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by Tim Beissmann

Just months after Holden’s export program was rocked by the closure of Pontiac, the vice chairman of General Motors has breathed new life into Commodore’s future in the US.

Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Lutz said there was the possibility of selling high-performance versions of the Commodore in limited numbers as a premium Chevrolet sedan, likening it to a four-door Corvette. In the US’s 13 million new vehicle market, terms like ‘limited numbers’ and ‘low volume’ can still mean as many as 40,000 units annually.

The Pontiac deal – through which Holden shipped 36,000 cars to the US and Canada in 2008 – was to be worth around $1 billion to Holden, after it invested $77 million in preparation for the export.

Right now, the biggest hurdle to Commodore re-entering the US market looks to be the after-effects of the global financial crisis, which sent GM into chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009.

While GM maintains it can pay off its almost $7 billion government debt by the middle of the year (much earlier than predicted by most analysts), the ongoing arbitration process with sacked dealers during last year’s restructuring could make Holden’s case a little tougher to push.

Strengthening the local brand’s chances of returning to the States is ex-Holden boss Mark Reuss – a man with a sweet spot for the Commodore – who is now the head of GM North America and poised to play a decisive role in any export program discussions.

Launching the Commodore as a Chevrolet would require some small restyling efforts, similar to those of the Pontiac G8.

Or the Chevrolet Caprice PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle) – another of Holden’s export opportunities in which it is vying for a share of the 60,000 to 70,0000 vehicles per year US police car market.

If it is successful, orders for the long-wheel-base Holden will be made by police and emergency services this year before delivery in early 2011.

Meanwhile, Lutz also confirmed that the Chevrolet Camaro is likely to be exported to Australia, with right-hand drive development of the traditional American muscle car currently a high priority at GM.

Given that the two-door coupe it is based on Holden architecture, Lutz said producing an Australian version would take little more than reversing the instrument panel.

Also speaking from Detroit, Holden managing director and CEO, Alan Batey, said an import program for the Camaro would not commence before 2011, and depended greatly on supply, given the vehicle’s popularity in North America.

If it did arrive in Australia, the Camaro would most likely be sold as a V8-only model and priced upwards of $75,000 – quite a hike from the car’s sub-US$32,000 starting price back home.

Batey admitted a local Camaro would be a niche prospect and one that was in the hands of GM North America.




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