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Holden Design set to strike pay dirt again

More to come: Holden designers Martin Love and Lee Mitchell with their Cruze Hatch.

Design 'theme' for secret GM future model likely to come from Holden designer's pen

Holden logo9 Feb 2013


A DESIGN theme sketched at Holden Design is the front-runner for a future General Motors product to be developed for an international audience.

The Australian outpost of GM, whose designers have an admirable strike rate in winning design themes for vehicles such as the Cruze hatch and wagon and Barina, supplied the sketches under GM's global competitive theming initiative.

All GM design studios – in the United States, Europe, South Korea, Brazil, China and Australia – are invited to submit design suggestions for vehicles being developed for the company around the world, thus drawing on its collective global expertise and enhancing the chances of coming up with truly cutting-edge design.

The winning design, usually signed off by GM vice-president of global design Ed Welburn, is then developed to a production level by one of the GM studios, but not necessarily the one that came up with the winning theme.

Melbourne-based executive director for design at GM International Operations, Mike Simcoe, told GoAuto that among several design themes submitted recently by Holden designers for a future products, one in particular appeared to have a good chance of being approved as the basis for the production car.

He said the secret vehicle was still in the planning stages and would be some years away from production.

Mr Simcoe said the finished vehicle would not necessarily be designed and engineered in Australia.

“In the past, when one of our designer's themes has been successful, we usually send that designer to the studio that will execute the production design, whereever it is in the world,” he said.

Mr Simcoe said between 60 and 70 per cent of the Holden design centre's time was now spent on international projects, either on executing the design of approved production cars or coming up with themes.

“In the past, we would have spent up to 100 per cent of our time on Holden projects, but now we have a more global view,” he said.

 center imageLeft: Executive director of GMIO design Mike Simcoe.

“And that goes for the company as a whole, taking advantage of GM's economies of scale.”

Holden Design's 130 designers and tecnicicians have been working for the past year on two new cars for GM's joint venture in China, liasing with the Chinese product development centre in Shanghai. This centre is operated jointly with China's biggest car-maker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

These cars, which are still some time from disclosure, are also being engineered at Holden, meaning job security for hundreds of engineers, technicians and vehicle testers.

But Mr Simcoe confirmed that other international projects were also underway at Holden Design's Port Melbourne technical centre, either directly for GM or under contract from affiliates.

“We have more coming all the time,” he said.

Mr Simcoe said the advantage of taking on such work was that it helped to fill the gaps in the local model development program for cars such as the Commodore and Cruze wagon, known in Holden jargon as SUP.

He said the days of Holden concentrating solely on its own products were long gone.

“We tried being self-contained here, and that didn't work,” he said.

Holden confirmed on Friday that it is already working on a new-generation Commodore to replace the VF unveiled today ahead of its June showroom launch.

This large car, which has been confirmed for production in Adelaide as a 2017 model, is likely to be the vehicle mentioned to GoAuto by Mr Simcoe in his comment about the potentially successful design theme.

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