Holden boss says to get over performance anxiety
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HOLDEN’S TASK IS TO PROVIDE V8 GRUNT FROM SMALLER ENGINE, WRITES TIM BEISSMANN
Fans of the traditional V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Holden Commodore sports sedan need to accept the world is moving on and embrace the future of engine downsizing, says the head of General Motors in Australasia.
The V8 Commodore will cease to exist when Australian production of the current model comes to an end in 2017. It will be replaced by an imported model — likely the next-generation Opel Insignia — with turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines and Though acknowledging that Australasia has a proud history of V8-powered sedans, GM International president Stefan Jacoby says their fans need to understand “the world is changing”, that the market is shifting away from V8s, and that we need to move with it.
“The Commodore is a true hero car and it’s the signature of Holden ... and we just recently launched the VFII with powertrain enhancements.
“Of course you imagine that you need to continue with something like that, but the world obviously is changing and the eight-cylinder period is coming to an end.
“These traditional powertrains, I know they are very attractive and very charming and I like the sound of a V8 as well, so that has a charming character, but the times are honestly over.”
Jacoby is confident Holden can achieve the same sub-five-second, 0-100km/h sprint time and price tag of the SS Commodore from a non-V8, non-rear-drive sedan.
“I think technically that’s possible with modern turbocharging technology, down-sizing technology, and you see this with Opel in respect to what they have done with the fuel economy.
“It is just the perception from the customer that they need a big engine and big horsepower and lots of cylinders to have the performance.
“But look at what motorsport does with downsized engines and turbocharged engines. The technology is changing and more or less giving the same performance as traditional powertrains.”
In spite of the big changes on the horizon, Jacoby believes customers will be getting “exactly what they want based on a different technology” in the next-generation Commodore.
“The market is shifting towards European tastes when it comes to passenger cars, which is not a V8, which is not a Commodore. You can say we want to maintain the last frontier of the V8 drivers, but is it good in the long run? No.
“If Holden does not understand this and follow what customers truly want, we are making a mistake.”
Jacoby says failing to move with the times will be fatal for Holden.
“The brand cannot be the same any more because the brand will die. It has lost, over the past 12 years, half of its market share.
“How long can we continue with it just to fulfil the demands of a couple of V8 drivers? We need to change the perception.”
Knowing that V8s still make up almost one-third of total Commodore sales, Holden communications director Sean Poppitt says the company isn’t turning its back on V8 buyers but needs to help them understand the direction the brand is taking.
“[V8 Commodore] is a very important segment in the market and we’re going to keep those guys with us as much as we can,” Poppitt says.
“We’ve got a journey to go on and we need to bring those guys along with us ... because they’ve been the heart and soul of the brand for a long time.
“But you’ve got to diversify and you’ve got to talk to new markets.”
Jacoby says GM’s aim is to deliver a new Commodore at the end of 2017 that embodies the key characteristics of the current car.
“Our main intention is to have a true Commodore successor which enables, with modern technology, the same fun-to-drive [feeling], the same sportiness, the same ‘I’m the commander of the road with a Commodore’ as today’s generation.