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Holden confirms US export deal for Commodore

Corporate grille: The G8 sports the Pontiac "look".

Holden has spent $25 million re-engineering the VE Commodore for the US market

9 Feb 2007

HOLDEN has confirmed its latest best-kept secret – that it will export the VE Commodore to the United States and Canada – badged as a Pontiac.

The Pontiac G8 and G8 GT sedans will start rolling out of Holden’s Elizabeth factory in Adelaide around October-November and Holden expects that up to 50,000 cars annually will be shipped offshore.

The up-spec Pontiac G8 will be sold in 3.6-litre V6 and 6.0-litre V8 guises with the entry price starting at $US25,000, about $A32,000, which is the entry price for the base Omega sedan.

Compared to the base bread-and-butter Omega, the entry G8 is well equipped, with stability control, 18-inch alloys dual front, side and curtain airbags, satellite radio receiver, foglights and rear spoiler.

The G8 GT adds 19-inch alloys and performance tyres, a rear wing spoiler, leather gearlever, leather steering wheel and alloy pedals.

The local export announcement, attended by key state and Federal government industry ministers, coincided with the car’s unveiling at the Chicago motor show.

The G8 is the first North American application of GM’s new global rear-wheel drive architecture developed by Holden for the VE Commodore.

To secure the Pontiac business, Holden spent $25 million locally re-designing and tweaking the car for the US consumer.

As the $1.2 billion VE program was originally designed from the ground up with left-hand drive exports in mind, much of the stringent US crash safety and engineer was already in place.

13 center imageThe Pontiac G8 and G8 GT use SV6 and SSV8 suspension and steering tunes and gains a distinctive Pontiac corporate grille, bonnet scoops and lower bumper treatments, which adds about 40mm to the car’s overall length.

The base G8 model develops 194kW/340Nm and is mated to a five-speed automatic while the G8 GT develops 270kW/391Nm and comes with a six-speed auto. Its key competitors in the US will be the Nissan Maxima and Dodge Charger.

Unlike the local VE Commodore V8, the Pontiac V8 will have cylinder-deactivation technology to improve economy, a feature that is tipped to appear in future Commodore V8s.

After the poor sales performance of the Pontiac GTO, essentially a rebadged Monaro, which sold in the US from 2004 until early last year, Holden is reluctant to talk specific export numbers but indicated that 50,000 was achievable.

Holden chairman and managing director, Denny Mooney, said Holden’s Adelaide plant had the capacity to build 145,000 vehicle a year.

The G8 also signals the opportunity for Holden’s further involvement in future Pontiac business, including possibly helping engineer a next-generation G6 car, which is smaller than the G8.

Last year, Holden exported 46,000 sedans to the Middle East, down from its record 2005 figure of 60,000 vehicles. The company is aiming to lift exports back to 2006 levels.

Given that it expects to sell about 60,000 Commodores and Statesmans locally this year and its production capacity is 145,000, that leaves the ability to produce 25,000 vehicles initially for Pontiac in the US.

Holden’s exports hopes will also be bolstered soon with an announcement expected by the Melbourne motor show of significant exports to Korea.

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