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New Commodore: New look, old price

New V8 model: The $40,490 SV8 is now the cheapest V8 in the Commodore range.

Holden holds the pricing line on its new-look VY Commodore

11 Sep 2002

AUSTRALIA'S top selling car has a new face but an old price.

That's right, Holden has revealed the new more aggressive look of the VY Commodore large car and done its best to skewer Ford's forthcoming BA Falcon by holding the pricing on virtually all models at VX II levels.

While the expectation is that pricing of the new Falcon will climb three per cent across the range reflecting the company's $500 million investment, Holden has been able to spend $250 million on VY and hold the line.

The lack of movement on pricing will help ease any Holden worry pangs about the change of styling direction for the Commodore range which goes on sale late September.

Not that there's too much public acknowledgement of such concerns. Holden expects to sell 85,000-90,000 Commodores to Australian fleet and private buyers again in 2003 - the nameplate's 25th year - and in the process continue to trample all over the opposition, including the new Falcon.

For its midlife update Commodore has adopted much tauter and more angular front and rear styling. The new face and tail are married to the more rounded middle section of the car that is carried over from the wildly successful VT and VX models - a standard practice for a midlife makeover.

Inside there is a new instrument panel with binnacle-style instrument cluster featuring multi-function digital displays, new centre console and steering wheels.

There have also been some engineering refinements with improvements claimed to chassis dynamics, build precision, powertrain - including a 10kW boost to 235kW for the Gen III V8 when fitted to sports models, safety and aerodynamic performance. However, Holden is claiming no dramatic achievements in this regard.

"VY is the logical evolution of a model that already possesses excellent credentials," said company chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger. "We have built on the strengths which make Commodore Australia's number one car." The only Commodores that have increased in price are the three Utes and the SS sedan. The biggest climb is seven per cent for the S Ute because it has added air-conditioning and ABS anti-lock braking, the base Ute climbs two per cent while both SS sedan and Ute are up 1.5 per cent.

The SS sedan moves up to make more room for a new V8 performance model - the SV8 - which marries the essential performance equipment like the 235kW Gen III V8 and FE2 sports suspension with a more basic equipment and visual package than either the S or SS.

The new model is only marginally more expensive than the V6-only S model, priced at $40,490 for either the six-speed manual or four-speed automatic, but there is now a big gap to SS which is $49,490 in either manual or auto forms.

The SV8 is now the cheapest V8 Commodore you can buy with Holden's decision to axe the Gen III from the Executive model's options list. The base model now gets dual airbags - as does the S - but remains the only sedan/wagon without standard air-conditioning, that pricing also carryover at $2250.

Other new equipment in VY is relatively minor stuff - twilight sentinel automatic headlight control, headlights off programmable delay, new Balupunkt audios and road-speed sensitive intermitent wipers are items introduced across the range.

But it's the new exterior styling that will be the centre of debate - as it has been ever since four official photographs leaked onto the web two weeks ago.

A Holden witch hunt has still not tracked down the culprits, the company's chagrin made all the more acute because it had been determined to withhold all details of the car till launch, flying in the face of Ford's extended roll-out of the BA and Toyota's similar ploy for the new 380N Camry.

Essentially, the Commodore now has four faces and three different rear-ends, three different front and rear bumpers, two different headlight design with four levels of differentiation and two different taillights again with four levels of differentiation.

Sounds a little confusing but the point of all this is individualisation. Holden wants more separation of the Commodore lines, it coincides with the company's philosophy of being able to produce more variants and niches in an ever more diverse car market.

"Holden is looking to the world from a very strong base in Australia, and our vision for this new niche manufacturing era begins with the introduction of this expanded VY range," confirmed Mr Hanenberger.

The look is designed to be not only more aggressive but also in touch with future local and imported vehicle styling to help establish a strong family lineage.

Is all this enough to maintain Commodore's absolute dominance into the nameplate's 25th anniversary in 2003 in the face of Ford and Toyota's renewed onslaught" Holden sales and marketing executive director Ross McKenzie has no doubts on Commodore's hold over both the fleet/leasing sector - which claims 70 per cent of all large car sales - and the private sector is secure. Loyalty will be a key, he asserts, while the stable pricing won't hurt either.

"If you look at the history of the large car market it actually doesn't make dramatic changes unlike the big swings in share you do see in the small car market where loyalty doesn't exist," he said.

"The leasing companies will look very carefully at the Falcon, they will take their time to decide if the Falcon will deliver the sort of resale values they expect. Their experience in the past has not been very favourable.

"That is not to say the BA is not a good product, Ford has clearly invested a lot of faith and they are looking to improve that performance, but it will take time to rebuild it." And as for Toyota Australia executive vice president John Conomos' claim at last week's Camry launch that Toyota Australia would return to its "rightful place" as the number one vehicle seller in 2003: "I think John's dreaming," was Mr McKenzie's concise response.

VY Commodore pricing:
Executive V6 sedan man $30,880
Executive V6 sedan auto $31,650
Executive V6 wagon auto $33,570 Acclaim V6 sedan auto $37,510
Acclaim V6 wagon auto $39,730 Berlina sedan V6 auto $40,850
Berlina sedan V8 auto $45,440
Berlina wagon V6 auto $43,730
Berlina wagon V8 auto $48,320 Calais V6 auto $48,250
Calais V6 s/c auto $49,320
Calais V8 auto $52,840 S sedan V6 man $37,050
S sedan V6 auto $37,820
S sedan V6 s/c auto $39,410 SV8 sedan V8 man $40,490
SV8 sedan V8 auto $40,490 SS sedan V8 man $49,490
SS sedan V8 auto $49,490 Ute V6 man $25,190
Ute V6 auto $25,960 S Ute V6 man $31,950
S Ute V6 auto $32,420
S Ute V8 man $36,650
S Ute V8 auto $36,650 SS Ute V8 man $39,340
SS Ute V8 auto $39,340 Major options prices:
Air-conditioning on Executive and Ute $2250
Limited slip differential $360
Sports suspension $330
LPG $330 (plus $1985 Holden by Design fitment cost)
Holden assist $1990
6 stacker CD $595
Rear park assist $495
Metallic paint $255 Watch out for more on VY Commodore tomorrow when we examine the engineering story in-depth and deliver the first drive impressions. On Friday we wrap up the styling story inside and out and detail equipment changes model-by-model.

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