Good Oil: GM shock for Holden loyalists
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Sacre bleu, cobber. If there’s one bit of news that’ll be unsettling the GM Holden marketing department about now, it’s that PSA Groupe (better known as purveyor of all things Peugeot and Citroen) has purchased German carmaker Opel from General Motors.
One Euro carmaker swallowing up another Euro carmaker? What’s to worry? Well, quite a bit for an ex-carmaker such as Holden, rushing to convince loyal buyers that the next generation Commodore (and other models such as the Astra) will be a worthy purchase regardless of the fact it’ll be put together in Europe instead of ’Straya.
The 2018 Commodore, you see, is actually an Opel Insignia, built on global GM chassis architecture known as the E2 platform. That’s fine for this next generation Commodore; manufacturing parameters have been set and the first orders will be rolling down the production line at Russelsheim soon-ish.
But what about the generation of cars after that?
You’d hardly think a Euro-built car would be a hard sell, but for some Holden loyalists it is.
The saving grace has been that GM’s Euro division was still a trusted part of the network.
Now though, with PSA having bought Opel (and British General Motors’ outpost, Vauxhall) for a reported €1.8 billion (NZ$2.72 billion), the hard sell will become harder still, what with everyone remembering that knackered Peugeot 308 hire car last summer that had the automatic transmission with a mind of its own.
It isn’t just the Aussies facing uncertainty around its big sedan and wagon offering either. In the US, Buick takes the same Opel Insignia and rebadges it as a Regal; a nameplate with a ton of history in its domestic setting, like the Commodore has in our part of the world.
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Holden is steering away from the big sedan as its saviour, looking to small (European) models and big US-built SUVs like the GMC Acadia, here this year.
What’s French for “Interesting times”?
Here’s an idea, but will it fly?
Photo / Supplied
Ah, flying cars; that old retro/futuristic chestnut. Unbelievable, but there are still plenty of companies — from backyard tinkerers to financially muscular start-ups — dead keen (pardon the pun) on flying to work when the mood strikes.
But here we are, almost 20 years into the 21st century and there’s still no sign of a credible flying vehicle solution. Sorry 1960s-era Hanna Barbera cartoons; you were wrong.
The problem is that, generally speaking, one in every five drivers is an absolute muppet; the chances of them having even passed their test in the first place seeming as illogical as their motorway merging technique, or how they approach a right turn at a junction without traffic lights.
Autonomously driven vehicles may, however, be the answer to this issue. Let the robots drive to certain pre-prescribed parameters and — even up in the air — things will, in theory, be a lot safer. Or a lot more predictable at least.
Add to that the fact that a player no less well-schooled in all things aeronautical than the mighty Airbus is showing interest in personal flight, and all of a sudden things look serious.
According to reports, the Airbus design would be two-stage. On the ground the vehicle would be an “ordinary” autonomously operated car (of sorts) consisting of a detachable capsule mounted on a semi-conventional chassis.
Should the passengers get stuck in traffic, a separate flying drone would find and fly to the vehicle, pick it up and transport it to its intended destination.
We’re unsure whether this means the motorways would be clogged with discarded chassis platforms and how the vehicle owner would retrieve this.
It would make sense if the chassis portion of the car was a shareable component, however.
If you’re concerned your personal flying transportation will be big, white and Airbus-y, don’t worry. The other partner in the proposal is custom-design house Italdesign. So, we presume it’ll look the part. As long as there are plexiglass domes involved, all will be right with the world.
Word is Lotus may get new owner
Photo / Supplied
Opel changing hands came like a bolt from the blue but news that perennial British trier Lotus may be about to find (another) new owner is hardly earth-shattering stuff.
This latest takeover could, however, be the shot in the arm the perma-ailing sportscar-maker needs.
Lotus has been owned by Malaysian conglomerate Proton since the mid-1990s, but since Proton was bought by multi-headed investment firm DRB-Hicom in 2012, the sportscar brand’s place in the world has been in a continual state of flux.
The latest rumour is that Chinese manufacturing giant Geely is interested in the brand.
Geely already owns Volvo ( the Swedish marque that appears in rude health these days — not to mention continuing to create some lovely cars).
Geely has concentrated on mass-market models since its formation, so a sports car is potentially something it craves. Could the same magic wand waved over Volvo be used on Lotus?
Many will believe that low-volume British sportscars haven’t transitioned into the post-GFC manufacturing world for good reason, but here at The Good Oil, a part of us really hopes Lotus can live again. We’ll be watching developments with interest.