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Holden planned to build ZB Commodore in Australia

Matter of import: Holden has revealed that it once had plans to build the new ZB Commodore at its Elizabeth facility in South Australia.

New Commodore based on Opel Insignia was chosen to replace VF on Elizabeth line

Holden logo6 Feb 2018

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HOLDEN has revealed that a derivation of the Opel Insignia that will launch in Australia at the end of this month as the ZB Commodore was in line to be built at the company’s now-defunct factory in South Australia.

Set to replace the ageing VFII Commodore at the end of 2016, it was to be a significantly different vehicle compared to the German-made car that Holden is about to release, but was scrapped when General Motors decided to pull the pin on local manufacturing by late 2013.

According to one source within Holden who wishes to remain nameless, the current Insignia B’s E2 global architecture had been chosen as the basis for the VFII’s replacement, meaning that the Commodore’s move away from rear-wheel drive and V8 engines to a transverse engine and front or all-wheel drive was inevitable regardless of whether Holden continued manufacturing vehicles in Australia.

“There was a view to manufacturing (what became the new ZB Commodore) in Australia when we started looking at it,” our source told GoAuto at the launch of the first imported Commodore into this country in Melbourne this week.

Our source added that the switch to the E2 architecture also put the future of a V6-powered Commodore in jeopardy, as at the time when the latest Insignia B was being planned out by Opel there was no provision for anything other than engines up to four cylinders in configuration.

“We were hoping to get a V6 and maybe all-wheel drive up later,” our source said. “But in the beginning, it was looking like being a four-cylinder turbo-only car.”

While Opel now provides Holden with the Commodore V6, the latter only really came about during the early planning stages of E2 development after Buick in America came on board with a Regal version. As a result, all E2 V6 calibration work was carried out in the United States.

It is understood that the stillborn Australian-made E2-based FWD/AWD Commodore was going to sit on a significantly longer wheelbase than the 2829mm item that underpins the new Insignia B/ZB Commodore, which would put it closer to or even beyond the 2915mm item of the old VFII.

According to Holden vehicle development manager Jeremy Tassone, Holden considered a number of different global architectures for the VFII replacement when discussions began internally in around 2012.

While he declined to confirm what these platforms were, it is likely they included the rear-drive Sigma and its more premium Alpha replacement, as used in expensive American models such as the Cadillac CTS and latest Chevrolet Camaro. It is thought that high costs led to the decision to switch to FWD/AWD for the VFII replacement.

Back in February 2013, Holden’s then managing director and CEO, Mark Devereux, took the unusual step of revealing the company’s ambition to continue building the Commodore in Australia beyond 2016 at the media announcement of the VF series, even though the latter had not yet been released on the market.

At the time, Mr Devereux said it would be one of two all-new vehicles to be made at Elizabeth, adding that the time had come to end the ongoing speculation about the future of the large car in Australia in general, and local manufacturing in particular.

“In the immortal words of the late Steve Jobs, a lot of folks have been speculating about whether this is the last Commodore,” Mr Devereux said at the time.

“Well I can categorically tell you that we have already begun working on the Commodore that comes after this one. The interesting thing about the fascination of the Commodore name – and frankly it’s the reason why I wanted to lay that down today to end any speculation – is that people love this nameplate, and that we are going to have another one of these.

“Right now we haven’t even launched and haven’t even started building the one we call VF, so we’ll leave all that speculation for years from now… The (VF) will run to the end of 2016, and after that time we will be putting two global architectures into the plant, and one of them will underpin the next Commodore… the Commodore that replaces the VF.

“We’re going to build a new Commodore coming after this one, we’re going to build it in Adelaide on a fantastic architecture, and you will have to wait about three years to find out what that is.”

On December 11, 2013 Holden announced that it would cease Australian manufacturing by the end of 2017.

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