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Commodore goes to Rio

Brazilian: Underneath the Chevrolet Omega CD lies a VE Berlina.

Holden's VE Commodore hits Brazil as its first Pontiac G8 mule is fanfared

Holden logo5 Jul 2007

GM HOLDEN’S new Commodore has been launched in Brazil virtually unchanged and without fanfare - a day after the company ceremoniously announced the production of its first VE-based Pontiac G8 sedan prototype, ahead of significant exports to the US in early 2008.

The first V8-powered Pontiac G8 engineering prototype rolled off the Holden Vehicle Operations assembly line at Elizabeth yesterday (July 4), while General Motors officially heralded an August introduction for the all-new Chevrolet Omega CD in Brazil today (July 5).

Holden is yet to make an announcement on what is expected to be a relatively small number of VE sedan exports to Brazil, where the VE Berlina sedan swaps its Holden lion badge for the Chevrolet bow-tie mascot on its grille but is otherwise visually unchanged.

Brazil’s VE is powered exclusively by a 190kW 3.6-litre Alloytec V6, and replaces the current VT-VZ Commodore-based Chev Omega on sale there since 1999, after Brazilian production of the original Opel Omega-based model (which formed the basis of Holden’s new-for-1997 VT Commodore) ceased in 1998.

Meantime, exports of the G8, which is due in US Pontiac showrooms by early 2008 as one of GM’s flagship high-performance models, will significantly increase the workload at Elizabeth, where production will reach maximum capacity of 620 vehicles per day by the end of 2007.

Holden stresses the SSV-based G8 GT and SV6-based G8 are the first North American products to be based on GM’s new global rear-wheel drive architecture, widely known as Zeta and developed by a team based at its Port Melbourne HQ.

The G8 is a taste-test for a number of all-new Zeta-based, US-built domestic models, including the 2008 Chev Camaro coupe and 2009 Camaro convertible.

However, other planned large rear-drive Zeta models, such as the 2009 Chev Impala sedan, may not reach production if strict new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) proposals become law.

Reports in the US claim GM, which has vehemently objected to tighter CAFE standards that would require a radical downsizing of its entire new-vehicle model fleet, has given the green light to a new compact rear-drive platform dubbed Alpha.

While it’s unclear exactly where Alpha-based models will eventually be produced, it’s believed Holden will play an integral role in developing the small rear-drive chassis, which is similar in size and concept to its popular TT36 Torana concept car.

13 center imageLeft: Holden's first G8 prototype emerges in Adelaide yesterday.US reports say the front-drive Saab 9-3-based Cadillac BLS sedan will move to rear-drive Alpha architecture by 2012 to better position it against top-selling premium Euros like BMW’s 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class, while Pontiac’s G6 and Opel/Vauxhall’s Vectra are also likely to swap their current Epsilon II underpinnings for Alpha hardware.

A full size smaller than today’s Commodore, the Alpha platform could also form the basis for either a born-again Torana from Holden - or even the next-generation Commodore itself.

It’s believed Holden is currently grappling with the decision to produce either a "Torana" alongside the full-size Commodore - sales of which would be severely impacted by a smaller and more fuel-efficient Holden-built rear-drive model - or to downsize the next Commodore itself.

Yesterday’s announcement at Elizabeth was made by Holden’s executive director of manufacturing, Rod Keane, and attended by the federal minister for industry, tourism and resources, Ian Macfarlane MP, and the deputy premier of South Australia and minister for industry, Kvin Foley MP.

"The Pontiac G8 highlights GM Holden’s rear-wheel drive expertise. It shows that international borders pose no limits on the creativity and expertise demonstrated by a global team based here in Australia," said Mr Keane.

"General Motors is drawing on Holden’s recognised leadership in rear-wheel drive cars to be able to deliver uniquely tailored vehicles for markets in Australia, the United States, the Middle East and South Africa.

"With exports integral to GM Holden’s future business strategy, the flexibility we have here at the Elizabeth plant is central to achieving that. When full production of the Pontiac G8 gets underway we will be building cars here at Elizabeth for every continent except Antarctica."

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