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Malibu to help – not hinder – Commodore, says GM
GM believes dual family car attack will improve chances of Holden’s RWD future
21 Apr 2011
By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in NEW YORK
GM HOLDEN’S former chief, GM North America president Mark Reuss, has made the extraordinary revelation that the Commodore’s Australian future will be enhanced - rather than stifled - by the success of the Korean-built Malibu mid-sizer.
Speaking to press in New York after the US reveal of the next-generation Chevrolet Malibu, which made its global debut in Shanghai the previous day and will go on sale in Australia as a Holden next year, Mr Reuss said he believed the Malibu will attract a different audience to the Commodore.
He said that difference will shore up Australian production of Holden’s rear-wheel drive Zeta platform-based models, including the Commodore.
“I think that in some strange ways (the Malibu’s introduction in Australia in 2012) secures some of the rear-wheel drive production that we have there because the two cars there are so different, and that we will be able to demonstrate (those differences) at Holden, and I think that is very important,” said Mr Reuss.
“While you see other car-makers down there converging on one type of vehicle we’re going to have two different vehicles that will offer something different and that’s important.
From top: GM North America president Mark Reuss, Chevrolet Malibu, Holden Commodore Berlina, Holden Caprice.
“I think there are a lot of different tastes down there that we will satisfy. I think (the Malibu) is going to be really good for Australia… I think it is going to be really relevant.
“And I think rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are different – very different. And the packaging (for each) will be very different.
“And I don’t think the Malibu is too close in size to the Commodore,” he added.
The veteran GM engineer said that Australia’s growing demographic diversity has led to the need for more choice and that retailing both models will result in higher overall Holden sales.
The upshot, he believes, is that buyers who may never have chosen a Commodore would consider a Malibu, increasing sales volume and profitability to help sustain the company’s front-wheel drive (Cruze) and rear-wheel drive (Commodore/Caprice/ute) manufacturing operations in Australia.
Mr Reuss hinted at the possibility of further variants of the Malibu, which has so far appeared only in sedan guise, and will be a direct local replacement for the slow-selling Epica sedan.
“There are a lot of variants that are based on the Epsilon (the Opel Insignia-derived underpinnings that have also spawned other GM vehicles, such as the Buick Regal specifically developed for China but also sold in the US) that we would look at, but we have to get into the market first with the new sedan.
“The turnaround time for that type of decision would be quite small because of the leverage we have on a global basis with it, so I would say that anything is a possibility on that.
Mr Reuss did not discount the possibility of a Malibu wagon in the near future as rocketing fuel prices force buyers globally to think about efficiency.
“As we see the environment change with the wagons that have been a tough sell for many years because of fuel prices (that saw) people going for something bigger and easier, the wagon may become a relevant point that we would want to leverage,” he said.
Asked how different the Malibu is from other Epsilon-based vehicles in terms of specific development for American tastes, Mr Reuss said GM’s first global medium sedan is a classic example of how GM can alter a product to suit diverse consumer demands.
“On an exterior styling/interior styling/feature-based standpoint, the new Malibu is a North American-driven car,” he said.
“But everything I’ve said is also applicable to China, even though it may have a different language to it. And it was co-ordinated with China.
“The dynamics of our roads are quite different so you will see different tyre selections, different damper rates and different dynamics on the car just from a pure road surface condition standpoint – and that is how we tailor all of our architectures. We are going to sell this around the world.”
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