Ed’s let­ter

IT TAKES THE BOSS OF HSV AL­MOST AN HOUR TO DROP A TASTY DE­TAIL ABOUT THE NEW COM­MODORE. BUT WHEN HE DOES, TIM JACK­SON RE­VEALS A TAN­TA­LIS­ING GLIMPSE INTO WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN. SPEAK­ING TO WHEELS AT HSV’S BRAND-NEW PRO­DUC­TION FA­CIL­ITY IN CLAY­TON SOUTH, JACK

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ALEX INWOOD

“We were think­ing about how can we re­ally in­no­vate this and do it dif­fer­ently,” he tells me. “We spent a fair bit of time think­ing about what if we had elec­tric en­hance­ment as op­posed to swap­ping the en­gine in and out? What if the ex­cite­ment came from the elec­tric side of the equa­tion?”

Pon­der that for a mo­ment. Imag­ine the im­pact a halo ver­sion of the ail­ing ZB could have for HSV and Holden. A car armed both with HSV’S renowned chas­sis-tun­ing ex­per­tise, and a hy­brid pow­er­train wicked up with Tesla-es­que per­for­mance. Just think­ing about it makes my mouth wa­ter.

The re­al­ity check is that for now, the pro­gram has been shelved. High costs and a sup­ply base more in­ter­ested in snar­ing the hy­brid/ev busi­ness of big OEMS, as op­posed to niche play­ers ask­ing for 1000 units a year, have hit pause on the move. Yet Jack­son as­sures me that once the mar­ket ma­tures, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion has a fu­ture with HSV. “You can ac­tu­ally de­liver a re­ally ex­cit­ing drive with hy­brids and those sort of things,” he says.

It’s a nugget of in­for­ma­tion that speaks vol­umes about the cur­rent think­ing in­side HSV. In this post rear-drive Com­modore world, it’s look­ing to be bold. To be brave. To rein­vent it­self.

That hasn’t been easy. With no V8 Com­modore to fet­tle, HSV has branched out into dual-cab utes like the con­tro­ver­sial Colorado Sportscat by HSV, and ze­roed in on its con­ver­sion busi­ness, which sees it ex­pertly trans­form big buses like the Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado into right-hook­ers. It’s a move that has added jobs – HSV now em­ploys 350 work­ers, an in­crease of 200 – though also one that has alien­ated parts of its rusted-on fan base.

“I think some un­der­stand it, and some don’t,” says Jack­son. “We’ve had four years to get used to it. Our cus­tomers are still grap­pling with that.”

Ques­tions about HSV’S plans for the ZB still per­sist, both from jour­nal­ists, and in­creas­ingly, from the pub­lic, but for now it isn’t on the radar. Wheels un­der­stands Holden is es­pe­cially keen for HSV to add some en­thu­si­ast ap­peal to the im­ported Com­modore, but find­ing a suit­able en­gine – ei­ther a twin-turbo V6 or a V8 – at an achiev­able price has been tricky. “The jig­saw puz­zle just hasn’t come to­gether,” says Jack­son. “Our think­ing was this [ZB] is a very dif­fer­ent car [to VF] so let’s make it dif­fer­ent. We would have rather taken more of a risk to make it great, than make some­thing medi­ocre and have ev­ery­body dis­ap­pointed in the out­come.”

In­stead HSV will fo­cus on three core prod­uct lines for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture: Sportscat, Sil­ver­ado and the im­mi­nent Ca­maro (see side­bar).

The Ca­maro is a wel­come shot of fa­mil­iar­ity for HSV; a re­turn to form that will in­stantly see it re­claim some of the brand iden­tity it has lost. The burn­ing ques­tion, though, is how does HSV use that ker­nel to re­build an iden­tity that was once its great­est strength? Ev­ery­body knew what HSV stood for; a maxim bril­liantly em­bod­ied by the slo­gan “I just want one!”. Jack­son freely ad­mits that HSV has played it safe for a long time; that it was re­luc­tant to in­no­vate and to em­brace change. Now it has no choice.

Imag­ine a ZB Com­modore armed with a hy­brid pow­er­train pack­ing Tesla-es­que per­for­mance

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.