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Commodore’s US export hope

Don’t dream it’s over: GM has hinted at the Commodore’s eventual US return – but not before a facelift or reskin.

Holdens may yet be headed for the US market again, badged as Chevrolets or Buicks

Holden logo18 Jan 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in DETROIT

HOLDEN could be in line for a fresh high-volume US export program with a Chevrolet or Buick-badged Commodore – but not for at least three years.

This would be a car sold to the American public and would be in addition to the law-enforcement-only WM Caprice-based Chevrolet PPV Police Pursuit Vehicle that has reinforced Holden’s credentials in North America.

One General Motors insider told GoAuto that the ‘New GM’ still needs to distance itself from the now-defunct Pontiac brand that the VE Commodore is associated with through the G8, so it would need to wait until a major facelift or reskin comes along in about 2013 or 2014.

Holden was hit hard when the two-year-old G8 export program was terminated by GM’s decision to kill off Pontiac in April 2009, at the height of the US company’s financial woes.

Although the president of North America, Mark Reuss – a former managing director of GM Holden – said there are no firm plans for a new Commodore-based program, he admitted that he still loves the car.

Speaking to the Australian media at the North American International Motor Show in Detroit last week, Mr Reuss hinted that the Commodore’s American odyssey might not be over yet.

 center imageFrom top: Mark Reuss when he was chairman and managing director of Holden, the Caprice PPV police car and the interior of the G8 Sports Truck.

“There are no plans to do it right now – and that’s where we are,” said Mr Reuss.

“The G8 was a big loss for me, and it was a big loss for GM. And it’s hard to get it back into the right place at the right time … but I love the car…“Somewhere along the way you’ll get a pretty big Commodore change … and if we ever did something like (recommencement of Commodore exports to the US) we would integrate it with those changes at Holden.

“But we don’t have a meeting date for it … and I don’t want to read in John Mellor’s GoAuto eNews that ‘Mark Reuss says we have a new export program for Holden’ because Holden is not dependent on it anymore, so we can do it if we want to do it but now we’re not doing it.”

According to Mr Reuss, Holden has made a concerted effort to move away from export dependency for the Commodore and Caprice, which could keep the Commodore out of the US.

“There’s not endless resources to do vehicles (for export by Holden),” he said.

“And I’m not talking about the United States’ resources I’m talking about Holden’s, and what Mike (Devereux – GM Holden chairman and managing director) needs to do for the Australian market. Because it would be Australian resources needed if we were to do something like that.

“The company and Holden is set up as a buy and sell activity in Australia, which is quite different to what it was before, when the whole business model was 50 per cent export-based, and then you get into the whole weird stuff on currency and markets and all that stuff.

“So I think that mission has to stay intact as the number one priority – be really successful by yourself.”

While evading questions on what other new models besides the Commodore, Caprice and Chevrolet Camaro could be built off the Zeta platform in the future, the GM North America boss reiterated that the Australian-developed platform still has a long lifespan.

“We’ll run Zeta in Australia and in all of the export markets that is currently has for as long as there are people buying them and for as long as we keep it fresh,” said Mr Reuss.

“There’s been a lot of work done on that architecture in Australia so … why wouldn’t we run the heck out of it, right.”

Regardless how many years it might take, the US export prospect is positive for Holden in light of the positive feedback that GM is receiving through exposing the Caprice PPV to law enforcement departments across the US as part of a staggered multi-date product blitz for the new Australian-made police car.

“The interest in (the police car) is off the charts,” said Mr Reuss. “America loves Australian cars.”

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