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Chrysler deal kills Holden’s Alfa V6 exports

Alfa no more: Alfa Romeo will switch to Chrysler's Pentastar V6, meaning the end of Holden's engine in the Italian sportscars.

End of the road for Aussie V6 in Italy as 2012 Alfa Giulia gets Pentastar power

Holden logo27 Apr 2010


CHRYSLER’S marriage with Fiat SpA is set to spell the end of GM Holden V6 exports to Alfa Romeo in Italy.

Holden’s Port Melbourne engine plant has supplied a 3.2-litre 191kW version of the Commodore ‘High Feature’ Alloytec V6 for the Alfa Romeo flagship 159, Brera coupe and Spider sportscar models since 2006.

Alfa parent Fiat's just-released new-model plan confirms that the Aussie V6 – dubbed JTS – is set to disappear, replaced in the Alfa range by Chrysler’s new Pentastar V6.

Alfa’s forthcoming Giulia – a replacement for the Alfa 159 from 2012 – plus a new Spider that is expected to be based on the 2uettottanta concept car shown at Geneva, will get the US designed and built Pentastar, which can be made in engine capacities ranging from 3.3 litres to 3.6 litres with outputs from 204kW to 216kW.

The GTA version of the Giulietta is also expected to use the Pentastar V6.

But the export order hiccup will hardly be noticed at Holden’s engine plant which has been ramping up production to meet improving export orders from customers in China, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand and Europe, as well as Holden’s own Commodore range, after a 36 per cent decline in engine exports the previous year.

The world economic recovery and burgeoning car sales in China prompted Holden to restore the second shift at Holden Engine Operation’s factory last November with a production target of about 110,000 engines in 2010, more than half of them for export.

 center imageFrom top: Alfa 159, Alfa Guilietta, Holden Engine Operations and Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux.

Holden expects to quadruple engine exports to China, where Holden V6s are fitted to upmarket versions of the Caprice-based Buick Park Avenue. Last year, exports to China were running at 6000 units a year, but that is expected to rise to 20,000 by 2013.

In South Korea, a 3.2-litre V6 from Holden goes into top-of-the-range Captivas for world consumption as Chevrolets, Holdens and Daewoos.

Saab engine orders have resumed after GM sold the Swedish company to Dutch sportscar-maker Spyker, with the company again taking the Holden-made 224kW 2.8-litre turbo V6 for the new-generation Saab 9-5 that is beginning to roll down the production line at Trollhattan.

That engine will also be used in Saab’s 9-4X SUV that is going into production this year at GM’s Ramos Aripe plant in Mexico alongside its Cadillac SRX twin that also uses the Holden V6 2.8T.

As well, a slow but steady recovery in Europe is expected to lift orders for the 240kW version of the 2.8-litre V6 for Opel/Vauxhall’s Insignia OPC/VRX.

Thailand’s Rayong plant takes the 3.2-litre Alloytec engine for Colorado and Captiva, some of which end up back in Australia in Holden showrooms.

Back home, improving Commodore sales are helping to lift V6 production and ease the pain of the loss of car export business last year when the Pontiac G8 export program was axed and Middle East orders plummeting.

Commodore last month has its best March since 2007, with 4209 sales.

Car exports, however, remain in the doldrums. A resumption of exports to the United States is not expected until late this year or, more likely, 2011, when Holden’s Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV) project gets up and running.

US sales volumes are dependent on orders from US police forces, who will lodge tenders for the Holden-made vehicle later this year.

Holden hopes to gain a large slice of the 80,000-strong emergency vehicle market in North America, where the rear-drive Caprice will go up against Ford’s Taurus-based Police Interceptor, the Dodge Charger police vehicle and a purpose-built police patrol vehicle from Carbon Motors, the latter using a BMW diesel engine.

Holden hopes to extend the PPV project into an export program for a civilian version of the Caprice for mass release, replacing the dead Pontiac G8.

GM Holden’s new chairman and managing director Mike Devereux said Holden had “a couple of very good allies in (former managing directors) Alan Batey and Mark Reuss in the US”.

While he stopped short of saying Holden was pursuing the Caprice expansion, he said: “Make no mistake – we are going to look at every single opportunity we have got for exporting product out of Australia.”

A recovery of Holden car exports to the Middle East is more problematic. In 2007, Chevrolet sold more than 30,000 Holden-made Caprices and Luminas there, but this plunged to fewer than 6000 units in 2008.

Mr Devereux, whose previous post was in the Middle East as president and managing director of GM Operations, does not see a huge recovery any time soon.

He said he hoped to increase ME exports by 1000-1200 this year and restore that to 10,000 to 12,000 “over time”.

But he cautions that Middle Eastern exports – hampered by the high Aussie dollar exchange rate against the US dollar and economic difficulties in Dubai – remain difficult and are not expected to race back to previous levels quickly.

“Frankly, I don’t see that doubling in the next year,” he said.

Mr Devereux refused to be drawn on the prospect of exports for Holden’s locally made Cruze hatch and sedan, saying the focus now was on getting it up and running at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia in the first quarter of 2011.

Holden has designed the Cruze hatch, but it is unclear if that car will only be made at Elizabeth – a prospect that would open the door for export orders – or be made at other GM plants that currently make the sedan version of GM’s global small car.

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