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VE Commodore on track, says Holden

Biggest launch since FX: The VE Commodore is understood to have design features in common with GM’s Saturn Aura concept.

Holden’s crucial next-generation Commodore will arrive on time: Mooney

Holden logo31 Aug 2005

HOLDEN is insistent that its decision to axe 1400 jobs and reduce vehicle production to 2003 levels will not affect the launch timing of next year’s crucial new VE Commodore.

The first all-new large car for Holden since the VT model launched in September 1997, the VE has already been pushed back from its planned launch as early as April next year until the second half of 2006 (as late as September, according to one well-placed source).

But GM Holden chairman and managing director, Denny Mooney, said last week the downsizing decision would not mean further onsale delays for Holden’s most important model.

"I’ve said before, mid-next-year is when we plan on introducing that new product," he told ABC radio last Friday. "What we’re announcing today really is not going to have any impact on the timing of that program." Mr Mooney said the VE Commodore would be Holden’s biggest launch since its first model – the 48-215 "FX" Holden released almost 60 years ago.

"This new model, which we think is going to be a great product, is probably our biggest launch maybe since 1948," he said. "It’s a huge launch for us." It is believed Holden will spend up to $A1 billion to develop the new VE range, setting a new benchmark for an Australian-built vehicle.

At a reported development cost of between $900 and $950 million, the VE will easily eclipse the VT at $600m, while the previous VN Commodore redesign in 1988 cost $360m.

By comparison, Ford Australia spent $700m to develop both the EA and AU, while $500m was spent to produce the BA Falcon and SX Territory.

Based on GM’s Holden-developed Zeta chassis architecture, VE Commodore is a cleansheet design that will comprise a lower level of Australian content.

Holden told GoAuto this week that this year’s build forecast would reduce from 183,000 to 164,000 vehicles and that exports would remain static at around 52,000. It would not confirm production targets for 2006, however GoAuto understands that figure will be down to around 135,000 units.

For the moment, it is unclear how the forthcoming cuts to vehicle production will affect traditional Commodore derivatives such as the long-wheelbase Statesman/Caprice and utilities, and all-wheel drive models.

However, given Mr Mooney’s stated desire to reduce plant complexity – and the confirmed release next year of a Daewoo-sourced medium 4WD to rival Ford’s successful Territory – the future of the Commodore wagon-based Adventra crossover, and any other Holden-built 4WD wagon for that matter, seems more in doubt than ever.

Similarly, despite the Zeta platform’s capability to be built in both rear- and all-wheel drive configurations, slow sales of the Cross6/8 utility models reduce their chances of entering into a second generation.

Question marks remain over other Commodore derivatives, including the Monaro coupe.

Holden is yet to confirm a two-door VE-based replacement, and given Holden is expected to supply expected to supply Pontiac with left-hand drive versions of the current Monaro until well into the VE Commodore’s lifecycle - some reports suggest GTO exports will continue until 2007 - a VE Monaro is unlikely to appear before 2008.

That’s if GM doesn’t decide to produce Monaro in the US instead.

With the overall decline in large-car sales in Australia this year at least part of the reason for Holden’s reduced future production forecast, it is also possible a diesel variant of the VE Commodore will be fast-tracked.

Holden has confirmed VE will be the first Commodore to be offered with turbo-diesel technology, most likely in the shape of a VM Motori-built 162kW/500Nm 3.0-litre V6.

What's coming from Holden:

Tigra TwinTop (Opel) cabrio - late Sep
Astra (Opel) wagon - Fourth quarter
TK Barina (Daewoo) light car - Fourth quarter
JF Viva (Daewoo) small car - Fourth quarter
Astra SRi Turbo (Opel) coupe - Fourth quarter
Vectra replacement (Daewoo) - 2006
Medium 4WD (Daewoo) - mid-2006
All-new VE (Holden) Commodore - Third quarter 2006
All-new WM (Holden) Statesman - Fourth quarter 2006
All-new VE-based HSV range - Fourth quarter 2006
Astra TwinTop (Opel) cabrio - Fourth quarter 2006
All-new VE (Holden) utility - First quarter 2007
Small (Daewoo) 4WD - 2007
All-new VE (Holden) Monaro - 2008?

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