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HSV casts future model net wide

On the hunt: Tim Jackson is currently studying a range of new performance vehicles with which to replace the current line-up of Holden Commodore-based cars, which will be discontinued in 2017.

All GM brands, various body styles on table at HSV as it mulls post-Commodore future

HSV logo3 Mar 2014

HOLDEN Special Vehicles (HSV) is considering a wide variety of models across the General Motors world with which to rebuild its line-up once its Australian-built Commodore-based range ends production in 2017.

In an interview with GoAuto, newly appointed HSV managing director Tim Jackson said “everything is a hunting ground” for the company throughout GM – from Chevrolet and Cadillac to Opel and Vauxhall – and that various body styles, including pick-up trucks and SUVs, were on the agenda.

The main proviso is that there is scope for significant local engineering and design work in keeping with HSV’s current modus operandi.

“Everything is a hunting ground for us,” Mr Jackson said.

“Our mind is open as to what the future looks like. What we see around, we are pretty excited about, and as our challenge has always been, it’s to put those pieces together to deliver a great performance car.

“Where we see the opportunity to make a great performance car that is consistent with our brand, and where we see there is an appropriate economic return, then we’ll certainly be looking hard at it.

“Everything’s open. If we believe we can add value from a design and engineering perspective, to enhance the product in a way that can bring it into the marketplace or enhance it in a way that makes it a differentiated offer (from a Holden car) in the marketplace, then we’ll certainly look at it.”

This will rule out fully engineered performance cars – Opel’s latest 220kW-plus Astra OPC Extreme set for this week’s Geneva show being a case in point – but the forthcoming overseas-built Commodore replacement due 2018 and established models such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette are believed to be under consideration.

Mr Jackson would not specify individual models, nor would he commit to the continuation of the current V8 engine/rear-wheel-drive layout that underpins HSV’s entire model range.

But he said right-hand-drive conversion was a potential solution where certain models – read: Camaro and Corvette – met HSV’s criteria, and that “all manner of product” in terms of engine performance and drivetrain were on the table.

“If we feel there’s an economic opportunity, if we think there’s a market for it, then we’ll certainly be looking at it (RHD conversion),” he said.

“Is there enough volume, enough scale, to make that an efficient operation? ...

That’s a question we haven’t answered.

“The message is: we’re looking at lots of different opportunities, that’s for certain. All the things that you’ve brought up and mentioned are definitely things that is incumbent upon us to investigate and pursue and identify whether there is an opportunity there or not.”

Asked how important it was for HSV to continue to offer a V8/rear-drive combination in the future, Mr Jackson said: “Clearly, that’s our market at the moment, and we’ve been able to deliver great-value cars in that space.

“Our job at the moment (for future models) is look at what’s the platform, what’s the potential, for all manner of product into the marketplace.

“That’s how it’s always been, really, even though our focus has been V8s because we’ve been able to deliver the value in the space.

“When we’ve brought Astra in, when we’ve done Avalanche in the past, when we did Coupe 4, we’ve always looked at new (drivetrain) formats, new takes on what a performance car is.

“It may be that the future platform looks like that. It may be that it doesn’t.”

Notwithstanding the fact that Holden is winding down its engineering operations and will close its Lang Lang proving ground, Mr Jackson said he did not expect a significant drop in engineering staff numbers beyond 2017 because of the ongoing requirements involved in bringing HSV cars to market.

“We definitely anticipate having a strong engineering presence,” he said.

“HSVs have to be differentiated in the marketplace – there’s a sense of uniqueness and performance and great design.

“We don’t see that changing. That’s an expectation in the marketplace we need to deliver against, and we need a strong design and engineering function to be able to deliver that.”

HSV currently has 140 staff on the payroll, the bulk of those across engineering and manufacturing. It has 66 dealers and last year sold just north of 3100 vehicles.

Mr Jackson officially took over the top job at the Holden hot-car division last week from Phil Harding, who has taken a step back after six years at the wheel.

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