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Holden pitches VF as a world car, with no guilt trips

Key factor: The new VF Commodore will be exported to the US as the niche, luxury Chevrolet SS.

Changing perceptions, not making locals guilty, the key to VF Commodore glory

Holden logo27 May 2013


HOLDEN will push the new VF Commodore’s American connection as part of a marketing strategy that pitches its homegrown hero as a “truly global car”.

But one thing the campaign will not do, according to Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux, is guilt Australians into supporting local products – an especially cogent point in the wake of Ford’s decision to stop making cars here at the end of 2016.

The company will launch a brand campaign dubbed “think” to support the June 1 launch of its revised family car, which will emphasise what it calls the world-class technologies of the VF and – more interestingly – its US export twin, the Chevrolet SS.

One striking element of the Australian television commercial to be aired shows a Chevy SS, which the company will market as a niche, flagship luxury performance vehicle, driving down New York’s Fifth Avenue beset by yellow taxis.

At last week’s launch program in Canberra – held, incidentally, the day before Ford’s announcement on its future – Mr Devereux called the VF a “technological launchpad” for General Motors and described it as emblematic of the “growing recognition” of Holden’s abilities within the larger GM empire.

According to Holden, the VF is the first vehicle anywhere within GM to feature an aluminium bootlid and the group’s new global radio and satellite navigation systems, the first large car to get automatic parking assist, and the first ‘mainstream’ car with a colour head-up display.

“I think one of the best stories on VF is our export program to the US with the Chevy SS,” said Mr Devereux, who went on to say that the car had “literally stopped people in the street” in the Big Apple while filming of the new commercial took place.

13 center imageFrom top: Mike Devereux and production of the new VF Commodore.

“We will be using this (connection) in our commercial, really playing up the connection to the US, having this be top of the line, frankly, performance Chevy,” he said. “I really think there’s quite sense of pride in us being able to export our expertise.

“Holden is already well regarded as an engineering centre for our work on Camaro, and actually there’s growing recognition on what we do in the US.

“And that’s the great thing about being a truly global car this time. When we talk about world-class, make no mistake – we do not take that talk lightly.”

Mr Devereux also said racing connections, such as Chevy’s SS NASCAR contender, and the inaugural V8 Supercars race held in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, were important tools.

Beyond tapping into the VF’s place in GM’s upper echelon, Mr Devereux said it was also crucial to sell the car on its merits, and reignite buyer passion for the Australian large car as an alternative to family cars such as imported compact SUVs, rather than pitch it as a charity case.

“It is not about guilting people into buying Australian,” he said.

“What it is about is us building a truly world-class car in Australia, making people feel passionate again, making people feel excited, making people feel proud of what we can do in this country, and really challenging people to think differently about our great Holden brand.”

By reaching into the GM technology parts bin – indeed, by pioneering several developments – Holden says it has both cut costs and made the VF more desirable.

As GoAuto has reported, the new VF is much cheaper than the VE, with price cuts of almost $10,000 on some variants.

The new model is more efficient and safer, while all versions – even the base Evoke – come with a self-parking system, reversing camera, parking sensors and MyLink infotainment as standard. Some variants also get a head-up display, blind spot monitoring system and lane departure warning.

Holden also received $38.9 million from the federal government’s now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund to cover the use of aluminium panels, and to improve aerodynamics.

“There is no question that VF is critically important to the future of Holden,” said Mr Devereux. “We’ve got to build a world-class car, we know that. Full stop. No excuses.

“We’ve also had to change and challenge ourselves in manufacturing to compete with much less expensive imports because of the value of the Australian dollar, and we’ve got to offset some of those structural challenges we have.

“So while VF has had a huge leap forward in technology, we’ve also had a pretty big leap forward in our manufacturing.

“This is clearly the best quality car we’ve ever built ... and I have to tell you, there aren’t many vehicle launches in the world that start on time and that make the number of cars they were supposed to make, on time, on the first day at the quality glide path and the run rate that we planned – but we’ve done that.”Note: Holden has embargoed full product information, reviews and engineering information until May 30. Stay posted for more information over the coming days...

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