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Zeta gathers pace

Direction of travel: The VE Commodore due August 2006 is believed to take styling cues from the Saturn Aura concept.

Holden’s large rear-drive global vehicle architecture shifts back into gear

Holden logo6 Oct 2005


EVIDENCE that General Motors’ large rear-wheel drive vehicle plans are back on track continues to emerge from the US, with GM last week announcing the appointment of a chief engineer for Holden’s Zeta global vehicle architecture program.

Doug Houlihan, formerly assistant chief rear-drive vehicle engineer for North American applications, has been named as the man who will run Holden’s Zeta architectural development centre, or "homeroom", in Port Melbourne.

Mr Houlihan will report to Gene Stefanyshyn, who was named in January as Zeta’s vehicle line executive but is yet to take up his post in Melbourne after the Zeta program was put on ice in March.

Mr Stefanyshyn is still expected to head up the Zeta homeroom, which will be charged with re-engineering the underpinnings of next year’s all-new VE Commodore for use beneath up to 500,000 large rear-drive GM vehicles globally.

GM’s global product czar Bob Lutz told GoAuto at the Frankfurt auto show last month that GM had revived a revised version of the Zeta program, some six months after it apparently postponed plans to use the rear-drive car architecture in North America.

At the recent Holden Tigra launch, GM Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney added that reports proclaiming the Zeta program as dead were wide of the mark.

"Holden’s involvement in Zeta will be much larger than what many thought it would be," he told GoAuto. "We’re still working on it."Zeta had been expected to form the basis of the next-generation Chevrolet Impala, Monte Carlo and Camaro, the Buick Velite convertible and the new Pontiac Grand Prix and GTO – the successor to Holden’s Monaro.

This latest confirmation from Mr Mooney shows that Holden, which for the first time will be responsible for producing a global vehicle architecture, remains firmly entrenched within GM’s international vehicle development plans.

Meantime, Holden’s own Zeta-based VE Commodore sedan remains on track for launch around August next year, and should be followed a wagon version by the end of 2006.

By that time, Holden will have made available an Australianised version of Daewoo’s mid-sized 4WD concept dubbed SX3 and based on GM’s C100-codenamed (Theta) architecture.

Mr Mooney said Holden "will continue to assess (the viability of) AWD for large cars", but conceded: "It’s not as well suited as in Europe or North America."So, while a (two-door) utility is expected to be the third VE Commodore derivative to be approved by GM, don’t expect further Commodore derivatives like Adventra or Crewman to be replaced.

Astra turbo hatch Jan 2006
All-new medium 4WD March 2006
VE Commodore sedan Aug 2006
VE Commodore wagon Oct 2006
VE Commodore ute Jan 2007

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