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Holden VF Commodore could have been lighter

Heavy hitter: Next generation Commodore shed kilos but could have doubled its weight loss.

Full redesign for Commodore would have produced more weight savings, says Holden

Holden logo22 Apr 2013

GM HOLDEN engineers have done a remarkable job to strip 70kg out of the Commodore to create the new VF model, but the weight-saving could have been a lot greater if they had been able to design the vehicle from the ground up.

A fully redesigned VF would have been 140kg lighter than the VE, as opposed to the 70kg Holden engineers have saved, according to GM Holden director of engineering Greg Tyus.

“In a whole new car, which would be revolutionary from the ground up, if we had to execute that car again with the stuff we have taken out of it, we would probably have doubled the mass savings,” Mr Tyus said at the opening of a new production line at parts supplier Diver Consolidated Industries.

He said this because of what engineers refer to as the “virtuous cycle” inherent in light-weighting programs.

“There’s an old saying, mass begets mass,” Mr Tyus said.

“If a vehicle is heavy, that means you have to have heavier brakes to stop the vehicle. If the vehicle is heavy, it means you have to have more structure to make sure it’s safe when you crash the vehicle. And if the vehicle is heavy, you have to do other things to compensate.

“So, when you start to take mass out of the car, it gets easier to execute because now all that structure you had in there to make it safe – energy is one half of mass times velocity squared – so you get to save a lot.

“The more mass you can take out, the more things you can do.” Mr Tyus said there was no need for a ground-up redesign of the Commodore, but a key part of upgrading the car was to strip weight out of it to improve fuel consumption and reduce emissions.

“That was one of the key strategies we had when we started this project back in 2009 ... A lot of people don’t appreciate it, but there was a whole lot good with the vehicle.

13 center imageLeft: Holden director of engineering Greg Tyus.



“So when we took a look at what we were doing, we said we don’t really need to reinvent the wheel.

“It’s still a good-looking car, it’s got a lot of real good fundamentals. I would say we have focused on … refinement of the vehicle, quality improvement, getting the cost out because, as you know, this is a very challenging market.

“We’ve got to take costs out and weight, and we had to do it without using premium materials and fancy widgets all over.” Mr Tyus said economic factors meant Holden was unable to completely redesign the Commodore for the VF series.

“When we started this project, it was the height of the GFC. Our company was bankrupt, and what we were looking for was, what can we do as a bridging strategy to the next–gen Commodore or the next big re-do,” he said.

“So we didn’t have a lot of money. The thing I am most proud about, and most people don’t know this, is that we said okay – and (former Holden chairman) Mark Reuss was the boss at the time – we said we don’t have a lot of money to do a big-bang re-do, but what we do have the ability to do is to incrementally improve the car year after year so that, when we get the opportunity, a lot of the foundation that we need to make an all-new car or highly evolved car will already be there.

“So we started putting together projects around cost reduction, projects around quality improvements, we started pulling together initiatives around improving the ride and handling, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), so we crept up on the market.

“So now, when you look at how much money has been spent on the VF, a lot of the foundations were laid year after year with small chunks of money, not big chunks.

“It’s a very modest program. We got our money’s worth.” Switching to aluminium would save weight, but Mr Tyus said the other aim of reducing producing costs had to be looked at on a whole-of-car basis.

“If you look at costs in mass and everything on a part by part basis, you’d never do anything,” he said.

“So what you have to do is take an enterprise look at how you are producing the part, where you are getting the part, how you are manufacturing the part.

“And they you have to ask how are we spending money throughout the entire car so we can afford to spend more money on the cross-car beam. In this case we’re not this new one is actually cheaper than the one we have got today.

“So we may spend more money on say, the bonnet and the boot and the beam and on aluminium, but when you take the whole thing together, it allows you to save money elsewhere, so the overall cost of the car is less.”

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