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Zeta evolution continues unabated

Crunch time: Holden is attempting to keep its Zeta rear-drive architecture viable with a development program.

Holden rear-drive architecture put on a diet for next generation of GM cars

21 May 2009

HOLDEN is developing a lighter and more highly-evolved version of its three-year old Zeta rear-wheel-drive architecture that underpins several GM models including Commodore, Statesman and Chevrolet Camaro.

The company says cutting weight from Zeta is one of the biggest goals for the Port Melbourne engineers, as General Motors tries to keep the platform competitive for a number of years.

Holden’s engineers are working towards refining Zeta for possible new applications in GM’s future mid and large-car programs.

Whether these products would be made overseas or by Holden under a renewed export program is still unknown.

We understand that the recipients of ‘New Zeta’ will most likely include North American-market models under the Cadillac and Chevrolet franchises, as well as the Buick models that GM makes and sells in China.

 center imageFrom top: Chev Camaro, Pontiac G8, Daewoo Veritas.

Whether this means the VE Commodore continues in the US and Canada after the VE-based G8 models die with the Pontiac brand after 2010 remains to be seen.

However, this is all on condition that the massive GM restructure plan to be announced on June 1 all goes according to Holden’s forecasts.

Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss admitted earlier this week at the launch of the vital new Cruze small car that some sort of US bankruptcy filing is possible and may be even inevitable for GM at the end of the month, even though it is not the avenue that the corporation wants to take.

We hear Holden’s engineers have taken heed from other manufacturers – including Ford Australia and Jaguar with the XF – on the development potential locked within an existing architecture.

Referring to the lauded but lardy Zeta platform, one insider told GoAuto that Holden had learned that the act of throwing away something you already had can often meant ending up losing something good.

Mr Reuss revealed that neither GM nor Holden was in any position now or in the foreseeable future to repeat a multi-billion dollar program like Zeta, and was unlikely to be for a long time.

“GM has Sigma for Cadillac (and) also the low-cost Zeta, and so the two will probably co-exist, because one of the four core brands in North America will be Cadillac,” he said.

“We are still one of the few places that do right-hand drive (in the world).” Mr Reuss said Zeta was still in the early stages of its product lifecycle, and that future developments were intended to make it a world-leading rear-drive platform.

“What I want to do is … make that architecture pay, for a very long period,” he said.

Mr Reuss described the Zeta proportions as “gorgeous”, saying that this allowed it to be a flexible base for lots of cars – two-door, four-door and long wheelbase.

“We have the ultimate Lego set in this car,” he said. “Now we have got to go out and make it world class – and I mean for the rest of the world, as the market changes for both operating costs and design.

“We haven’t finished making this car excellent.”

Mr Reuss said one of the ways Holden was improving Zeta was by introducing new materials that were once prohibitively expensive.

“We haven’t got any exotic panel material on this car at all,” he said.

“Now, the costs of doing these sort of things have come down to the point where we can actually do them, and make money out of it, we can get mass out of the car very easily.”

Holden says it wants Australians to keep in mind that the Commodore and other large cars are still at the forefront of the company’s agenda, despite the financial crisis, and even though it is setting up small-car manufacturing at its Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

“It certainly is not over yet,” one insider said. “And we will see some of the changes sooner rather than later.” This is a reference to the fuel-saving and emissions-cutting technologies that are being applied to the VE Commodore and WM Statesman/Caprice series over the next few months, including LPG solutions and possibly the option of direct-injection HFV6s.

V8 models already have AFM fuel-management cylinder cut-off technology.

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