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It's go for Holden's 4WD!

Thumbs up: Holden boss Peter Hanenberger has confirmed Holden's 4WD future.

General Motors gives the green light to Commodore "cross-over" 4x4 wagon

Holden logo28 Aug 2001

HOLDEN has been given the green light to build a local contender for the booming four-wheel drive market.

To be based on the Commodore wagon platform, the new car will seat up to seven people and be powered by both V6 and V8 engines.

Holden will preview the wagon in concept form at the Melbourne Motor Show in March 2002, and it could be on sale as soon as late 2003.

The styling of the yet-to-be-named car has already been signed off.

The wagon will be a "cross-over" four-wheel drive, meaning it is intended to be at home on the tarmac, but also capable of performing limited off-road duties. Other examples of "cross-over" vehicles include the Subaru Outback and Volvo Cross Country.

The 4WD driveline is expected to eschew traditional mechanical low range gearing and differential locks in favour of high-tech electronic aids such as those employed by BMW's X5.

One of the beauties of Holden's system is it can be adapted to any of its locally-built cars, from the ute to the Caprice luxury car.

Holden is acutely aware of this and the driveline is eventually expected to spawn a whole family of variants in wagon, sedan and ute forms.

Holden is also considering installing the driveline under a compact off-road contender to take on the likes of the popular Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester.

Holden chairman and ceo Peter Hanenberger said the company initially expected to build 25,000 4WD wagons with some earmarked for export. The development cost would be more than $100 million.

"This market clearly requires a vehicle which is a four-wheel drive in a cross-over kind of a version and we want to respond to the customers on that," Mr Hanenberger said.

"This car will mean mainly additional sales for us and that is why we are doing it, because it's a totally different market, it's very sophisticated versus what we have now, which are workhorses or sport utility vehicles.

"The domestic market will be the backbone for this car, and any exports will be a windfall." Approval for the 4WD project came from General Motors Asia-Pacific strategy board in Singapore only last month after the Holden board had given the thumbs up to the business case.

In getting approval, Holden has beaten Ford Australia to the 4WD punch, as its biggest rival is currently seeking the go-ahead for its "Raptor" 4WD project from Detroit.

However, Mitsubishi could beat all the other local manufacturers into production with locally-built 4WD, with plans to have a 4WD Magna sedan on sale late in 2002.

Toyota is also considering adding a 4WD to its Altona production line, where it currently builds the Avalon and Camry.

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