New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

Old 04-07-2006, 02:25 AM
monaroCountry is offline
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Default New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

VE Commodore secrets revealed
The Sydney Morning Herald
Friday April 7 2006

Holden’s Australian icon, the Commodore, will have more foreign parts to keep prices down and European styling flair to broaden its appeal. But will that be enough to entice buyers away from imported cars, asks JOSHUA DOWLING.

Australia's favourite car - the Holden Commodore - faces its toughest challenge ever when the all-new model goes on sale in August.

The Commodore may have been the biggest-selling car for the past decade but its sales are at a 12-year low. The rising cost of petrol has recently been getting the blame - and the headlines - but it is merely one factor.

Over the past 10 years Australians have been falling out of love with the big Aussie sedan and developed more exotic tastes. Imported vehicles have become more affordable thanks to a dramatic reduction in import tariffs and, more recently, a stronger Aussie dollar.

Ten years ago, imported vehicles accounted for half of all new vehicles sold. Today, they make up more than 70 per cent of new-car sales. A decade ago, imported passenger cars attracted a 25 per cent tariff.

Today it is just 10 per cent - and the Federal Government is looking to drop the import tariff on passenger cars to 5 per cent in 2010, in line with the tariff on recreational vehicles.

With this in mind, the next-generation Commodore will have to be a lean machine cheaper to build and free of any excess cost if it is to survive among the hordes of imports.

It also explains why the next Commodore will be the most multicultural model Holden has ever produced, with more foreign parts than before. Will buyers be able to notice where Holden has cut costs - and corners?

With previous Commodores, Holden boasted about the local content of its cars. Now it refuses to divulge details. Taillights from Korea, fuel injectors from China, wheels made in Thailand, body-moulding tools made in Japan. And that's just a taste.

"We don't discuss that level of detail," is the stern response from Holden's spokesman Jason Laird. "We don't discuss local content."

When pressed, Laird says: "The new car needs to be competitive with every global brand for it to be successful in Australia. What's important is [the Commodore] continues to be Australia's best-selling car and continues to be a major part of the Australian car industry.

"We have the jobs of our Holden staff to consider and the jobs of the supplier industry to consider. Suppliers need to be globally competitive just as we need to be. That means new technology, new innovation and new ways to do business."

But Holden has switched from some local suppliers in favour of foreign suppliers who are cheaper. Holden does not apologise for this.

"This car has to be able to handle the best that Europe and Japan can throw at it. Australia is one of the most competitive car markets in the world," Laird says.

While some local suppliers have been dropped, Holden says it's worth noting that some new suppliers have set up in Australia and created jobs, although Laird is not specific.

"The [next Commodore] has to be competitive. If it's not competitive then that puts the whole system at risk."

Could this be the last Australian-made Commodore? Laird is almost furious at the suggestion.

"We have no plan other than to have Australia's best-selling car," he says. "For the past three years we've invested $1.8 billion on local operations. Find another company that's done that. Find another project worth that. We've spent the equivalent of four Olympic stadiums in the space of three years. We're not going to sit here and justify our existence when the numbers clearly show we mean business. We've made an enormous investment in the future of the company."

Holden believes buyers are looking for an excuse to come back to the Commodore. We'll know soon enough.

As engineers put the finishing touches on the most important Commodore ever made, fleet managers were shown the vehicle at a special preview in Sydney this week.

Based on information we've gathered from fleet managers who've seen the car and other industry contacts, we've learned that the VE (the new Commodore's model code) is the most radically different Commodore in the 26-year history of the nameplate.

Holden has designed, engineered and developed the car from scratch. Every model Commodore - from the VB launched in 1978 to the VT of 1997 - started life as a European Opel sedan that was heavily reworked to become an Australian Commodore.

Since General Motors' European division Opel killed off its large rear-drive sedan (it was originally called the Commodore, then the Senator and then the Omega) three years ago, Holden has been faced with the proposition of developing the car itself.

The Australian outpost of GM is not completely alone, of course, with significant assistance coming from GM engineers around the world and, in particular, the United States (some Holden insiders say there is a little too much input from GM representatives from the US).

The US involvement in the VE largely stems from the fact that the next generation of Commodore derivatives are expected to be assembled in North America, as well as Elizabeth in South Australia.

The Statesman could be built and sold in the US as a Buick, which is why the VE has had some significant changes under the skin. For example, to accommodate US requirements the fuel tank has been moved from under the boot to under the rear seat, among other modifications that enable the VE to meet international regulations.

As part of the grand plan of GM's global product chief, Bob Lutz (he's the bloke who did the deal to sell the Monaro to the Yanks as a Pontiac GTO) Holden is now the centre of excellence for GM's global low-cost rear-drive vehicles. In other words, other than Cadillac and Corvette, Holden is the rear-drive expert for the rest of the GM world.

The next Commodore will have roughly the same size interior as the current model but its exterior dimensions are said to have grown by about 15cm to accommodate new safety equipment (such as "curtain" airbags) and more stringent side impact regulations.

As these computer-generated images show, the bulging wheel arches and starchly creased waistline give the VE an upmarket Audi feel. The front wheels have been pushed forward for better road-holding.

To help fill the massive wheel arches the fleet-pack Executive's standard wheel size has grown from 15-inches to 16-inches and the SS is expected to get 19-inch wheels as standard.

Expect to see the base car powered by just one version of the 3.6-litre V6 - the high output version - with power said to be up from 190kW (as used in the SV6 and Calais) to 200kW.

For the 6.0-litre V8, Holden is said to have found another 5kW (bringing it up to 265kW), although it's worth pointing out that the new number is what the engine was quoted in all US documentation as having in the first place. Perhaps Holden deliberately under-called the power of the 6.0-litre fitted to the VZ so that it appeared there was a power gain with the all-new model.

