General Motors CEO Mary Barra has promised a “more planned and very proactive” approach to the development and production of right-hand-drive vehicles going forward, to ensure Holden can offer Australians the best of GM’s global portfolio.
The unavailability of right-hand-drive vehicles of all shapes and sizes has been a long-running frustration for Holden, which believes it could have great success with a number of GM models that are currently only built with a steering wheel on the left.
Among the vehicles not currently available in right-hand drive are a range of large, extra-large and XXL SUVs from Buick, Chevrolet and GMC; full-size Chevrolet and GMC pick-ups; the premium Cadillac range; the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette performance models; and the forthcoming second-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
Speaking with journalists in Frankfurt, Barra acknowledged that markets like Australia were currently missing out on some of these vehicles because of decisions made during the global financial crisis and GM’s subsequent bankruptcy to avoid the cost and complexity of engineering them for both left- and right-hand drive.
While stopping short of opening up every future model to right-hand-drive markets, she promised an increased focus on the issue.
“Some of the decisions were made – when you talk about the current products now – when it was difficult from a capital and investment perspective,” Barra said.
“But as we look at it, it’s not that it’s going to be every vehicle across the portfolio, but we’re looking for what are the right vehicles that are going to round out the portfolios in very important countries that require right-hand drive.
“You’ll see a much more planned and very proactive view of how we do it. If you engineer a vehicle, if you know from the beginning that’s what you’re going to do, it’s much easier than trying to re-engineer it, so that’s our focus.
“You will see an improvement for sure.”
Addressing Holden’s future line-up specifically, Barra promised to deliver “the right products [and] the right ownership experience” for customers, with an increasing emphasis on importing vehicles from German sister brand Opel.
“Holden is an important market,” the global boss said.
“We’ve made changes to our business model there, but we’re making sure that as we look at the portfolio going forward, [we’re thinking about] what are the right products to have in the Holden portfolio that are going to be the most meaningful, and that forms a strong relationship with Opel.”
Holden announced earlier this year its intention to introduce 24 new or significantly updated models to its local showrooms by the end of the decade, and already we’ve seen Opel vehicles feature heavily in that.
The Astra GTC and VXR sports hatches, Cascada convertible and Insignia VXR sports sedan have all joined the ranks this year, while just this week Holden confirmed the all-new Astra five-door hatch was headed our way towards the end of 2016.
The next-generation Insignia is also widely expected to become the first imported Holden Commodore when local production of the current model ceases at the end of 2017.
Dwindling MPV sales in Europe has pushed Opel to turn the successors to its current Meriva and Zafira models into compact and mid-sized crossovers. Both models are due to be revealed as early as next year, and seem likely to serve as replacements for the ageing Captiva 5 and 7 models currently offered by Holden.
Opel is also developing a flagship large SUV based on the next-generation Insignia that’s again a strong chance to head Down Under with Holden badges.
Holden has also been studying Opel’s van range, with the Combo, Vivaro and Movano models all seemingly holding potential to expand the brand’s LCV presence in our market.
General Motors International president Stefan Jacoby suggested earlier this week it was unlikely Holden would offer a pick-up larger than the Colorado, pouring cold water on hopes for a vehicle like the Chevrolet Silverado to be sold locally.
Jacoby did, however, give the strongest indication yet that the Corvette would be sold in Australia sometime after the demise of Holden’s locally made V8 Commodore.
Holden has also confirmed the introduction of the new Spark city car early next year, and may offer the second-generation Cruze sedan alongside the Astra hatch if a sedan version of Opel’s new small car isn’t forthcoming.
The brand may also need to decide between Chevrolet and Opel models for its successor to the current Barina that’s also expected before 2020.
Faced with the prospect of having a stylistically disjointed line-up with different design languages, Holden product communications manager Mark Flintoft told CarAdvice that the brand was comfortable with that if the result was offering Australians the best products from the GM portfolio.