The vice president of global manufacturing and president of international operations for General Motors, Tim Lee, has said in an interview at the Detroit auto show that he is confident in the Holden local manufacturing plan approved to 2022, yet is unwilling to confirm the future of the Commodore beyond the current VE/VF generation.
This is despite Holden confirming that one of the two platforms it will build beyond the VE/VF’s expected retirement in 2018 is the next generation Holden Cruze small car. Based on the current government co-investment scheme the Cruze and another unconfirmed car will be built until 2022.
Lee calls building the Cruze “a no brainer” but insists that there is still some flexibility with what will be built on the second line. The official announcement about the second car, however, won’t be made until at least 2015.
“We’ve got a range of options,” said Lee. “Whether it’s one car, two cars, three cars [variants based on the second platform]. We’re going to do what’s right for the customer in Australia…
“What we do with the second product line is still [up in the air]… as to what it’s going to be, we don’t know.”
Whether Commodore will continue in some form or be replaced with another model remains a well-guarded secret, however Lee says that the badge value is very important in the consideration process.
“The Commodore badge.. the brand equity of Commodore… is a significant piece of our consideration [of what car to build], that’s for sure. Clearly it’s got value.
“I would say that the Commodore badge means something to Australians… I wouldn’t want to put a Commodore badge on a Barina-type vehicle, that’s for sure.”
Could the Commodore badge be used on a front-wheel-drive vehicle? “Maybe, who knows… I guess anything’s possible.
“If you want a great towing package… we’ve got Colorado, we’ve got Trailblazer, we’ve got next-gen large car, whatever it may be…”
While the current VE/VF rear-drive architecture will be obsolete within three years, Lee confirmed that the current Cadillac ATS rear-drive platform is “absolutely” a ‘global’ architecture, and that Holden could “absolutely” use that platform for its second line – one of the requirements of the two next generations of locally manufactured vehicles is that they are produced on platforms shared around the GM world.
“We have in place a [global] rear wheel drive architecture, you saw it on stage today [Cadillac ATS],” said Lee. The operations boss did, however, reiterate that the Cadillac platform is a mid-sized platform, not intended for a large car like the current Commodore.
It would mean that if a next generation Commodore were to be built, it would all but certainly be a downsized model.
The strongly rumoured option is that Commodore will be dropped beyond the soon-to-be-launched VF generation (comgen pictured below), however that is a suggestion Lee refuses to confirm or deny.
“You didn’t hear that across my lips… You’re assuming a premise [that Commodore will be dropped] we’re just not ready to commit to at this point.”
Lee is emphatic that the focus is on making VF Commodore successful again.
“We’ve got a major launch coming up of the current job. We’ve got to sell the hell out of what we’re investing in right now… We’re putting a s**tload of money into the current series. We want to sell these babies…
Lee also says that the current decade-long plan is a good business case that doesn’t make it hard for GM to justify its Australian operations.
“It’s not hard at all when you look at the plan today. We are very bullish on the operation. If that [being hard to justify the operations] was the case, I wouldn’t have taken our plan to the board.
“I’m really, really optimistic that when you see the plan rolled out and executed… these kinda conversations will be in memory.
“We’ve signed a co-investment deal which we think makes our business proposition attractive. We intend to execute that plan.”