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New Holden engineering boss has world vision

More to come: Holden's VE Commodore SS-based Pontiac G8.

Tony Hyde's replacement as Holden chief engineer says he won't be a "true Holden guy"

General Motors logo14 Dec 2007

GM HOLDEN’S new executive director of engineering Greg Tyus has admitted that he will never be a “true Holden guy” but will work to strengthen the Australian manufacturer’s position as the hub for rear-wheel drive vehicles – of all sizes – for General Motors worldwide. Talking candidly at his first media engagement last week, Mr Tyus said he felt some trepidation at taking the position held by Tony Hyde for the past decade, having been directed into “five or six” jobs over the past seven years before being “yanked out” from GM Canada, where for the past two-and-a-half years he worked as general director of engineering and product planning. But the American, who has experience in markets as diverse as North America, Mexico, China, India and Europe, said it was his priority to understand the culture at GM Holden and to further its role as a global manufacturer. “If you have something good to offer people, they’ll follow,” he said. “What I want to do is make sure that I’m here long enough to understand the organisation, and understand what it is about this Holden DNA.

“No matter how long I’m here, I’ll never be a true Holden guy – I know that, I wasn’t born here, I didn’t build cars on the weekend and race them up and down the Yarra River or whatever it is you do – so I’m not going to fake that. That’s not me. “But I can... help them bring a different perspective of how to work well globally. You can be as smart as you want to be about Australia, but if you’re sending a product to China you don’t necessarily know how the Chinese will perceive that. If you send a product to the US, you may think it’s going to be a great deal, but data says it may not. “So you have to be able to communicate and interact with the whole organisation. My job is not to screw anything up, and to make sure it continues to work well. If there’s some tweak and minor adjustments – not change, not reform, not brand-ironed Greg Tyus on top of it – (I will) help the guys unleash their DNA into the organisation.

“There’s that much (global) confidence and faith in the team, that’s what they want from them. They don’t want another US or European organisation – we’ve already got that.” Mr Tyus said he was not in a position to comment specifically on the prospects of Holden winning the right to develop the forthcoming global RWD compact car for GM, which will be built off the Alpha platform architecture and is scheduled for release in 2011. However, he said that such a decision would likely come down to Holden’s track record on projects such as the Pontiac G8 rather than a “competition” with another GM division.

“Where we compete, if we do compete, is in areas of capability and execution,” he said. “If the (Holden) organisation has the right skills, the right capability, and more importantly (a track record) that you can pull it off, there is no competition. The corporation goes through the process of understanding where those skills are and then assigns works – we don’t compete for it. “What we do compete for is our reputation in the eyes (of the parent) to be able to get the work. Once you’re part of the family, you’ve earned a right to (be in) the family. “If there is a discussion around that type of (smaller RWD) vehicle, then the question really goes to capability, efficiency and, ‘Oh by the way, how was the last job they did for us?’” In terms of future models, Mr Tyus said Holden had “a few things up our sleeve”. He also emphasised that these need not necessarily be restricted to a large-car mould.

“I don’t see ourselves as a one-trick pony,” he said. “The focus may be global rear-wheel drive in terms of what the organisation is bringing to General Motors, but that will be hopefully, if things go well, on a suite of different products that are unique and will hit the mark on the marketplace. “We’re global rear-wheel drive – it doesn’t mean large, it doesn’t mean small – it means a certain DNA expertise. And as the market would dictate a product size, or dimension, or configuration, I would hope we’d be in a position to vie for executing that work.

“No one has given me any margin, or to say, ‘Here Greg, here’s your chart, you’re just working on this size vehicle – that’s it’... Size has nothing to do with the intellect of the engineering that goes on.”

Think about it

NORWEGIAN car-maker Think Global has unveiled the production version of its City electric car designed for European markets, and is working to engineer a righthand drive version for Britain and other RHD destinations. Previously owned by Ford but now controlled by a Norwegian investment firm, Think Global said last week that the company was due to begin sales of the plug-in City micro in the first half of next year, ramping up annual production to between 7000 and 10,000 units at its Aurskog plant in Norway by 2009. Think is working with Porsche to improve its manufacturing operations, and has contracted Magna Steyr to help develop a RHD version of the City. The company is using a number of big-name suppliers such as Continental, Autoliv and Robert Bosch, while its batteries are coming from US electric-car marque Tesla Motors.

 center imageSeating two and offering two additional rear seats for children, the three-door City is fully battery powered and manages 0-50km/h in 6.5 seconds, and 0- 80km/h in a sluggish 16.0 seconds.

It has a top speed of 100km/h. The all-important driving range is claimed to be between 90km and 180km. Recharging takes up to 10 hours.

The City measures 3120mm in overall length, 104mm in width and 1548mm in eight. The manufacturer claims the car meets European and American safety requirements. It will be fitted standard in Europe with dual airbags and ABS brakes. Power steering and electric windows will also be onboard, with optional extras including air-conditioning, central locking, a CD stereo and a panoramic sunroof. “With the production start, this project is on time and the prototype phase is over,” said Think Global CEO Jan-Olaf Willums. “We are building full production cars with all the right components from the right suppliers that have now been through several months of quality testing.”

Rudd's Plan

GM HOLDEN chairman Chris Gubbey said last week that the Rudd Labor Government’s green-vehicle policies – specifically, the project to build hybrid vehicles in Australia – were still to be clarified. “We’ve seen the statements, but what exactly that’s going to involve I think (will be) particularly difficult,” he said. “It will depend actually not just on our local market, but in terms of our export markets as well. Fifty per cent of our production purely for the local market? I’d say even with that it would be quite difficult to justify in the short-term, on a Commodore. But what we’re looking at is right the way across our range, and what we’re going to be doing in terms of green (issues) and fuel economy.”

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