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It is business as usual at Holden, despite a ‘pause’ in GM's global RWD plans

Holden logo20 Apr 2007

GM HOLDEN chairman Denny Mooney has stressed that it is business as usual at Holden, despite global product development chief Bob Lutz going on record as saying "we’ve pushed the pause button" on future rear-wheel drive models and that anything after the Camaro was "questionable".

"We haven’t stopped doing anything that we’re doing," he declared to GoAuto last week. "We’re doing a lot of engineering work here on all of the future rear-wheel drive alternatives, and I can tell you that we have not changed our work one bit.

"From an execution standpoint, with what our engineers are working on – that is, executing programs that are currently in the plan – we’re still doing what we were doing." However, Mr Mooney could not guarantee the future of the Holden Commodore beyond the VE generation’s projected decade-long lifespan.

"That doesn’t mean it couldn’t change," he said. "That doesn’t mean that in a couple of months, as we make decisions or as we see what is going to happen in some of these different areas in the world relative to potential legislation requirements, that some of what we’re working on today may change." When asked if the Lutz announcement had implications in the longer term, his reply was as follows: "Potentially".

"We’ll see how it plays out ... it is a large car. Let’s face it," he said.

Mr Lutz was quoted in the Chicago Tribune last week as saying that its rear-wheel drive programs were on hold. "It’s no longer full speed ahead," he said. "It’s too late to stop Camaro, but anything after that is questionable or on the bubble.

"We don’t know how to get 30 per cent better mileage from rear-wheel drive cars." Mr Mooney said that Mr Lutz was talking about the state of the vehicle industry as a whole, as it struggles to meet the increasingly stringent minimum fuel-consumption average legislation that is under proposal by the Bush Administration in the US.

"I think that statement is in a larger context," he said. "We all – and I just don’t mean General Motors – we’re all reacting to pending future legislation or regulation, particularly in the US and Europe, by the way, because Europe has the same issue with CO2.

"They all have voluntary standards that nobody is on track to meet." Mr Mooney said cars were getting larger and heavier with each generational advance, mostly due to increased consumer and legislative demands for greater safety and more features.

"(New models) get a little bigger every time that they come out," he said. "With all the concern on climate change – which is really elevated all around the world – everybody is stepping back and looking at their future portfolios and having to think about ‘what are you going to do’.

"So I would put Bob’s comments in that context.

"I can tell you that inside General Motors we are looking at our entire portfolio, and doing ‘what if’ scenarios.

"What if the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations in the US move?" Currently the figure is set at 8.5L/100km (27mpg) the proposed new figure is 6.9L/100km (34mpg) by 2017, representing a four per cent drop every year.

"What if the Europeans did something underhanded, (such as introducing) two kinds of regulations – what does that do to your portfolio?" Mr Mooney asked. "How would you react? Where are you going to spend your money? What are you going to do?" He remained confident that Holden would still figure strongly in any planning and/or development decision should GM change direction and concentrate on lighter, more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive vehicles.

"If you look at GM’s global engineering footprint, we’ve got a thousand engineers here," Mr Mooney said. "If there’s something else we can do other than what they are working on today, they’ll start working on something else." "You’ve got to look at the smaller rear-wheel drive comments that Bob made ... Like I said, in the future, if we are not working on what we’re working on today, we will be working on something else."

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