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New GM concept car taking shape at Holden

Main man: GM’s International Operations design chief Michael Simcoe introduces the Chevrolet Cruze at the 2009 LA auto show in his previous role as executive design director for the bow-tie brand.

Next mystery vehicle being crafted in Melbourne as GM Design Australia powers on

24 Jun 2014

HOLDEN-BASED General Motors Design Australia is believed to be working on a fresh concept car that looks set to surface at an international event.

GM sources have told GoAuto that the project is underway at the studio in Melbourne, following on from two other recent concepts, one of which turned up at the New Delhi motor show as the Chevrolet Adra early this year and another that had been earmarked for this year’s New York motor show before being pulled from the line-up ahead of the event.

As always, GM is keeping a firm lid on the nature of the latest vehicle, as well as its design origins and whether it is destined for production or to showcase potential new design themes for a future product or products.

The latest project is evidence of the Australian design studio’s continuing role in global GM design, and makes good on GM design vice-president Ed Welburn’ s pledge to keep the Down Under operation – one of 10 GM studios around the world – front and centre in the company’s product development.

The centre escaped the axe when GM decided late last year to close its Australian factories along with most of its engineering operations here in 2017.

However, the Australian studio – the base for GM International Operations executive director of design Michael Simcoe – is no longer a principal studio responsible for major model development, as it was when the Zeta-based Commodore, Chevrolet SS, Caprice and related Camaro were developed from the ground up in this country.

Instead, GM Design Australia is a contributor to sister operations around the world, working on mostly Chevrolet products but also Buick vehicles to be sold in China and GMC trucks for the Americas, as well as contributing “themes” – design sketches – for all products from all GM brands, including Opel and Cadillac.

One of those products is almost certainly the replacement for the locally made Commodore that will be imported once Holden’s Elizabeth factory shuts in three years.

The studio is also mentoring fledgling design operations in places such as India where the jointly developed Chevrolet Adra mini-SUV concept was unveiled at the Delhi motor show in February.

Although the Indian designers took the lead on the vehicle’s design, the Australian team guided them and brought it home, building the final product in its Victorian fabrication workshop – one of only two such facilities across GM’ s global operations (the other is in Detroit).

The Adra was one of two then-secret concept vehicles mooted by Mr Welburn to GoAuto at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show in November, the other being a Chevrolet that was intended for the 2014 New York motor show.

As previously reported, former Holden chairman Mike Devereux said in an interview after Holden’s exit announcement last December that the studio would continue to work on brands including Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet and Vauxhall, and that the team was working on at least one vehicle – including a concept – to be unveiled at the New York show in April.

GM subsequently failed to confirm the car for the show, nor the decision to drop it. Neither was a reason offered.

However, in the lead-up to the New York show, GM was embroiled in controversy over claims that it failed to recall vehicles in the US in a timely manner after safety faults were discovered.

As GoAuto reported from New York, the company held a low-key product preview on the eve of the show rather than the usual media day hoopla, perhaps to make itself a smaller target for the world’s press. Even so, GM’s new CEO Mary Barra faced a barrage of hostile questioning at the event where the company launched the Chevrolet Trax for North America.

When the decision not to show the Australian-built concept at the show was taken early this year, GM sources said the car might turn up at another event.

Just days before the New York show opened, Holden staged a design forum for the press at the Melbourne studio, showing Australian motoring journalists a small concept car, presumed by most to be a Chevrolet.

That car has now been shipped overseas, possibly to the GM Technical Centre in Warren, Michigan, where it is likely to be used internally as a design inspiration.

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