The return of the Holden Commodore to North American showrooms - as a Chevrolet SS model - is expected to be confirmed later this month.
The revival of the Commodore export program to the US, beyond the limited number of police car versions of the Holden Caprice already on sale there, has been anticipated since Chevrolet announced it would use a brand new nameplate for its 2013 NASCAR challenger.
General Motors has since patented the Chevrolet SS (SuperSport) name, while a US blogger last month accidentally discovered a 2014 model called the Chevrolet SS Performance while exploring his Pontiac G6’s onboard telematics system.
CarAdvice understands, however, that US rumours of the Commodore sedan being joined by its Sportwagon and Ute variants in North America are wide of the mark.
Respected US magazine Car and Driver has reported that the wagon and ute are being considered by GM.
Holden’s parent company previously planned to import the Holden Commodore Ute to the US as the Pontiac G8 ST sport truck, but the plan was scuttled in early 2009 by the global financial crisis.
The Pontiac G8 sedan – a rebadged and re-nosed Commodore – soon followed when GM axed the Pontiac brand as part of its drastic recovery measures after entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy and being rescued by the US government.
Only the Holden Commodore sedan will cross the Pacific in 2013, however. Export numbers aren’t expected to be in the tens of thousands but are expected to be a respectable volume to bolster Holden’s current overseas deliveries to the likes of South Africa and the Middle East.
The Australian dollar has slipped to virtual parity with the US ‘greenback’, though it’s still sufficiently high to put constraints – by affecting profitability - on more significant export numbers.
The Chevrolet SS launch in 2013 - rendered in an artist's impression above and main picture - will coincide with a new version of the Holden Commodore, dubbed VF.
The Holden VF Commodore will have some revised body panels – including some constructed from aluminium for reduced weight - and a new-look interior.
The Zeta platform underneath is undergoing a fair amount of development, though is not considered a major architectural change.
Some members of the US media are speculating the Commodore-based Chevrolet SS and Chevrolet Caprice will switch to a so-called Zeta II platform in 2015, though CarAdvice sources suggest this is also not the reality.
The Commodore’s broader return to the US market will be welcome news for Holden, which is believed to have lost nearly $1 billion as a result of the Pontiac G8 program being axed.
The initial plan had been to sell 30,000 Pontiac G8s in the US annually.
The long-term future of the Holden Commodore remains unclear, however.
In March Holden announced a $275 million co-investment package with federal and state government, in a deal that will see General Motors’ Australian operation build two all-new models in the second half of the decade based on global platforms.
Holden is not expected to confirm details of the two vehicles for some time. One is almost certain to be a next-generation of the Cruze small car currently being built in Adelaide alongside the Commodore large car.
Holden boss Mike Devereux, however, was reluctant to answer when CarAdvice asked whether the company was committed to building a large car beyond 2018.
Large car sales continue to decline worryingly in Australia, as well as other markets such as the US.
The large-car segment has dropped by 23 per cent so far in 2012, with sales of the Commodore falling by the same margin. The Ford Falcon continues to plummet, with a 25 per cent drop, while the Toyota Aurion – which was only released in new-generation form recently – has slipped 21 per cent.
Holden this week announced a post-tax profit of $89.7 million. The figure was down on the company’s 2010 profit of $112m but contrasted with more bad news for fellow local car maker Ford Australia, which yesterday posted a record $290 million loss.