It is not yet clear whether the 6.0-litre's fuel-saving technology - displacement on demand - will be available from day one on V8-powered VE models. Holden, as with most makers, doesn't play all its cards at once at new-model time, so displacement on demand (which shuts down up to four cylinders under light loads or when cruising downhill) may be held up Holden's sleeve until Series II time, about a year after launch.

Unfortunately, such fuel-saving technology can't come soon enough for Holden as the VE is said to have piled on the kilos - up by 130kg-140kg more than the VZ - which, if true, would put it on par and perhaps even heavier than its arch rival, the Ford Falcon.

Weight is such an issue for the VE that, in addition to a standard five-speed automatic gearbox on V6 models, the V8s are expected to get a six-speed auto as standard - both with taller ratios to help open-road fuel economy. The Holden V8's six-speed auto is said to be GM-made while the sporty HSV is said to be getting the world-class, German-made ZF six-speed auto (the same one used in the latest performance Falcons).

Brakes have also come under scrutiny. To help cope with the VE's extra weight, V8 model Commodores will get 330mm front discs, which are bigger than the premium front discs recently fitted to the VZ 6.0-litre range.

The V6 models are expected to get the brakes that Holden has just fitted to the SS and other 6.0-litre VZ models, while the larger vented rear discs on those models will become standard fare on the rear of the entire VE range.

HSV is said to be fitting six-piston AP Racing calipers as standard across its VE range but with larger diameter discs than currently on the VZ. Both Holden and HSV have opted for the biggest brakes possible because it is difficult to tamper with the brakes (such as fitting larger calipers or discs) when the car is equipped with an electronic stability program (ESP).

Most VE models are expected to have ESP as standard, given that the technology has been largely attributed to reducing the number of crashes and saving lives since it became widely available on new cars sold in Europe. An ESP system detects if the car is going too fast in a corner or in slippery conditions and cuts engine power and applies the brakes accordingly.

ESP came into the spotlight recently when Holden's head of safety, Laurie Sparke, was caught off-guard when asked by the ABC's 7.30 Report why ESP wasn't an option on the base model Commodore. He didn't have an answer.

It may be too late for ESP to be added to the base model VE with just four months to go before launch but if it is available on a VE Executive, we can probably thank those few moments of publicly funded television.

Other than safety items such as ESP and curtain airbags, equipment levels are expected to remain the same as the VZ for each model (apparently buyers will initially be lured by the all-new body shape).

In a last-minute cost-cutting attempt consideration was given to taking some equipment out of the cars. But the former head of sales and marketing, Ross McKenzie, apparently put a stop to that and said at a board meeting: "I don't care how you save the money but you're not taking a single feature out of the car."

Which is why there will be more foreign parts in the Commodore than ever before.

"There's no point building the world's best car if no-one buys it," says one Holden insider. "How many people would pay $40,000 for an Executive? Exactly."

That said, prices across the VE range are expected to increase by between 1 and 3 per cent. Holden creeps up the price with every model change, so a full model change will most certainly lead to a price rise. Holden needs to recoup its significant investment cost, said to be close to $1 billion - the biggest investment on a Commodore.

The VE was, at one point, supposed to be on sale in February-March this year. The former boss of Holden, Peter Hanenberger, brought the VE program forward six months because he was worried about the impact the heavily revised Falcon would have on VZ sales. (It would have proven to be a prudent move, as the VZ is struggling, with sales nearly 20 per cent below what they were a year ago.)

But Holden engineers struggled to meet this deadline, especially now that every major decision must be approved by the high-ups at GM in the US. So, the new American boss of Holden, Denny Mooney, pushed the VE back to its original release date of August-September 2006.

Holden engineers have used every extra minute they've been given, with the VE undergoing several changes in the last 12 months of its gestation. In addition to one last attempt at weight-saving, Holden has worked on improving quality in every department, from interior plastics to exterior panel fit.

The VE is said to have world-class panel gaps, after Denny Mooney took a trip to Japan to visit the company that makes most of the tooling used to assemble the VE.

Holden knows that the VE must be a car that will delight the senses, which is why there will be a strong emphasis on design, quality and European feel.

The only problem is: the bigger, heavier and (likely) thirstier Commodore will arrive in a market that has turned its back on big Aussie sedans, the meat-and-three-veg of the automotive world. Given that our palates have changed, the new Commodore will need something more than special sauce.


Old 04-07-2006, 06:56 AM
hemi 265
hemi 265 is offline
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Default RE: New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

Holden is garbage, Spoken from an Aussie! Dodge is coming here soon look out Holden!
Old 04-08-2006, 07:17 PM
highrevr/tflea is offline
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Default RE: New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

If Chevy had cars that looked like that I might be willing to buy one......Might
Old 04-08-2006, 07:47 PM
Daksport1pa is offline
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Default RE: New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

I dig the Commodore SS and the SS ute. The El Camino looking one is bad ***. They should bring back the El Camino, Ranchero style cars.
Old 04-09-2006, 03:35 AM
hemi 265
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Default RE: New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

[quote]ORIGINAL: Daksport1pa

I dig the Commodore SS and the SS ute.

The Ford XR8 Falcon Ute here in Australia looks better!

I've said on this forum before i would like Dodge to make a Charger ute. Can anyone do a photo chop of the Charger and make it a Ute with SRT Scoop that would look Sweeet!
Old 04-13-2006, 03:35 AM
whoosh is offline
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Default RE: New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

I feel bad for Austrailians...
Old 04-13-2006, 08:14 AM
hemi 265
hemi 265 is offline
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Default RE: New VE or Zeta Holden Commodore revealed

Yeah but it is looking up we are starting to get more Chrysler products, and i cant wait when Dodge comes here this year!

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