return of the Crewman dual-cab ute in Australia, not to mention a new export opportunity to the United States for Holden.

“We will have a ute concept at the NY show, but that is going to be badged GMC,” he said. “That is a global design study – and a very interesting study in that it is a GMC tough-looking four-door ute that could then obviously be badged as a Holden for Australia.” In the style of the old VY/VZ Crewman – but beefed up to look more like a US-style pick-up truck – the as-yet unnamed concept vehicle, which is understood to have been designed in Melbourne, will debut at the upcoming New York International Auto Show in March.

“It is very tough looking, with a sport-utility look that is very low, very aggressive looking, a blend between a sport utility and the classic Australian four-door ute,” Mr Lutz enthused.

GoAuto understands that Holden has played a significant role in the development of this vehicle, which uses the global Zeta architecture. Furthermore, if the New York motor show public reacts positively enough, a production version of the concept is likely in the near future.

However, Mr Lutz was also quick to water down speculation that a Crewman will be a sure thing.

“It is not targeted for production at this point,” he emphasised.

Asked whether it will be a replacement for the recently departed VZ Crewman – a car that Holden said was emphatically not on the cards at the ute’s launch last August – Mr Lutz said it was up to Holden to reveal that sort of information.

“You’re going to have to ask (new Holden chairman and managing director) Mark Reuss whether (a VE Crewman) is dead or not, but this concept is basically a reprisal of the Crewman in a more modern form.”

13 center imageLeft: What a Pontiac ute might look like. (DIGITAL IMAGE: Chris Harris)

Mr Lutz did explain that the controversial fuel economy legislation that will come into effect might help the VE ute and Crewman’s cause in the US.

“We said to Holden’s designers that if we really have to get much better fuel economy in full-sized pick-up trucks, and we have to go away from framed vehicles to get the lower mass of unitised vehicles, wouldn’t you like to do a really tough-looking Crewman, but that is much lighter than a conventional GMC full-sized pick-up,” he said.

“The first time you see it, you might go ‘Whoa! I’m not sure I like this!’… because it is so tough and masculine looking.

“But the longer you look at the proportions the more right it looks for the type of image that it is trying to portray.” Meanwhile, the regular VE ute may also get a guernsey at the NY show.

“It’s something that is under consideration, but it can’t be confirmed right now,” Mr Lutz said on the subject.

However, despite speculation that the VE ute may be introduced as a long-awaited successor to the Chevrolet El Camino, Mr Lutz said that it would make more sense as either a Pontiac or GMC-badged vehicle.

GMC previously offered a rebadged version of the El Camino, called the Sprint.

“If we did it, we would want to keep it in the same franchise, and I think that if there is any enthusiasm for that kind of vehicle in the United States, if we brought it, the expectation for that kind of vehicle by the American public would probably be as a Chevrolet, because it would be a reprise of the late and lamented El Camino,” Mr Lutz said.

“But that is the last thing we would do because Chevrolet has been blessed with so many great products that we are at the limit to what the dealers can focus on.

“So if we put any more stuff in the Chevrolet channel it is not going to result in any more sales because we are at the outer edges of what the dealer personnel can understand and stock and explain and sell.

“And so it would be somebody else other than Chevrolet, and then the question is: would you give it to Pontiac or GMC? “And that makes very little difference because they are in the BPG (Buick/Pontiac/GMC) channel, where Buick is at the top of that with near-luxury vehicles … and the idea is that Buick would never have something overtly truck-like while GMC is all overtly truck-like with nothing that resembles a passenger car.

“Pontiac would be focused on sporty, high-performance passenger type of vehicles, and that’s where the ute fits, that’s where the G8 fits, and that’s where the Pontiac Solstice fits – and that’s how we want to focus that channel.” Mr Lutz admitted that the fact there is already a Pontiac G8 sedan nosecone that already fits the VE Ute probably helps Pontiac’s case.

“That would be the logical thing to do, since we have already designed all the sheetmetal and it mates right up to the cowl that would be another reason to go Pontiac because it is all done. No additional investment (is necessary).

“If we decide to take that it would be as currently sold in Australia – a two-door. But the one we will be displaying (at New York) will be the (Crewman-style) concept.”

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GM Holden's Pontiac pick-up!

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