Joshua Dowling National Motoring Editor
News Limited Network
December 14, 2013 9:30PM
The 2017 Holden Commodore could come from China where it will also be sold as a Buick. Artist impression by Martin Banks.
The 2017 Holden Commodore could come from China where it will also be sold as a Buick. Artist impression by Martin Banks. Source: Supplied
THE Holden Commodore of the future will be as Australian as the shirts on our backs: it will likely be made in China.
To gain approval to develop a new Commodore, General Motors did a top-secret deal with Holden to pair the next generation sedan with a Buick that was originally exclusive to the Chinese market.
Holden won the contract to design the car, which was then due to be built in Australia and China.
But now that Holden has decided to shut its Elizabeth car assembly line in 2017, China is poised to become the sole producer of the vehicle.
Documents obtained by News Corp Australia confirm every Holden fan's worst nightmare: the next generation Commodore will be a front-wheel-drive car powered by a four-cylinder engine.
Every top-selling Holden since the birth of the company in 1948 has been a six-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive sedan.
The last time Holden sold a four-cylinder Commodore in the early 1980s, sales tanked.
The four-cylinder Ford Falcon released last year has also failed to boost sales, accounting for less than 10 per cent of deliveries.
Holden insiders are now fighting to make a V6 available as an option on the future Commodore.
When asked why Holden would continue with the Commodore badge given that the 2017 version bears no resemblance to the models before it, a Holden insider said: "It's easier to explain to buyers that something has changed about a car they know, than to say 'Here's the new Holden XYZ'."
The 2017 Commodore will lose its practical box-shaped body and instead take on sleek styling cues from Europe.
Sales of European sedans have been revived overseas since they were restyled to look like four-door coupes.
A Holden insider says the new Commodore will be almost 5 metres long and almost as wide as the current car, but it will look smaller because of the low roofline.
"It's about making sedans look cool again," said one Holden insider. "Audi's done it, Mercedes has done, now we're going to do it. It's the only way to bring customers back to sedans."
Sales of traditional sedans have been in free-fall for 10 years as Australians embrace SUVs in record numbers.
The shift away from traditional cars is so strong that there will be no wagon version of the new Commodore for the first time ever.
Company to cease manufacturing in Australia by 2017 in Australia and New Zealand DETROIT - As part of its ongoing actions to decisively address the performance of its global operations, General Motors today announced it would transition to a national sales company in Australia and New Zealand. The company also said it would discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing and significantly reduce its engineering operations in Australia by the end of 2017.
"We are completely dedicated to strengthening our global operations while meeting the needs of our customers," said GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson. "The decision to end manufacturing in Australia reflects the perfect storm of negative influences the automotive industry faces in the country, including the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, high cost of production, small domestic market and arguably the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world."
As a result of the company's actions, approximately 2,900 positions will be impacted over the next four years. This will comprise 1,600 from the Elizabeth vehicle manufacturing plant and approximately 1,300 from Holden's Victorian workforce.
Holden will continue to have a significant presence in Australia beyond 2017, comprising a national sales company, a national parts distribution centre and a global design studio.
GM Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mike Devereux said an important priority over the next four years would be to ensure the best possible transition for workers in South Australia and Victoria.
"This has been a difficult decision given Holden's long and proud history of building vehicles in Australia," said Devereux. "We are dedicated to working with our teams, unions and the local communities, along with the federal and state governments, to support our people."
The sale and service of Holden vehicles will be unaffected by this announcement and will continue through the extensive network of Holden dealers across Australia and New Zealand. Warranty terms and spare parts availability will remain unchanged.
"GM remains committed to the automotive industry in Australia and New Zealand.
We recognize the need for change and understand the government's point of view. Moving forward, our business model will change significantly however, GM Holden will remain an integral part of its communities and an important employer both directly and through our dealers," Devereux said.
Since 2001, the Australian dollar has risen from US$0.50 to as high as US$1.10 and from as low as 47 to as high as 79 on the Trade Weighted Index. The Australian automotive industry is heavily trade exposed. The appreciation of the currency alone means that at the Australian dollar's peak, making things in Australia was 65 percent more expensive compared to just a decade earlier.
With the decision to discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing in Australia by the end of 2017, GM expects to record pre-tax charges of $400 million to $600 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. The charges would consist of approximately $300 million to $500 million for non-cash asset impairment charges including property, plant and equipment and approximately $100 million for cash payment of exit-related costs including certain employee severance related costs. Additional charges are expected to be incurred through 2017 for incremental future cash payments of employee severance once negotiations of the amount are completed with the employees' union. The asset impairment charges will be considered special for EBIT-adjusted reporting purposes.
Good news and bad news for Ford performance fans was announced today, with Ford Australia revealing they will return the Falcon XR8 to the local model range next year, but the FPV lineup will be retired at the same time.
The return of the XR8, after an absence of more than three years, is timed to coincide with the 2014 FGII/FH Falcon upgrade and similar refresh for the Territory SUV.
Powerplant for the revived Falcon XR8 will most likely be the locally-modified ‘Miami’ version of Ford’s ‘Coyote’ V8. Currently offered in supercharged form in the FPV range, it’s expected the 5.0-litre bent eight will be detuned, or offered without a supercharger, for the XR8.
The return of the XR8 comes after Ford Australia announced this past May that they would close their Broadmeadows and Geelong factories in October, 2016, becoming an import-only company.
“We have received a lot of interest and continued requests from Falcon fans to bring back the XR8,” said Ford Australia Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service Graeme Whickman.
“Re-introducing the XR8 sedan, packaged in our updated Falcon, will make our renowned locally-engineered and manufactured V8 engine available to a broader group of people.”
As the Falcon XR8 returns to the Ford range, the Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) range, including the high-performance GT, will retire. Ford Australia says they have planned a series of actions during 2014 to ensure the final FPV models celebrate the brand’s iconic status. Further details will be provided at a later date.
“FPV has been very successful for the last 12 years and our relationship with Tickford for many years before that,” said Whickman.
“We appreciate all of the great team members, dealers, customers and fans who have supported FPV through its history. We look forward to sharing further details of the final FPV models and the new XR8 over the coming months.”
THE Holden V8 is set to disappear from showrooms for the first time since 1968. And the new Holden Commodore - if it gets built - will be a front-wheel-drive car with about as much pizzazz as a Toyota Camry.
A confidential South Australian Government report into Holden's manufacturing future - leaked to The Adelaide Advertiser - makes grim reading for Holden fans.
It says the company is not likely to have a rear-wheel-drive car - and therefore a V8 - beyond 2016, or 2018 at a stretch.
"The true impact of not retaining this offering is not clear. However GMH is likely to experience some sales erosion sand migration to other brands," said the report prepared by University of Adelaide Professor Goran Roos for the SA Government.
When the Falcon and its performance models bow out in 2016, Ford will import the Mustang coupe from the US to appeal to the enthusiast market.
"The next gen model mix also excludes the ute variant," the report said, confirming a News Corp Australia exclusive from a fortnight ago.
If Holden keeps making cars in Australia from 2016 to 2022 it will be the first time since the first ever Holden - the 1948 "FX" - that its flagship model will be front-wheel-drive.
The front-wheel-drive car that Holden says it will call the "Commodore" will be made with mostly imported parts, the report says, putting further pressure on local parts suppliers.
That in turn is expected to force Toyota Australia's hand with a factory closure in 2017, a year after Holden and when the Camry model cycle is due to come to an end.