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Holden in battle for Britain

Sales hope: Holden believes it can sell up to 10,000 V6 and V8 Commodores annually in the UK.

Holden will sell V6 and V8 Commodores in the UK - and Europe and the US further down the track

Holden logo4 Sep 2001

HOLDEN is negotiating a deal with Vauxhall to sell the Commodore in the UK as a replacement for the ageing Omega.

The first Commodores could go on sale through General Motors' UK subsidiary soon after the launch of Commodore's mid-life VY facelift in September, 2002.

Holden believes it can eke out as many as 10,000 sales per annum of V6 and V8 Commodores in the UK.

It also sees the introduction of VY to UK as an opportunity to then sell Commodore into the European mainland, where Omega is currently sold through GM's European subsidiary, Opel.

The rear-wheel drive Omega is set to be replaced in 2003 by a front-drive car based on the Epsilon platform that will also underpin Vectra.

The new car is not expected to be called Omega, or be a three-box sedan. The Signum II concept car (revealed in automotive e-news two weeks ago) is an indicator to the wagon-like design of the new car.

Considering that, Holden has a niche oppor-tunity with the rear-drive Commodore in the UK, not forgetting that it already has some profile there thanks to HSV imports.

Negotiations were confirmed last week by Holden sales and marketing executive director Ross McKenzie, who dealt directly with former Vauxhall managing director Nick Reilly.

Mr Reilly has now departed Vauxhall to head GM Europe's sales and marketing operations.

Ironically, his replacement is former Holden executive Kevin Wale, a man intimately familiar with Commodore.

"We are talking to the UK, they are interested in V6 and V8 Commodores," said Mr McKenzie.

"They are going to drop the Omega - so we will just walk straight in.

"We're talking 5000-10,000 units straight out of here.

"We need to logically start somewhere and I've got to say the logical breakpoint would be VY, you wouldn't walk in with the current car with six months on VXII, you'd wait until VY and bang, away you go."Mr McKenzie said a crucial factor in gaining Vauxhall's interest was the creation of a corrosion package for Commodore that will meet the Northern Hemisphere salt road corrosion standard.

Holden's engineering boss Tony Hyde has committed to having the package ready by Christmas this year.

Mr McKenzie said Mr Wale had no involvement in the negotiations.

"We've done this deal before Kevin even turned up, he doesn't even know we even had the conversation with them," he said.

"So he's going to turn up and find out his product planning guys have had three conversations with me and I met with Nick Reilly and they are dead keen.""That would then form a beachhead for us to go into Europe with left-hand drive, which again is a good opportunity. It's harder work because we've got to meet all their emission requirements and EU design requirements."In the short-term, Mr McKenzie confirmed entry into the Mexican market was looking good, with the opportunity to sell up to 10,000 cars per annum. Again, Holden is expected to wait until the introduction of VY and the WK long-wheelbase cars in 2002 before moving into Mexico.

The Iranian market was proving more difficult because of a desire to import the car in CKD form.

Mr McKenzie also confirmed Holden's desire to enter the North American market with the new generation VE Commodore in 2005, which will have the fuel tank positioned in front of the rear axle so it can pass US rear collision tests.

"It's the last frontier. And it's not us chasing them, it's them chasing us," Mr McKenzie said.

"If we do that, then we'll be on every continent on the globe. Our (export) target by the middle of the decade is 50,000 and our target for the end of the decade, including North America, is 70,000 units of export."Mr McKenzie said that Holden's ambition by 2010 was to be building 300,000 cars per annum in Australia.

Holden has exported 50,000 VT and VX Commodores since launch in 1997 and has also established a successful export program with the WH long-wheelbase models.

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