Fans of the traditional V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Holden Commodore sports sedan need to accept that the world is moving on and embrace the future of engine downsizing, says the head of General Motors in our region.
The V8 Commodore will cease to exist when local production of the current model comes to an end in 2017 and it is replaced by an imported model – likely the next-generation Opel Insignia (pictured in spy shots) – with turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines and front- and all-wheel-drive layouts.
While acknowledging that our country has a proud history of V8-powered sedans, GM International president Stefan Jacoby says Australians need to understand “the world is changing”, that the market is shifting away from V8s, and that we need to move with it.
“Of course you imagine that you need to continue with something like that, but the world obviously is changing and the eight-cylinder period is coming to an end.
“These kind of traditional powertrains, I know they are very attractive and very charming and I like the sound of a V8 as well so that it has a charming character, but the times are honestly over.”
Asked if Holden could achieve the same sub-five-second 0-100km/h sprint time and a circa-$45,000 price tag of the current SS Commodore from a non-V8, non-rear-drive sedan, Jacoby replied “I think so”.
“I think technically that’s definitely possible. I think that with modern turbocharging technology, downsizing technology, and you see this here with Opel in respect to what they have done with the fuel economy.
“It is just the perception from the customer that they need a big engine and big horsepower and lots of cylinders to have the performance, but you can even look at motorsport, what they do with downsized engines and turbocharged engines. The technology is changing and more or less having the same performance as traditional powertrains.”
In spite of the big changes on the horizon, Jacoby believes customers will be getting “exactly what they want based on a different technology” in the next-generation Commodore.
“The market is shifting towards European tastes when it comes to passenger cars, which is not a V8, which is not a Commodore. You can say we want to maintain the last frontier of the V8 drivers, [but] is it good in the long run? No.
“If we are not understanding this as Holden and following what customers truly want, we are making a mistake.”
Jacoby said stubbornly failing to move with the times would be fatal for Holden.
“The brand cannot be the same any more because the brand would die. It has lost, over the past 12 years, half of its market share.
“How long can we continue with it just to fulfil the demands of a couple of V8 drivers? We need to change the perception.”
Knowing that V8s still make up almost one third of total Commodore sales, Holden communications director Sean Poppitt added here that the company isn’t turning its back on V8 buyers but needs to help them understand the direction the brand is taking.
“[V8 Commodore] is a very important segment, a very important segment in the market, and we’re going to keep those guys with us as much as we can,” Poppitt said.
“We’ve got a journey to go on and we need to bring those guys along with us … because they’ve been the heart and soul of the brand for a long time.
“But you’ve got to diversify and you’ve got to talk to new markets.”
Jacoby says GM’s aim is to deliver a new Commodore at the end of 2017 that embodies what it considers to be the key characteristics of the current car.
“Our main intention is to have a true Commodore successor which enables with modern technology the same fun-to-drive [feeling], the same sportiness, the same ‘I’m the commander of the road with a Commodore’ as today’s generation – that’s the main intention which we have right now.
“We truly believe that with what we have in mind we are truly matching the demand of the Australian market.”