The new Holden Commodore — how the world reacted
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Examining the world's response to GM's big Wednesday reveal
So it's day three of this new world — a world with innocence lost, where big business has trumped bricks and mortar, where political correctness reigns supreme.
Where we have a front-wheel drive Holden Commodore.
As you'll no doubt be aware, the new 'NG' Commodore was revealed on Wednesday. The reveal came at noon New Zealand time, a day after images of the Commodore being posed and shot for an alternate international market were leaked to international press.
Unlike previous Commodores, the new one is a true world product — and as such it wasn't just Australia and New Zealand getting overloaded with press-release information and shiny images; it was indeed the whole world. Motoring press the globe over were inundated with different market-specific images, and for a one-hour window the Commodore was the breaking story on just about every major motoring site in the world.
Somewhat inevitably, the car immediately attracted panning at home and over the ditch. These were mainly posted online by Commodore loyalists, dead set against the idea of a badge-engineered Commodore even though that's exactly what the Commodore was for almost three decades. The hashtag #notacommodore even started to gain momentum, latching onto that #notmypresident hashie that's taken America's social waves by storm for some reason.
But interspersed throughout the curse-laden posts were occasional outbursts of pleasantness. CarAdvice.com.au's comment section holds a range of positive reflections and logical calls. “Without any bias it's a far superior design to the current car, inside and out,” said one reader. “This looks very promising — it could be a very good vehicle in it's own right. The problem is, with the Commodore name carrying over, people will compare it to the previous Commodores which were vastly different vehicles,” said another.
Wheels magazine's Facebook page, meanwhile, turned into a huge free-for-all fist fight between commentors. The ‘they should've retired the Commodore name’ crowd rubbing shoulder to shoulder with the ‘I don't mind it’ crowd, and neither of them playing nice.
“It's like a metaphor for Australian culture these days, utterly neutered, tamed, passive, dull and easily dismissed,” said one. “What a complete triumph of mediocrity, as someone who owns old Holdens, real Holdens and has loved them since I was very young, I can't find one thing about this car that would inspire a child as young as I was when I first saw them and thought ‘cool’.”
Wheels then tried to extinguish the fire with an article explaining why the Commodore nameplate was retained. “The irony is that, while the wider public is only just beginning to grapple with the emotional rollercoaster of retaining the nameplate, Holden made its decision years ago. It wasn’t a call made lightly – Holden debated the issue at length and conducted extensive market research – and the company is standing firm,” they said.
You can imagine how the populous reacted to that.
Looking at the domestic reaction in isolation, it would be easy to think that this car might be doomed the fail. But hold on. Check out the contrast of reaction from Europe and America ...
They love it!
The Commodore as New Zealand knows it is going to become an Opel/Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport in Europe, and a Buick Regal in the US.
Vauxhall and Buick in particular are two maligned brands in their respective markets. Buick are held in particularly low esteem with their ‘premium’ slant on GM world platforms a very far cry from the models that define their roots.
However, that didn't stop the folks at Jalopnik from headlining their two stories on the matter Holy Crap The Next Buick Regal Wagon Looks Gorgeous and I Am Decades From Retirement And Yet Suddenly Interested In Buick.
“The Insignia/Commodore looks like confluence of the Audi A7 and Volvo S90 with a bit of Mazda6 in the equation. Consider me titillated,” they said.
And that represents a consistent trend in all of the UK and US coverage of the Insignadore. From the Autocar UK's Facebook comment stream (“Hold on...a Vauxhall I actually like, what's going on?!?!?”) to America's Autoblog website (they say it looks like a Mazda in their leaks article, though “the thing is, Mazdas look pretty darn good, so no one's complaining”).
Top Gear label it “svelte”, Road & Track encourage Buick to label the OPC the ‘Grand National’, and Motor Trend say it's “drop-dead gorgeous.” The positivity was everywhere.
And I find that weird. That car people on opposing sides of the world can have such a violent alternate read on effectively the same car.
We all know why the Australasian audience is particularly unhappy of course. They see the return of the Commodore nameplate to be a questionable move for a car not built in our own backyard.
But the name will remain. It's perhaps the most historic name in Australian motoring history, and brings with it layers upon layers of cultural coin. Commodore is as much of a household name as any celebrity or sports hero, even in homes that couldn't give a car about the automobile.
And for Holden, there really is no back-up to the Commodore in terms of following. Epica, Vectra, Malibu, Camira; none of their mid-size sedans has ever made a proper dent on the market to the lengths of the Commodore.
Retaining the Commodore name is a big risk without question, but dropping it and drafting in something new is even riskier.