The iconic Holden Commodore nameplate will live on beyond the closure of the company’s Australian factories in 2017 and its continuation as a full-line vehicle importer.
Holden has confirmed it will retain its most famous nameplate, which has been in continuous use since 1978, once it begins importing a successor to the current locally made model from 2018, believed at this early stage to be from Europe.
The announcement puts to an end speculation that the famous badge would die once there was no longer a rear-drive, Australian-made car upon which to affix it. The decision is contrasted to Ford, which will shelve its even older Falcon badge once it shuts its Victorian factories in October 2016.
“Commodore is very much embedded into Holden, it’s part of the Holden history, it’s part of what Australian customers want to have,” said General Motors executive vice president and GM International president Stefan Jacoby.
Holden says that GM was moved to make the decision to continue with a name unique to the relatively small Australian and New Zealand by overwhelming public support for just that. The call meant the name would remain a “pillar” of the Australian motoring scene long-term, the company said.
Pictured above and at top: Opel Monza concept.
“Through the process of selecting the vehicle, we put to customers a number of possible criteria to better understand what they felt was important for the car to be competitive in the Australia market. And, of course, whether it deserved the Commodore nameplate,” said Holden sales executive director Peter Keley.
The findings were gathered from 17 different research sessions with both Commodore owners and non-Commodore owners alike. Across all customer research sessions, Holden says, almost 70 per cent of unaided customer responses to the Commodore nameplate were positive.
Each group also cited a number of criteria as critical for the future of Commodore, including: ability to perform in Australian conditions, affordability, external styling, interior space, handling, power, acceleration, towing ability, and the availability of variants including luxury and sport.
“Ultimately, the overwhelming response from customers was that Holden should continue the Commodore nameplate into the future with our next-generation large car,” Keley said.
It appears there was no specific reference to rear-wheel drive in the research.
Official details on this successor model are still vague, save that it will — in the words of Jacoby — improve on the VF Commodore’s “dynamic performance, acceleration, fuel economy, running costs and mass”.
As we reported from Detroit last week following an interview with Jacoby there, Holden’s designers and engineers alike will be asked to provide substantial input into this vehicle, which is tipped to be a ‘localised’ take on the next-generation (and almost certainly front/all-wheel-drive) Opel Insignia.
“We are driving this car already in Lang Lang,” he said, though he refused to confirm it was a derivation of the Insignia. “I love that proving ground [and] the Holden engineering team will have a part to integrate this vehicle into the Australian market.
“It is very obvious that the successor needs to be stronger than today’s model, and we understand that better than anybody else, and we will do everything we can, with modern technology.”
Clues to the car’s expected configuration — in other words its shift away from the rear-drive layout that had for years defined it — come from Jacoby’s reference to his time as a senior staffer with Volkswagen AG between 1985 and 2001.
“I’m coming from a front-wheel-drive group, the VW/Audi group, and with this company we don’t believe there is a true disadvantage between a front-wheel-drive Audi at the time with BMW rear-wheel drive,” he said.
Holden’s design team will also have a role to play. As is common practice, it will get a say alongside other GM studios in the global car’s styling, but you can also reasonably expect specific Australian design elements on the cars that feature on local roads.
The Australian design team created the sensational rear-drive, Holden Caprice-sized Buick Avenir large luxury sedan (pictured above) and the Chevrolet Bolt small electric vehicle (pictured below) concepts it created for last week’s Detroit motor show.
“Honestly, there can’t be better cars than this, and we would be stupid definitely to not do this, to be giving up our really high valued design studios and resources which we have in Australia,” said Jacoby last week.
Expect the next Insignia’s lines — and thereby its Commodore spinoff — to take inspiration from the Monza concept shown in 2013 at the Frankfurt motor show — and potentially even a few hints and features from the classical, almost baroque, Avenir.
The design director at Opel is on record saying the replacement for the Insignia is “one of the most beautiful cars seen in years,” — though of course he’s going to say that…
In summarising the GM decision, Jacoby claimed to have Holden’s heritage and legacy front of mind.
“We are confident that from 2018 we can honour Commodore’s heritage and chart a new direction for the next-generation vehicle that is worthy of the esteemed Commodore name.”