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HSV looks to high-tech solutions to replace V8s

Going going: HSV’s big V8 engines will soon be history, replaced by high-tech powertrains that the company hopes will maintain the excitement.

Electrified powertrains on the agenda at HSV as it gets set for a V8-less future

1 Feb 2017

HOLDEN Special Vehicles (HSV) is looking to new technologies such as hybrid powertrains to help maintain the excitement levels in its new-generation products as the V8s it is famous for dry up.

The company is also looking to widen its product portfolio, with up to three General Motors platforms in its sights once the current Holden-developed Zeta architecture – its stock in trade for all its current all-V8 Gen F2 range of vehicles – goes out of production with the Commodore in October this year.

Although the British-owned, Melbourne-based performance car company has yet to officially confirm that its 30-year link with Holden will continue beyond the demise of local manufacturing this year, that appears to be just a formality.

HSV managing director Tim Jackson told GoAuto at the recent launch of the 2017 range that HSV would be in a position to announce more about its plans beyond the current Commodore-based portfolio in about two months.

Coincidentally or not, that timing places the announcement around the date of the Geneva motor show in March when Opel will formally launch the production version of its Insignia – the German-built car that will form the basis for the next Holden Commodore in 2018.

A high-performance, all-wheel-drive version of that vehicle is a likely starter for HSV next year.

Holden is on the record as saying there will be no V8 Commodore after the current model dies, but that does not mean no high-performance version.

The latest Astra and a pick-up – possibly Colorado – could also be contenders for HSV fettling beyond Gen F2.

Mr Jackson conceded that HSV’s latest offering – the limited-edition 474kW supercharged 6.2-litre V8 GTSR W1 – would be a hard act to follow.

But he said HSV had decided not to hold back with a view to giving itself “a bit more room to move when we are into launching new cars”.

“We have always got to keep evolving, keep getting better,” he said. “That is the nature of the industry and our business.

“It does provide challenges for us, because everyone is looking for the next evolution, the next change, the next piece.

“But with this car (the GTSR W1), we wanted to deliver the best thing we could for the time, with the tools we had available.

“It definitely raises the bar and forces us to look at how we match this next time out.

“Right now we are not in a position to explain how we are going to do that or what we are going to do that with.” Mr Jackson pointed to new-generation electrified powertrains being developed by the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren as examples of how “the top echelon of manufacturers” are maintaining excitement in their cars.

“They are doing it differently, and we need to keep our minds open as to how we can do it differently,” he said.

“I am not saying we are doing it (electrified powertrains) I am saying it needs to be in the consideration set. We would need to work with Holden and GM on how we would introduce that, on the things we would do.

“But if we look at the broader changes in the industry and how that is transforming cars, we have to consider those things. At the core of it, it has to be a really exciting vehicle.” Mr Jackson said that although HSV had been successful with its V8 cars, it did not define itself as a V8 car company, rather as a developer and manufacturer of exciting vehicles.

“We know there are still V8s in the world at the moment, and probably will be for the short term, but we are seeing massive change coming,” he said.

“If we define ourselves just as an Australian-made V8 car company, then by the end of the year we won’t have that vehicle to work with – we are done.

“We can’t define ourselves as that. We need to transform ourselves.

“As the industry changes, we need to change with it, but we want to keep what we have always been – developers of all-round performance cars.

“Because our customers are fairly homogenous, we have a fairly good idea of what will excite them.” Mr Jackson said he could not spell out how HSV intended to achieve that excitement, but he said he was confident it could be achieved.

“We have a bunch of challenges we have got to meet, and we won’t put a car in the marketplace that we are not happy with – that’s the best way I can describe it,” he said.

“For us to be happy with it, we need a high degree of confidence that our customer base is going to be excited by it. It has to be an exciting car.

“In reality, because we know the end of this platform is coming, we need to be working on different platforms, potentially in different categories.

“So we are looking at maybe keeping our existing customers as best we can while also attracting new customers. We have to look at other categories, for certain.” Mr Jackson’s boss – HSV chairman Ryan Walkinshaw – has been quoted as saying a pick-up would be a starter in the new-look HSV product portfolio.

Mr Jackson said he believed the current HSV production volumes – it will build about 3300 vehicles this year – can be maintained, but not with a single platform like the current business model.

He agreed that developing new vehicles on up to three different platforms would be costly, but that his company had to be cleverer in its product development and find new ways to deliver both practical and exciting products.

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