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VE Commodore: Space saver versus ESP life-saver

Spare change: The base VE Omega's full-sized spare adds $100 to the price.

Holden gives with one hand (ESP) and takes with the other (full-sized spare)

Holden logo31 Jul 2006

HOLDEN’s decision to move to a space-saver spare tyre across the VE Commodore range has met criticism from the RACV.

But it has also been praised for electing to make ESP standard across the range.

The RACV’s chief engineer, Michael Case, said he was surprised Holden, which had once branded its cars as Aussie as "meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars" would choose to fit spacesavers and then get consumers to pay $100 for the privilege of a full-size spare on the volume Omega.

"It’s not just the $100 on the base model either," Mr Case said.

"As I understand it a full-size spare on other vehicles is $250.

"That’s becoming quite expensive."Mr Case said people still needed to be made aware of the limitations of a "temporary-use spare tyre", particularly a space-saver tyre where there are limitations on how far and fast you can drive.

RACV testing has found conclusively that space-saver spare tyres have a negative impact on handling and braking, particularly in the wet.

Mr Case said potential Commodore buyers would now need to ask dealers about what spare tyres were in the respective models.

"They need to be asking questions of the dealers and checking the spare," he said.

"They also should consider upgrading to a normal full-size spare and negotiate on the price."Mr Case said the deletion of a full-size spare did not appear to be a cost-related issue "because the VE is clearly designed for a full-size spare".

Independent fleet analyst, Tony Robinson, of Sureplan, believes the spacesaver spare could be an issue for some fleets with tough occupational health and safety requirements.

"I think increasingly, fleets are putting safety as their duty of care requirements," he said.

"Yes, that (the spacesaver) will add into that criteria."However Mr Robinson said the fleet fight would ultimately come down to specifications and "what this car has over that car" as well as pricing.

"I’ve had a number of calls from clients who are saying they like the look and feel of the new Camry, and asking what the residuals would be like," he said.

"The initial gut feel I get is that there is renewed interest in that medium car sector... the one that 20 years ago died!"However, Mr Robinson believes the new VE will help return some impetus to the six-cylinder segment but fuel, as part of overall running costs, was an issue for fleets.

"The Commodore is the best car they’ve ever brought out but I don’t know if it will negate that negative feeling about fuel in the marketplace,"he said.

He also concurred with Ford chief, Tom Gorman, that many Commodore buyers would leech across to the Captiva front and all-wheel drive SUV when it arrived next month, particularly among user-choosers.

The VE Commodore, like the all large sixes, in Australia faces the onslaught of rising fuel prices and the increasing move away from large six cylinder cars.

The growing popularity of SUVs, aligned with novated leases and salary sacrificing, have impacted the appeal of six-cylinder sedans with Commodore sales slowing to 66,794 last year from a high in 2002 of 88,478, a 24.5 per cent drop over four years.

At its peak just after going on sale back in 1997, 94,642 of the previous generation Commodore were sold in 1998.

Overall, sales of six cylinder sedans are down 20 per cent this year.

The previous-generation VT Commodore was launched at the end of 1997 at a time when unleaded petrol was 74c a litre.

Petrol prices this week in many metropolitan areas were around $1.45, almost 100 per cent higher than back in 1997.

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