Big Ap­ple Aussie

Pontiac wants Amer­i­cans to give our ute a new name, writes JAMES STAN­FORD in New York

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

START spread­ing the news — the Holden ute has made its Amer­i­can de­but un­der New York’s bright lights. The Aus­tralian worker wore a Pontiac badge when it was pre­sented at the New York Mo­tor Show yes­ter­day.

The ute is aligned with the Pontiac G8, which is based on the Com­modore sedan. The G8 has just gone on sale in the US.

The sedan and the ute have the same front end with hard lines and twin bon­net-scoop nos­trils.

Pontiac pre­sented the ute as the G8 sports truck. Pontiac will run a pub­lic com­pe­ti­tion to de­ter­mine a bet­ter name.

What­ever it is called, the fact a US brand is im­port­ing the Aus­tralian­made Holden ute is big news.

The com­pany has tried for more than 10 years to strike a deal for its car-based ute to be sold in the US.

It came close with the pre­vi­ous­gen­er­a­tion model when Peter Ha­nen­berger was at the helm, but the project fell over.

Gen­eral Mo­tors, which along with Ford and Chrysler is fac­ing de­clin­ing sales of its home-grown pick-up trucks, has seen a gap in the mar­ket and the G8 ute will fill it.

Pontiac de­scribes it as a seg­ment­bend­ing ve­hi­cle, a cross be­tween a car and pick-up truck.

‘‘There’s sim­ply noth­ing else like the G8 sports truck on the road to­day, and we def­i­nitely be­lieve there will be cus­tomers who will be ex­cited by its dis­tinc­tive de­sign, per­for­mance and cargo ca­pa­bil­i­ties,’’ the gen­eral man­ager of Buick, GMC and Pontiac, Jim Burnell, says.

The big ques­tion is whether Amer­i­cans will un­der­stand the G8 ute— that is, will they ap­pre­ci­ate the bril­liant han­dling that has seen the Aus­tralian Holden and Ford utes shake the work­horse tag and be­come quasi two-door sports cars as in their home mar­ket?

Car-based utes have been sold in the US be­fore. The Ford Ranchero, GMC Ca­ballero and Chevro­let El Camino sold strongly in the 1970s, be­fore all three were killed off in the 1980s be­cause of weak de­mand. GM Holden chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mark Reuss is a fan of the new ute. He also has fond mem­o­ries of the El Camino, but says he is un­sure how the new ute will be ac­cepted in the US.

Asked how many Pontiac utes Holden would be mak­ing, Reuss says that would be hard to pre­dict.

‘‘The car-based ute went out of pro­duc­tion be­cause no one wanted to buy it. This one is ter­rific, but I just don’t know,’’ he says.

Pro­duc­tion of the Pontiac ute will in­crease in the sec­ond half of next year.

The model shown in New York was close to the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of a Holden SS Ute, with a 270kW 6.0-litre GEN IV V8, ex­cept the en­gine has Ac­tive Fuel Man­age­ment tech­nol­ogy, which shuts down cylin­ders to save fuel when there is lit­tle load on the en­gine.

The same fea­ture is ex­pected to be avail­able on Aus­tralian Hold­ens with the V8 in the near fu­ture.

Side and cur­tain airbags, which are not avail­able on Holden utes, have been fit­ted to the Pontiac ute in New York. They are also ex­pected to be of­fered on Aus­tralian utes.

Best of both worlds: the Holden ute is be­ing de­scribed by Pontiac as a seg­ment-bend­ing ve­hi­cle, a cross be­tween a car and pick-up truck.

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