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Frankfurt show: Opel boss talks up Aussie Astra, Insignia

Rebooted: GM CEO Mary Barra reveals the new Astra wagon at the Frankfurt motor show, with the five door hatch version now confirmed for Australia.

Euro-sourced Holden line-up will be tailored to fit Australian market: Neumann

Holden logo16 Sep 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER in Frankfurt

OPEL Group CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has singled out the Astra small car and Insignia mid-sizer as key models for GM Holden’s future as the Australian brand prepares to end local production of the Cruze and Commodore in 2017 and moves to a full-import operation.

Speaking to journalists at the Frankfurt motor show today, Dr Neumann stopped short of confirming that the forthcoming imported Commodore replacement would be based on the new-generation front-drive-based Insignia.

However, when asked if Insignia would carry the Commodore nameplate after the Australian-made car is discontinued, he said he “would be proud of it” – and added: “You can be sure that we are very proud of whatever car is selected.”

Holden announced last night that it would import the new-generation Astra from late next year, initially running only the five-door version alongside the current Australian-built Cruze but remaining open to other variants including the new Sports Tourer wagon unveiled in Frankfurt and replacements for the higher-performance GTC/VXR models that launched here in April.

“We do think that specifically with Insignia and Astra we have a product that will very, very nicely fit the Australian market and that’s why we are pursuing this direction,” Dr Neumann said.

General Motors chief executive Mary Barra repeated Dr Neumann’s enthusiasm for the Australian market and, while she was unable to reveal details of future models, did tell GoAuto in Frankfurt that an announcement was not far off.

“I don’t have any specific product announcements to make but Australia and the Holden brand remains very important to the company so look forward to announcements as we move forward,” she said.

“We are not quite ready to make an announcement but stay tuned.”

Holden has made it clear that the majority of its future line-up will be sourced from Europe and Dr Neumann emphasised that Australian-bound models would be far more than rebadged Opel/Vauxhall cars.

“We give them (Holden) the flexibility,” he said. “We are not telling them to keep it like it is and put a badge on it, we are supporting them and working with them and as with past launches in Australia to make this car a Holden.

“This is really important – that we are allowed to use group technologies.

“It will be targeted for the Australian market so there is engineering work done on them to fulfil specific expectations which fits to the Australian customers and the Holden brand.

“We will finetune the ride and feel of the car and obviously all the feature selections of the cars,” he said.

Holden is already selling the hot Astra twins, the current Insignia VXR and Cascada convertible – the first ripple in a forthcoming tide of European cars for the brand as it prepares to close its Australian manufacturing operations.

Explaining why Opel failed as a standalone brand in Australia – quitting the market less than 12 months after launching here in 2012 – Dr Neumann put the blame squarely on the lack of brand familiarity.

“In Australia and New Zealand we only had a very small dealer network and the brand was not known at all – in total contrast to Holden,” he said.

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