DUST off the long-lens cameras because Holden’s all-new 2018 Commodore replacement is already testing in Australia.
The as yet unnamed large car, which will be imported and is expected to be a mildly tweaked version of the next-generation Opel Omega, is entrenched in the Lang Lang proving ground south-east of Melbourne, according to General Motors’ consolidated international operations boss, Stefan Jacoby.
“We are driving this car already in Lang Lang,” Jacoby said about the imported car that will replace the Commodore.
“We understand what Commodore is and we understand that better than anybody else and it is very obvious that the Commodore successor needs to be stronger than today’s model – and we will do everything to do that, with modern technology.”
Jacoby all but confirmed that, as expected, the Commodore will downsize its current V6 and V8 line-up to four-cylinder and V6 variants, with the V8 duties left to a two-door V8, likely the Chevrolet Camaro.
“With today’s technology, especially with downsizing, we can overperform a traditional six- or eight-cylinder,” said Jacoby.
“We have to ensure with this modern technology, better fuel economy, better CO2, better weight ratio than today’s model, we can achieve the better performance.”
GM president Dan Ammann suggested the role fulfilled by the broad modern Commodore line-up – entry-level fleet cars, high-performance sedans and limousines – could split between multiple models.
“There’s obviously a role for a replacement there, but I think there’s also more segmentation going on in the market,” Ammann said.
Jacoby also essentially admitted the imported Commodore would not be rear-wheel drive, instead relying largely on front-wheel drive, with four-wheel-drive models for some applications.
“I’m coming from a front-wheel-drive group – the VW/Audi Group [referring to his previous posting] – with this company we don’t believe there is a true disadvantage between a front-wheel-drive Audi, at the time, towards a rear-wheel-drive BMW,” he said. “You know that BMW is changing its entire C-segment vehicles to front-wheel drive?”
Despite the shift to front-wheel drive and decades of Holden talking of the advantages of rear-drive – both from a driving and design perspective – Jacoby is adamant the new Commodore will continue the tradition of strong design.
“The Commodore today has specific proportions which makes Commodore a Commodore. We need to match this with a future model,” he said.
Coinciding with the news that the next-generation Commodore is already in Australia, Jacoby said Holden will embark on a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to reinforce the brand is here for the long term once local manufacturing of the Commodore and Cruze ceases in 2017.
“With all the efforts which we are doing to strengthen our brands … Holden is an iconic brand and it would be stupid to give this up,” Jacoby said.
“Our decision to close manufacturing has nothing to do with how we want to maintain our presence in Australia.”
He admitted the company had not done enough to reinforce the Holden’s brand’s longevity with buyers, something that coincided with another slide in market share and the threat it could drop from second to fourth-bestselling brand during 2015.
“I think I have underestimated that uncertainty from our consumers,” Jacoby said.
“Maybe from the very beginning [when he announced in December 2013 that local manufacturing would end by 2017] we should have made more efforts to clarify that our decision to wind down our manufacturing has nothing to do with our presence.
“We will pretty soon start to clarify that position. We will do that in many, many areas – we do this with traditional communications, we do this across our dealers and we do this with a lot of other announcements that show we want to maintain Holden in Australia.”
There has been speculation GM would shelve the Australia/New Zealand-only Holden brand and replace it with Chevrolet, which is used in dozens of countries as GM’s global mainstream brand.
“There’s no question … it never has been at any point on the table to negotiate or question Holden,” Jacoby said.
The latest VF Commodore will be refreshed late in 2015 before being discontinued by the end of 2017.