The boss of General Motors Asia Pacific has said that hybrid and diesel powered Holden Commodores are only two years away.
At a media briefing in Melbourne today (Monday) GM Group Vice President and President of GM Asia Pacific, Mr Nick Reilly, said that the new power trains for the Holden Commodore could come to market as soon as 2010.
Mr Reilly, who is in Melbourne for the corporations quarterly regional board meeting and to review current and future product with senior Asia pacific executives revealed the future product plans as part of a wide-ranging discussion on Australian car market.
Suggesting that not only hybrid and diesel models were under consideration Mr Reilly made it clear that GM Holden would sustain interest in its large car product by developing a range of fuel options.
He also openly cited LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) , CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) and E85 (85% ethanol/petrol blend) as options that needed to be considered as viable “short-term" options for powering motor vehicles in all markets.
Mr Reilly said GM was working across a range of technologies and added that LPG and E85 would probably be the quickest to market.
However, he added that diesels were a priority – ‘we already have diesels in several of our cars in Australia’.
“We don’t yet have diesel in Commodore but that will come, “ he said. “As for hybrids, again we will introduce them in the next couple of years.”
As well as revealing that diesel and hybrid variants of the Commodore were under development, Mr Reilly also suggested that GM’s turbo four-cylinder petrol ECOTEC powerplant, already suggested as an option for the Chevrolet Camaro that’s been developed for the North American market in Australia, was a possibility for the Commodore.
Asked if the turbo four-cylinder petrol engine could be used in the Commodore in the future, Mr Reilly, replied:” that is certainly a sensible suggestion. It makes a lot of sense and therefore we are probably looking at it”.
He refused to be drawn further on the prospect of a four-cylinder Commodore.
His statements follow the recent announcement by new Ford Australia President Bill Osbourne that the Falcon would get a diesel engine in 2010 and come as Toyota grapples with pressure from the Federal Government to build a hybrid Camry in Australia.
Mr Reilly admitted that GM had dropped the ball on hybrid passenger cars, favouring development in large displacement engines, such as those used in heavy vehicles, and had given archrival Toyota a clear run with vehicles such as the Prius.
He said GM had not recognised immediately that the car buying public would pay for the application of hybrid technology in smaller engine vehicles, where the fuel efficiencies were much smaller.
“Our strength in hybrids has tended to be in larger vehicles,” he said.
Mr Reilly added that a hybrid Commodore could be one of the first GM hybrids on the market, adding that he would put a timeframe of “a couple of years” on it.
Mr Reilly added that there was not a priority on hybrid versus diesel, saying: “Honestly I think we need both.”
“I think we need to offer a variety if different answers and we are able to do that as part of GM worldwide.”
The green light to hybrid and diesel Commodores appeared to take other GM executives at the briefing by surprise and GM Holden Managing Director Mark Reuss has not yet announced anything confirming the proposals.
Mr Reilly’s public support for the proposals certainly means they will get a strong hearing within the company’s product planning forums. Holden engineers have been working on both diesel and hybrid power trains for some time, but have previously received little support from the wider GM.