The return of the Holden Commodore to the North American showroom market has been officially confirmed, with the Australian-built large car to transform into a Chevrolet SS in late 2013.
Holden’s announcement follows weeks of speculation and CarAdvice’s exclusive report last week that the confirmation of the export program was imminent.
The Chevrolet SS performance sedan will be based on the next-generation Holden VF Commodore that will go on sale in Australia in 2013, at some point before the US version reaches showrooms.
It will be the first time in 17 years that Chevrolet has offered a rear-wheel-drive performance car in the North American market. It’s almost definite it will get a V8 engine.
Holden is not yet willing to divulge exact export numbers but has admitted it will be less than the previous Commodore export program of 2008. A 30,000 annual volume was planned for a Pontiac G8 model that was a rebadged version of the current VE model, before the program came to a premature end in early 2009 after General Motors axed the Pontiac brand.
CarAdvice understands the export program involves a few thousand units, though Holden does describe the Chevrolet SS as a “limited production derivative”.
“This is a real niche opportunity for us, and we’ll leave it at that,” said Greg Tyus, Holden’s executive director of engineering. “We know what we’re projecting [for Chevrolet SS numbers] and that we can meet that [demand].”
The Chevrolet SS will become the latest model to be based on the Commodore’s ‘Zeta’ platform, which underpins the current Commodore that was introduced in 2006 and will be slightly modified for the new VF generation.
It follows the aforementioned Pontiac G8, the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car and a police car called the Chevrolet Caprice PPV.
The Chevrolet Caprice PPV (pictured below) has struggled to gain traction with police forces in the US, but Holden says it expects US consumers to embrace the new Chevrolet SS.
“I think the US has come to know us [Holden],” says Tyus. “We’re respected for the Camaro, which is well beloved, and we’re known for rear-wheel-drive performance sedans.
“I think the Chevrolet SS and Chevrolet PPV are two different models. This is a premium, high-spec vehicle. The PPV is more for jurisdiction and they [the police forces] have to look at budget.
“We understood it would take time [for the PPV to penetrate the police car market]. They are quite loyal to the current vehicles.
“If you look at the interest generated by the [Pontiac] G8, it is clear there is a clambering for this type of vehicle [in the US]. And we were given an opportunity to provide a car [Chevrolet] needed.
“Only time will tell if this [export program] will grow into something bigger.”
Holden also confirmed expectations that the Chevrolet SS will form the basis for the US brand’s new NASCAR race car challenger – pictured below the main image top in prototype disguise.
Holden said discussions with Chevrolet were currently focused on the sedan version of the Commodore only, but would neither confirm nor deny whether the four-door could be joined by wagon and ute variants.
CarAdvice believes, however, that these are unlikely, at least in the short term, despite previous plans for the Commodore Ute to be exported to the US as a Pontiac G8 ST sports truck.
Holden says parent company General Motors wasn’t placed under any pressure by the federal government to arrange an export deal as part of a $275 million co-investment package announced in March.
General Motors Holden is committing $1 billion to local manufacturing of two all-new vehicles to at least 2022, though the future of a homegrown Holden large car isn’t secure beyond 2018, the expected lifecycle of the new VF model, despite the Chevrolet SS announcement.
Holden has said only that it will build two models locally based on global platforms from 2015 but is not expected to confirm what type of vehicles they will be for some time.
One is certain to be the next-generation Holden Cruze small car, which is currently built alongside the Commodore at the local car maker’s Elizabeth plant in Adelaide (above).
Holden seems to be keeping its options open for the second model, however, as the sales trend for large cars continues a dramatic decline in Australia.
Holden Commodore sales fell 12 per cent in 2011, allowing the Mazda3 to end the large car’s 15-year run as Australia’s best-selling car. Figures for 2012 so far reveal the Commodore has dropped 23 per cent compared to April 2011.
The Holden is faring significantly better than its traditional rival, however, the Ford Falcon – by 10,596 to 4407 so far in 2012.