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ZB Commodore: Holden still in the hunt for fleets

Cop shop: Holden will continue to pursue sales to fleets, including the various police organisations around the country, for its ZB Commodore (VF Commodore pictured, courtesy of Victoria Police Instagram).

Holden pursuing police and other fleet sales with imported ZB Commodore

Holden logo31 Aug 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

HOLDEN’S new-generation ZB Commodore will be targeted more to private buyers than the model it replaces, but the company still plans to pursue business sales as it eyes state and territory police organisations with its imported liftback and wagon range.

The Commodore sedan, ute and wagon has served the police force in every state and territory for decades, dating back to the original VB Commodore from 1978.

Alongside its recently departed Ford Falcon counterpart, Commodore pursuit vehicles and divisional – or ‘divvy’ – vans have become an iconic part of Australia’s automotive landscape.

Speaking to GoAuto at the development drive of the new ZB series at the car-maker’s Lang Lang proving ground last week, Holden director of communications Sean Poppitt said the company hoped the new imported Commodore would still appeal to fleet buyers, albeit in lower numbers than the outgoing Australian-built VFII.

He added that Holden has been in discussions with police organisations about the ZB Commodore, but did not disclose which states or territories were involved.

“In terms of fleet, we are not looking for this to be a massive fleet player,” Mr Poppitt said. “That’s not to say fleet is not part of the mix – of course it is, absolutely.

“We are in close detailed discussions with the police and they have seen it and have driven it. I would not want to get ahead of any decision they may or may not make but we have been talking in depth with them and we have had senior police down here at the proving ground so we are definitely right in there in the hunt with it.”

Mr Poppitt said Holden was looking for a mix of private and fleet sales for the ZB Commodore when it hits showrooms in February next year.

“Trying to find that mix is really where it is at. There isn’t a one silver bullet that is going to sell 30,000 units a year, but I think we can spread the net a little bit wider than maybe we have been,” he said.

According to Holden, of the 25,860 Commodore sedans and wagons Holden sold last year, 12,791 examples – or 49.5 per cent – were private sales with the remainder made up of fleet, business, government and rental purchases.

Following Ford and Holden’s decision to close their Australian manufacturing operations in October 2016 and 2017 respectively, several car-makers have pursued the lucrative police fleet business that the two US-owned brands have previously dominated.

Victoria Police spokesperson Sophie Jennings confirmed to GoAuto that the organisation’s policy regarding Australian-built cars will no longer be valid come the end of the year.

“Victoria Police is bound by government policy to purchase Australian-made vehicles and we will be doing so until the end of this year when manufacturing ceases in Australia,” she said. “We have an exemption to purchase non-Australian-made vehicles for specialist segments of our fleet.”

Ms Jennings said that by the end of 2017, VicPol will have this year purchased approximately 700 Australian-built Holdens and a further 100 locally produced Toyotas.

Car-makers including Kia, Hyundai, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia and Mercedes-Benz have all pursued contracts with police organisations around the country in recent years.

Ms Jennings said an announcement regarding what vehicles will replace the fleet of Australian-built Holdens, Fords and Toyotas in the Victoria Police fleet next year “will be made in due course”.

While the ZB Commodore will see Holden out for at least the next seven or eight years, the recent acquisition of Opel – from which Holden sources the Commodore – by PSA Group from General Motors has cast doubt over the future of the nameplate beyond this generation.

When asked by GoAuto if Holden was committed to offering a mid-size to large passenger car beyond the ZB, Mr Poppitt said the car-maker was working on a plan for its future passenger car line-up.

“I don’t think you’d find a car company in the world that would put a lay down misere on product programs eight-to-nine years out,” he said.

“Every car company is looking at what comes in that next generation, and what we have absolutely said, and Opel and PSA have been quoted as saying, we will provide Holden with Opel-drive cars for as long as they want.

“It also depends on where the market goes, because we are literally talking seven, eight, nine years ahead. So those things are being looked at, those decisions are being made as every car company is doing at the moment.”

While PSA Group and Opel could remain the source of a possible future mid-size offering with a vehicle based on the next-generation Insignia that could also be shared with a future Peugeot 508, Holden could look to its GM sister brands Chevrolet and Buick in the US another new incarnation of Commodore.

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