Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) is understood to have numerous irons in the fire, one of the most interesting being a plan to capitalise on the pickup boom with an aggressive HSV Colorado dual-cab for 2018.
The Melbourne-based operation — tuning arm of the Walkinshaw Group, one of the remaining positive stories in Australian auto manufacturing — has a storied history tuning rear-wheel drive V8 Commodore sedans, wagons and utes. But obviously those days are numbered, and it’s time to diversify.
Ergo it’s no secret that HSV will turn to new market segments next year to reinvent itself beyond Australian OEM production. One, because it has no choice. But also because it’s also a great opportunity to apply old skills to new tasks, and expand into other areas with its GM Holden partnership still strong.
Given the outright top-selling vehicles in Australia are now the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger — a huge chunk of which are SR5 and Wildtrak flagships — a HSV-badged Colorado to sit above Holden's Z71 would obviously work. For another example, consider that Volkswagen’s $70k-plus V6 Amarok has waiting lists.
“That’s a space we definitely see as an opportunity for a business like ours, to be able to deliver a product in there at some point,” HSV managing director Tim Jackson told us this week.
The obvious question from here is whether HSV sees its role as focusing purely on speed and performance, or whether its role is to expand on a given donor vehicle's native strengths — in the Colorado’s case its off-road ability, towing and rugged looks.
“I think the latter,” Jackon said, before explaining the approach by citing the incredible $170,000, 474kW supercharged V8 HSV W1 sedan rolled out earlier this year, which he called a "business card" to show the auto world how good it could be at giving a road car a wholesale re-work.
Read our detailed break-down and review of the W1, which will go into the annals as an Australian masterpiece.
“One of the things is that the landscape is changing so dramatically, which is why I use W1 as an example. While everyone sees the engine as a hero, one of our goals was to make it a great driver's car and show how all the elements make it a great vehicle," Jackson said.
"We could have just put an engine in it and everyone would have said 'it's great in a straight line but hasn't raised the bar elsewhere'.
"If we look at a traditional dual-cab ute, we're asking 'what does a customer want?' Do they truly want it to go faster? And that may well be one of the things they want, but we’re looking at cars in three areas:
"Typically powertrain, what the capability and costs are of delivering more power and a more exciting drive.
"But also chassis, and what are we doing in terms of the chassis to move it forward in a way that's going to be valuable to customers. And then styling - in our history we've on a few occasions just put a new engine in and the car hasn't taken off.
"So it's a combination of the three. Performance, the chassis capability, and the look of the vehicle. When we do those things well we tend to get a great result and excite our customer base."
Scrutinising this, we'd suggest that the HSV Colorado's 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine will get some performance tweaks, its suspension will be modified in a way that doesn't stuff up its hardness off-road, and it'll get bold styling bits like fatter tyres and various bars/steps.
What we do know is you'll hear more about this product soon, given we're expecting to see some new HSV product launching in 2018.
The final question: are HSV's traditional customers really going to be satisfied with something neither RWD or V8?
"We‘ll find out! My view is we will be delivering things that excite our traditional customer base and attract new customers," Jackson said, as you'd expect he would...
Beyond the HSV Colorado, it seems clear the company both wants and needs to spin off other Holden derivatives - potentially a hotted-up Trailblazer off-roader and a reworked Astra hot hatch to rival the Ford Focus RS, though we're really just guessing on these points.
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