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GM Holden plans V6 stockpile

Power down: Holden’s V6 engine plant will do double duty this year, building up V6 stocks before closing just prior to Christmas.

Holden engine plant to close this year after pre-building 2017 Commodore engines

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Holden logo27 Jul 2016

GM HOLDEN is planning to stockpile thousands of Melbourne-made V6 Commodore engines before closing its engine plant late this year, thus tiding it over for the final nine months or so of Commodore production at Elizabeth, South Australia.

The demise of the 13-year-old Fisherman’s Bend engine factory will bring down the curtain on 68 years of Holden manufacturing at the iconic Victorian site where it built its first Holden-badged car in 1948.

Although a firm date for the Holden Engine Operations plant closure has not been confirmed by Holden, it is expected to come after Holden quits Cruze small car production at Elizabeth in October.

The V6 engines to be stockpiled will meet the latest Euro 5 emissions regulations that come into force in Australia on November 1 this year.

However, Holden has been given special dispensation by the federal government to defer introduction of the Euro 5-compliant V6 until early 2017.

The company says it wants the latest engine to coincide with the introduction of the 2017 model-year Commodore that is likely to be the subject of a concerted send-off campaign by GM’s Australian arm.

GoAuto expects the MY17 Commodore to go into production directly after the annual summer shut-down at Elizabeth, running until the fourth quarter of 2017 when Holden will close local production entirely, more or less simultaneously with Toyota Australia.

Holden has already stopped production of LPG gas and E85 ethanol-compatible engines in the latest VF II Commodore that was introduced in October last year.

Its US-made 6.2-litre V8 engines in vehicles such as the Commodore SS, Calais V and Caprice V are already Euro-5 compliant.

These V8 engines have been taking an increasing share of Commodore sales in recent years, even as overall sales of the Australian-developed large car have declined on the back of falling fleet sales. Last year, Holden sold just 34,010 Commodore sedans, wagons and utes and Caprices in Australia – well short of the 107,515 sold in 1998 when the Commodore and its variants topped the sales charts.

From 2018, the Commodore will be replaced by an imported model, thought to be based on the next Opel-built Insignia in Germany.

More than a million V6 engines have been built for Australia and export markets at Holden’s Global V6 Engine plant since it opened with great fanfare in 2003.

The $400 million plant began building the High Feature V6 to replace a Buick-sourced 3.8-litre V6 for Commodore and also for export to GM subsidiaries such as Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Opel and Saab, as well as external customers such as Alfa Romeo.

At one point, it made 34 variants of the V6 engine, ranging from the potent 2.8-litre turbo used in Opel/Vauxhall’s Insignia VRX/OPC and Saab 9-5 to an LPG-capable 3.6.

But Holden engine production at Fisherman’s Bend goes right back to the founding of “Australia’s own car” in 1948 when Holden started building GM’s 2.15-litre six cylinder ‘grey motor’ for the original 48-215 ‘FX’ Holden at the same site.

The plant stepped up to the L6 ‘red motor’ six for the EH Holden in 1963, and then the first V8 engines – the 253 and 308 – for the HT range, including the first Monaro, in 1969.

The company built 4.7 million four-cylinder Family II engines between 1981 and 2009 in one of the most successful Australian automotive export programs in history.

In all, more than 10 million Holden engines have been built at Fisherman’s Bend. Once the current engine plant closes, the manufacturing site is set to be sold off by GM, leaving only Holden’s head office and GM Australia design and engineering centre there.

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