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Dubai show: New-look Holden to get 'finest' range

Looking good: Holden's next-generation range will get more consistency of design, but in a more diverse line up.

GM design chief says he is thrilled with coming import products for Holden

Holden logo13 Nov 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in DUBAI

GM HOLDEN is set to get the “the finest, most complete, most diverse” product line-up in its history, according to General Motors vice president of global design, Ed Welburn.

Speaking at the Dubai motor show where GM launched a number of models, including the all-new Cadillac XT5 SUV in its global debut, Mr Welburn said he had done a couple of presentations on the future Holden car portfolio recently.

He did not disclose to whom the presentations had been made, but presumably the audience comprised GM decision makers, including those charged with driving the new-look Holden brand into the post-manufacturing era from late 2017.

“I will tell you I have given the presentation, and more recently Mike Simcoe (Melbourne-based GM International Operations design director) has given the same, and both of us are thrilled and very proud with what we are presenting,” he said.

“It represents the Holden brand quite well.”

Like a co-ordinated box set, the line-up was presented as an integrated whole, with Mr Welburn saying all the products portrayed were beyond the sketch stage and at least at computer-generated modelling stage.

Holden has already disclosed that most of its next-generation range will be drawn from GM's Opel/Vauxhall/Buick product family.

This is expected to include a new large European-built SUV and a rear-wheel drive V8 sportscar that will take their place in Holden showrooms beside the new Commodore that is likely to use GM's E2XX architecture.

“They are strong vehicles,” Mr Welburn said. “It is very consistent design.

“I am not going to talk about particular products but it is my feeling that we will have all the right products that customers in Australia desire.”

But Mr Welburn echoed sentiments expressed at the recent Frankfurt motor show by GM International president Stefan Jacoby who said Australian Holden customers would need to come to terms with the fact that some products, such as V8 sedans, will be dropped from the line-up.

As always, Mr Welburn put it more subtly, saying GM globally was developing “a strong and complete portfolio and diverse portfolio that appeals to a market that is changing and changing quickly in a lot of different countries”.

“We better be able to (change), as the market is changing,” he said.

“And I will be very honest – I think there are some brands in Australia that didn’t respond to change quick enough to win.

“And that’s true of many markets around the world. It's certainly true in the USA and Europe and in China.”

Suggesting that it might be difficult to take some traditional Holden customers along on the new direction, Mr Welburn said Holden had “really deep roots”.

“You need need to understand that, but the brand has got to understand that the world is changing, Australia is changing, China is changing.”

Mr Welburn said GM's global vehicle development capability was more agile than ever, but that the development of right-hand drive vehicles remained a challenge in a largely left-hand-drive world.

But he promised that GM was committed to matching rivals in RHD products.

“These markets are important,” he said. “To not only participate but to win in those markets you have to have a well-executed right-hand-drive vehicles – a portfolio of right-hand-drive vehicles.

“It is not easy at all to do it, but other brands do it and we will as well.”

In the long term, those RHD vehicles are expected to include Cadillacs – the GM luxury brand that the company still hopes to roll out in Australia, despite an aborted attempt during the global financial crisis when GM had a brush with bankruptcy.

Although the Caddy-for-Oz push is not expected to bear fruit for at least five years, Cadillac design director Andrew Smith – an Australian-raised former Holden designer – revealed that Cadillac designers were considering right-hand drive when planning all new models.

Mr Smith, who until recently also was in charge of Buick design as well as Cadillac, disclosed that Holden's design team in Melbourne had done “three or four” design jobs for his Detroit-based operation in recent times.

Among the projects was the stunning Buick Avenir large sedan concept that won the Eyes On Design top concept award at this year's Detroit motor show.

He said the exterior, based on a theme by Holden designer Warrak Leach, was done mainly at Holden, while the interior was done in Detroit in what he described as a very successful collaboration.

Some of the elements of Avenir's design are about to appear on the new Buick LaCrosse large sedan that will take a bow at this month's Los Angeles motor show.

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