General Motors muster
Holden is searching the globe in its drive to be number one by 2020
THE new Holden boss has boldly claimed the company will be Australia’s top-selling car brand by the year 2020, just three years after shutting its factories.
Holden hasn’t been No.1 for 11 years, has just posted a 20year low, and sells a little more than half the number of cars as market leader Toyota.
Yet Holden boss Gerry Dorizas has set his sights high barely five weeks into the new job. It seems like a tall order when the claims are judged against Holden’s current model line-up.
Behind the scenes the company is searching the globe to bolster its showrooms once Holden doesn’t have a car factory to protect beyond 2017. That means Holden’s going through the entire General Motors catalogue to fill every possible niche to win back buyers.
Some of the cars listed here may seem fanciful based on Holden’s recent history. But make no mistake, anything is possible in Holden’s new era.
As with all car makers, Holden refuses to discuss its future model plans. This list has been compiled with inside knowledge and a review of how Holden has done business in happier times, such as the late 1990s and early 2000s when European and US models helped drive it to Number One.
Here are the 10 cars that could power Holden back to the top.
You read it here first: Holden executives told dealers in a secret meeting late last year it’s hopeful of getting the next generation Chevrolet Camaro in showrooms by 2018.
A right-hand-drive version of the current Chevrolet Camaro was under development when it was axed in 2009, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. Now that Ford has confirmed the Mustang is coming to Australia (in late 2015), Holden is working hard to get the Camaro to meet its rival head-on.
And the iconic Corvette? Former General Motors CEO, Dan Akerson, told Carsguide last year a RHD version was coming, only to be corrected by his second-in-command Tim Lee less than 24 hours later. Since then, former Holden boss Mark Reuss (now a GM highup) says he wants right-handdrive versions of all Chevrolet vehicles in the future.
In the same meeting Holden dealers were told about the Camaro, they also heard about the Opel Cascada convertible coming to Holden showrooms by year’s end.
Cascada is Spanish for rain or waterfall, unusual for a convertible given they’re about sunshine, except when they leak. The car was to be introduced as an Opel before GM pulled the German brand from sale locally last year less than a year after it launched.
All Holden needs to do is fit its own badges, get cars to dealers and start printing brochures. The Cascada is the spiritual successor to the Astra convertible, which Holden sold across two generations from 2001 to 2010. Holden is yet to decide whether the convertible will wear the Cascada badge or if Holden will use the Astra name for the convertible.
Dealers have told Carsguide they would prefer the Astra badge because of its recognition, but Holden executives have been referring to the car by its Opel name in preliminary meetings.
3. ASTRA HATCH
The Astra is coming back, it’s just a matter of when. At the moment, Holden doesn’t want to dent sales of the locally-made Cruze, but the Astra is ready.
Dealers had to clear the unsold Astra stock once the Opel was withdrawn, so the network has already handled the new model. The three-door and five-door hatch versions of the Astra are likely starters, but the sedan will probably be left behind, leaving the next generation Cruze sedan to fill the void.
4. CRUZE SEDAN
Holden will import the next generation Cruze sedan once the Adelaide-built model ceases production. Cheaper than the Astra sedan, it will give Holden a strategic price step through the small-car range.
The Cruze will likely be the price-leader at close to $20,000 while the Astra hatch will be priced closer to fellow European, the Volkswagen Golf, at about $23,000. General Motors is yet to commit to a new version of the Cruze wagon.
The Trax mini SUV is wellequipped and sharply priced but hasn’t proved popular. Not everyone is a fan of its cutesy Dumbo Elephant looks. But a fix is a phone call away.
The Trax’s twin, Opel’s Mokka, was due to go on sale before the brand’s withdrawal. The Mokka has a more European design inside and out even though it comes from the same South Korean factory as the Trax. Holden need only fit Trax badges to the betterlooking model for a sales boost.
As one of the best-priced and roomiest cars in its class, the current Barina is another Holden that deserves to be selling better. But it is heavy and thirsty compared to the class leaders.
While the attractively designed interior looks good in brochures, the plastics are hard to the touch and feel cheap once you’re behind the wheel. The next model will likely continue to come from South Korea to keep prices lower than would be possible with an Opel-sourced Corsa.
Better plastics will improve the interior’s appeal, while a more efficient engine and a lighter body will improve fuel economy, giving the next Barina a better chance in the cutthroat city-car class.
A new Captiva SUV can’t come soon enough. Most cars have a
model cycle of five-to-six years. The Captiva is entering its ninth year and a new-from-theground-up model is still about two years away.
The current Captiva is selling well because it’s the cheapest ticket into a sevenseat full-size SUV. But the new model will have to step up to newer competition, especially if it loses its current $10,000 price advantage. The other key to the Captiva’s success is the twomodel strategy: a slightly smaller five-seater and a slightly bigger seven-seater.
Holden would like to continue with two models given the SUV market is still booming, but GM is likely to consolidate to one model globally.
The Captiva is critical to Holden’s 2020 No.1 target: it accounts for almost one-third of sales and is currently the biggest-selling model behind the Commodore and the Cruze.
Holden has scrapped plans to share the next generation, front-wheel-drive Commodore with a Chinese Buick. Now that the Commodore (or whatever Holden chooses to call its next large sedan) is no longer going to be built locally, Holden has the luxury of choosing between the Buick, Chevrolet or Opel versions of the same car.
Expect four-cylinder and V6 power for the front-drive sedan, but there will no longer be a Commodore V8, wagon or ute. The Camaro is expected to fill the V8 void, while Commodore wagon customers will either downsize to a Cruze or step up to a Captiva SUV. Commodore ute buyers will have to learn to love the Colorado.
The Holden Colorado is travelling OK, but it’s still not selling as well as the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton. The Colorado does not drive as well as its peers and the cabin isn’t as user-friendly or as upmarket.
Nor does it look like a tough truck. Making it drive better will take some chassis tuning, but making it look tougher is not as hard as it sounds. GM redesigned the nose for the Chevrolet version of the 2015 Colorado, to make it look like a full-size pick-up. And guess what? The parts clip straight on to the Holden Colorado.
Holden has been trying to get right-hand-drive versions of General Motors’ full-size SUVs and pick-ups from the US for more than a decade. Since, in fact, the Chevrolet Suburban was discontinued after being sold here from 1998 to 2001.
Back then, when the dollar was weaker, the Suburban sold for between $64,000 and $87,000.
At today’s exchange rates, the prices for the Tahoe SUV and Silverado pick-up would likely be between $50,000 and $75,000 — smack in the middle of Toyota Prado and Toyota Land Cruiser territory, which last year accounted for more than 10 per cent of Toyota’s sales.
GM is yet to confirm RHD versions of its full-size pick-ups and SUVs, but again Reuss tells us he wants RHD versions of all future models. If they became available, Holden would grab them with both hands.