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HSV goes full steam ahead

Firing all cylinders: HSV intends to produce around 4300 vehicles this year. Among these will be 250 GTO coupes bound for Britain and approximately 600 vehicles to New Zealand.

HSV closes in on new export deals – and has a hot Astra in its sights for Oz

HSV logo16 Mar 2005

HOLDEN Special Vehicles is close to securing an export deal with two or three affiliate brands within General Motors and is poised to introduce a number of new technologies and built-up vehicles for sale in Australia including the Astra OPC small hatch unveiled in Geneva earlier this month.

HSV sales and marketing director Chris Payne refused to divulge which countries HSV and Holden were negotiating with for the export contracts, however he said non-traditional vehicles and new markets in Asia were integral to the deals.

"Our Middle East program is moving forward but it’s probably not number one in terms of our target at the moment – we’ve got some other opportunities in Asia that we’re exploring," he said.

"It’s not necessarily the HSV formula in a turn-key way – it’s adapting performance-niche luxury-type concepts to that marketplace, and it may be on products other than the Commodore or long-wheelbase-type products as well." Mr Payne said some of the export negotiations involved current-generation vehicles – "which obviously infers short-term initiatives" – while other deals would be based on the forthcoming VE Commodore architecture.

Both rear-drive and all-wheel drive versions were under consideration.

"It’s in the hundreds (of units) and there are two or three customers – if we can call them that – in the GM family at the moment that are interested in what HSV can do for them," Mr Payne said. "Combined, they may result in a reasonable volume – but it’s not going to be a ‘doubling’ of what HSV can do." HSV intends to produce around 4300 vehicles this year, up from 4050 in 2004. Among these will be 250 GTO Coupes bound for Britain branded as a Vauxhall Monaro VXR – up from 100 units in 2004 – and approximately 600 vehicles (18 per cent of HSV’s output) to New Zealand.

Mr Payne said HSV and Holden would also be "standing side by side" as other export opportunities arose in regions such as Europe – where General Motors is currently debating the source of its future large car – and that HSV would continue to work towards a contract in the Middle East.

"It (the Middle East) is a still a market that we, with Holden, would like to have our style of product in, and I think in the next two years we’re going to try and find a way to make that happen," he said.

"It’s still a reasonably price-sensitive market and the driving conditions and the road conditions are quite a bit different to what we’re used to here, so there is a reasonably large development and testing program that needs to be mounted to validate the cars. There’s a fairly major amount of work to be done there before we can start sending cars." To keep the home fires burning, HSV is also working with Holden to secure for its stable – complete with HSV badges – the Astra OPC three-door hatchback from its European affiliate Opel.

The production version of Opel’s GTC-based High Performance Concept study revealed at the Paris auto show last year, the front-drive Astra OPC features a 176kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine – and would mark a massive departure from the rear-drive/V8 engine formula HSV has nurtured since its inception almost two decades ago.

"If you take, for example, smaller cars – there are some pretty good benchmarks on which to work with in that $40,000 to $50,000 price category of sports performance cars, and that to us would be the segment that we need to focus on and hit hard, and hit with an outstanding product in the near-term," Mr Payne said.

"That’s where there is growth and that’s where there is volume in the Australian car market at the moment.

"(Before now) we’ve not gone into those categories simply because the product hasn’t been ‘HSV enough’. There have been opportunities for us there, but we’ve chosen not to launch there simply because we haven’t quite had all of the ingredients that we need that make up the car – the individuality, the outright performance of the car, the technology basis.

"You take a look at the OPC Astra more closely – that is certainly a product which has got some more HSV-like attributes … If you read the spec sheet, the car stands on its own two feet.

"It’s certainly a product of interest." Mr Payne said HSV’s core business would continue to be rear-drive/V8 but maintained that the division would supplement that portfolio of cars with appropriate products that would be "a sure-fire winner in any particular segment".

Opel also builds an OPC (Opel Performance Centre)-branded Vectra twin-turbo – a 1.9-litre diesel producing more than 400Nm of torque from 1400rpm – which could be a starter for Australia, while HSV – despite protestations to the contrary from Mr Payne – is also a sure bet to reintroduce a Commodore-based six-cylinder sports sedan once a high-performance, turbocharged version of Holden’s Alloytec V6 becomes available.

 center imageHSV is also sitting at the negotiating table with Holden as it thrashes out a deal with fellow GM brand Cadillac.

"There have been some discussions (with Cadillac) but I wouldn’t go beyond saying that as to what we might be, or might not be, involved in,” Mr Payne said.

"We have a great interest in any of those niche-style products and how they might be brought into Australia and the opportunities that they would present for HSV.

"There are right-drive products that are available out of the Cadillac portfolio and HSV’s involvement in that is still the subject of future discussion with Holden." On the technology front, Mr Payne said HSV had forged a strong relationship with the GM technical centre in Detroit and was working with them on a number of short-term and long-term projects, such as the Dynamic Driver Interface on the SV6000 car shown in Melbourne earlier this month.

"There are other projects that we’re looking at, similar to that, for rollout over the next few years," he said.

Virtually all growth HSV has forecast this year stems from the British and New Zealand export deals.

"We’re not greedy for (massive volume growth)," Mr Payne said. "Our business has grown, in the last seven years particularly, at a very steady and pleasing rate of about five to eight per cent per year, and it’s been a deliberate strategy to not go out and chase growth for the sake of it.

"But we have reached a pretty pleasing point with the model line-up that we have here in Australia – and New Zealand, which is a fabulous market for HSV – so now our strategy is to try and build more volume around export opportunities: to go and showcase what we can do to other GM affiliates around the world ... and building more niche, limited-run production cars like the SV6000.

"We’re working closely with Holden to try and take the HSV formula elsewhere in the world ... and whilst we’ll continue to do new and different things for the domestic market, a lot of our growth is going to come out of export."

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