Pop goes the diesel
THE lack of a diesel engine could delay a European Commodore crusade. GM Holden will export SS Commodores to England next year, but conquering the European mainland is looming as a much tougher task. Holden’s German arm, Opel, is testing a VE Commodore to consider whether it would suit Europeans. The test car was requested by GM Europe engineering vice-president and Opel managing director Hans Demant, who is keen to see how it performs on European roads. GM Holden president Denny Mooney is confident the VE Commodore range will impress GM Europe, but says there are some issues to contend with. ‘‘There are a lot of nuances that we really have to look at . . . smaller engines, diesels,’’ Mooney says. He admits that not having a diesel could be a problem, pointing to Cadillac as an example. ‘‘Cadillac started selling cars there a few years ago, but really haven’t reached a big volume because they don’t have a diesel,’’ Mooney says. Holden engineers have already experimented with a BMW diesel engine fitted to a VT Commodore test vehicle at its Lang Lang proving ground, and is believed to be investigating diesel engines for the VE. It is looking both inside and outside the GM global family for a diesel solution. No matter what it chooses, a diesel VE is still a fair way off. If Holden can find a suitable diesel engine and justify the considerable cost of making it work well in the VE, it would take two to three years before it could hit the road. If GM Europe wanted the car sooner and was happy to take a petrol VE model, it is unlikely Holden would have to spend a lot of money to make the Commodore comply with European regulations. Unlike the US, Europe’s vehicle regulation system is very similar to Australia’s. ‘‘We certainly designed the car to meet US requirements . . . but we meet a lot of the European regulations right here in Australia,’’ Mooney says. One VE Commodore export location Holden can count on is the US. It’s expected GM will announce Pontiac’s plan to import the VE Commodore to US at the Chicago Motor Show in February. A Commodore with a Pontiacstyle grille is tipped to be presented when the company announces the plan. American customers are familiar with Australian-made product, with 40,808 Monaros badged as Pontiac GTOs sold there from 2003 to early this year. A separate project will see Americans drive an Australian-developed muscle car badged as a Camaro. Holden engineers have been working on developing the newage Chevrolet, which is built off the same base as the VE Commodore. Disguised Camaro prototypes are to already be on our roads as part of the project. The new Camaro, built in Canada, will go head to head with the Ford Mustang and new Dodge Challenger in the US when it goes on sale in early 2009.
Holden’s quest is to discover the right engine to power up its European Commodore crusade