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HSV eyes export revival

On tour: HSV plans to resume exports of its muscle cars around the world.

Singapore set to kick off renewed export prospects for HSV with refreshed E3 range

21 Sep 2010

HOLDEN Special Vehicles is set to revive its export business by the end of the year, with distributors in two overseas markets preparing to announce deals with the Melbourne-based fast shop for the refreshed HSV E Series 3.

GoAuto understands one of the markets is Singapore, where an independent dealer is set to introduce the Aussie brand to the island nation from November, with an expectation of up to 50 sales a year, despite prohibitive taxes on car sales.

HSV is also negotiating a resumption of exports to the United Kingdom, where the global financial crisis and subsequent near-demise of General Motors subsidiary Vauxhall effectively stalled sales of the HSV-built, ClubSport-based Vauxhall VXR8 last year.

Although the car is still available in the UK, HSV has not shipped any vehicles to Britain since January this year as Vauxhall and sister company Opel restructured after parent company GM came close to selling them off.

 center imageFrom top: HSV Clubsport, HSV Senator Signature, HSV Maloo, HSV GTS, HSV Grange.

HSV hopes the arrival of the facelifted E Series 3 model will trigger new interest as Britain climbs out of recession.

The 2011 E-Series range, which goes on sale in Australia later this month with a fresh interior, several high-tech driver aids and a $1000 price hike on most models, will also arrive in New Zealand showrooms in October.

The small but keen NZ market accounts for about 10 per cent of HSV’s volume, although HSV does not regard it as an export market, as the Tom Walkinshaw-owned company has distributed its own cars in the land of the long white cloud since the launch of the E2 major facelift a year ago. Before that, Holden handled the brand in NZ.

HSV managing director Phil Harding is tight-lipped about the proposed new destinations for export models, saying it was HSV policy for the importing organisations to make any such announcements.

Mr Harding would not confirm or deny that the UK was on the list for a renewed export foray, but pointed out that HSV had sold some 900 cars on the British market since it began exporting its version of the VZ Monaro coupe – the Vauxhall Monaro VXR – in 2006.

Spurred by positive reviews on UK television’s top-rating motoring program Top Gear, which described the tyre-smoking Monaro as one of its favourite muscle cars, the HSV-built products found a comfortable niche in Britain, despite high fuel prices.

The arrival of the VE-based Vauxhall VRX8 sedan in 2007 turned up the Top Gear praise volume even further, until the GFC struck in 2008.

Another export possibility for HSV might be the Middle East, where sales have been slow for all manufacturers due to a severe decline in some economies, especially that of Dubai.

HSV launched its products in the Gulf region under the Chevrolet Special Vehicles banner in 2006 as an adjunct to Holden’s Commodore-based Lumina and Caprice exports to the Middle East, but those opportunities evaporated while the local economies struggled in the GFC.

In Australia, where the revised E Series 3 range goes on sale at the end of this month in a much more healthy economic environment, HSV general manager of sales Darren Bowler expects the new range to help the company to 3900 sales this year – up from 3090 last year.

This is still, however, down on HSV’s record 5200 units in 2007 – before the GFC and when the VE-based HSV E Series was totally fresh.

HSV management refuses to be drawn into any reaction to rival Ford Performance Vehicles’ imminent launch of a new locally developed supercharged 335kW ‘Miami’ V8 for its Falcon-based GT – eclipsing the power of HSV’s Chevrolet-sourced 325kW LS3 V8 – saying only that its own vision is to build Australia’s best all-round performance car.

Asked if HSV would respond with more power from the GM V8 to take the performance fight up to FPV, Mr Harding said: “We are happy with what’s on the car”, referring to the 325 (kW) badge on the GTS and, from the latest update, Grange models.

But HSV engineering manager Joel Stoddart conceded that the LS3 V8 was reaching its development ceiling.

Asked if HSV would replace the LS3 with a new small-block V8 that GM has announced is under development in the United States, both Mr Stoddart and Mr Harding would only say that HSV does not comment on future product.

HSV is also careful not to comment on the prospect of a high-performance version of GM’s Cruze small car, which is set to go into production in standard form at Holden’s South Australian factory next year.

For HSV, such a car could be powered by a new hot four-cylinder powertrain from the Opel Astra OPC, which is built on the same Delta II platform as the Cruze.

Opel is poised to reveal a new Astra OPC three-door hatch at the Paris motor show.

HSV distributed the previous-generation Opel-made Astra turbocharged hatchback in Australia, but, because Opel is looking at setting up under its own banner in Australia as part of the GM Premium Brands distributorship, the locally made Cruze hot hatch might be an alternative.

Cruze could also open up extra export prospects for HSV, if only to existing markets such as NZ and, now, Singapore.

HSV might also find a market for locally developed technology that has found its way into all HSV models with the latest E Series 3 range.

The company owns the rights to the touch-screen Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) that it co-developed with race data specialist MoTec, giving HSV drivers a remarkable technical insight into their cars.

The system can even reveal technical aspects such as manifold pressure and g-forces, along with lap times at race tracks during club sprint days, with all data downloadable on a USB stick for analysis on a computer.

The system, which also controls some functions of the car such as the bi-modal exhaust system, is said to be the most sophisticated of its type in the world, superior even to the similar concept system in Nissan’s GTR.

HSV is unfazed that the in-dash screen might be criticised as a distraction to drivers during high-speed manoeuvres, saying it would always encourage safe driving.

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