First teasers of Holden’s next Commodore emerge as GM targets 15,000 annual US exports – excluding utes and wagons
General Motors is targeting 10,000 to 15,000 annual US sales of the 2013 Holden VF Commodore-based 2014 Chevrolet SS sedan, the first teaser images of which have now been released.
While that represents up to 30 per cent of the 50,000 large vehicles that GM Holden sold in Australia last year, it’s an even larger slice of Holden’s local large-car sales in 2012, given Commodore sales have slumped by 25 per cent and Ute sales are 17 per cent down so far this year.
What’s more, the figure – nominated by GM North America President Mark Reuss in a recent interview with Autoweek – excludes potential export ute and wagon versions of the upcoming VF Commodore, both of which are now the subject of intense speculation.
Officially, Holden says only that it is keeping its options open when it comes to export versions of the upgraded Ute and Sportwagon, but GM Authority says recent trademark applications in the US indicate both models are destined for Chevrolet dealers in the US.
According to GM Authority, GM filed a trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office on May 22 for the ‘Nomad’ name - a moniker that was applied to a rear-wheel-drive V8-powered Chevrolet station wagon a few decades ago.
Just as GM will rebadge next year’s heavily upgraded Holden Commodore sedan as the Chevy SS for the US, the facelifted Commodore Sportwagon could replace Cadillac’s soon-to-be-discontinued CTS wagon as the Chevrolet Nomad in North America.
Similarly, GM Authority reports that a trademark application for the iconic ‘El Camino’ nameplate filed on August 9 suggests GM is at least keeping open its option to revive the famous Chevrolet badge via Holden’s 2013 Ute.
If the project is approved, it would represent a belated revival of the still-born Pontiac G8 ST program, which would have seen the Holden Ute join the Holden Commodore in the now-defunct Pontiac brand’s North American showrooms in 2009.
Rumours of a born-again El Camino to replace the original 1959-1977 car-based pick-up have continued since then, given the US-Australian free-trade agreement would exempt the Australian-made commercial vehicle from the 25 per cent import tariff normally applied to foreign pick-ups sold in the US.
Although the SS performance sedan is likely to remain the biggest selling version of the Commodore in the US, combined exports of the ute, wagon and – in low-volume Chevrolet PPV police guise – long-wheelbase Caprice would add considerably to Holden’s production output.
GM North America chief and former Holden boss Mark Reuss told Autoweek that imports of the Chevy SS, which will be unveiled alongside the near-identical VF Commodore at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Florida next February, could easily number more than 15,000 per annum.
“It's going to be a relatively low-volume - probably between 10,000 and 15,000 units - but we really don't know because we'll make as many as we sell,” he said, adding that GM’s 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program is designed to directly promote Chevrolet’s first rear-drive sedan in 17 years.
“There's no target, there's no goal. We're bringing the car here to go racing. That's the number one goal. It will be a halo for Chevrolet. We really don't have a high-performance four-door sedan in the line-up. It fills that niche. We'll make as many as people want.
“We will fill the orders of people who want one instead of declaring some kind of production volume and trying to fill it from across the ocean.”
Mr Reuss said the SS would be unique because it will deliver direct technology transfer from Chevrolet’s two-door NASCAR that rivals like the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry cannot.
“They can't do an SS,” he said. “That's always attractive to me. We've done Impala, Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, all that stuff for a long time, and it was all front-wheel drive.
“The SS is very special for Chevrolet because it is rear-wheel drive and not front-wheel drive. The SS has a lot of meaning over a long period of time. When it was done right, it included the very highest performance.”
Mr Reuss said NASCAR’s new-for-2013 rules, which more closely align its racecars with the road cars upon which they are supposedly based, provided the ideal opportunity for Chevrolet to leverage sales of the imported SS.
“That was one of the three things we wanted. We wanted the car we race at the track to be connected to the car we sell in the showroom. We wanted relevant technologies in NASCAR that didn't drive up the cost of racing. And we wanted biofuels. The three things we worked on together with NASCAR, and we came away for '13 with the Chevy SS.
“We're thinking about the Chevrolet showroom. We have no sedan that is a high-performance sedan. That's the void that the SS fills. This will be a very special car for Chevrolet. This will be a pretty special SS.”
Mr Reuss has been a fan of the Commodore since he led Holden in 2008 and 2009 and has referred to the Chevy SS (a familiar GM badge that was dusted off in 2010 for the fifth-generation Camaro, which is based on the same Australian-engineered Zeta platform as the Commodore) as a “four-door Corvette”.
Asked if the Australian-made Chevy SS, which will be powered exclusively by a US-made 6.2-litre V8, will be ‘American’ enough for Chevrolet customers, Mr Reuss said: “We'll see. I think it is. The heart of it is from here. That's a pretty important point.
“Anyone who has the right amount of money and shows up in a Chevrolet dealership, we will sell them this car,” he added. “You don't want to over-think this stuff. We haven't focus-grouped it. It's going to be a really good car. People are going to want it.”
The silhouette and sticker kit of the NASCAR with which Chevrolet will attempt to secure its 11th consecutive Sprint Cup Series manufacturer's championship next season are said to provide an accurate indication of the Chevy SS
- and therefore VF Commodore – production models.
In case you missed it, however, here are the still images of the next Commodore’s new-look headlight and tail-light designs, taken from the promo video that accompanied GM’s ritzy NASCAR reveal in Las Vegas last week.
While the VF Commodore goes on sale in Australia next May, the Chevy SS will hit about 3000 Chevrolet showrooms across the US in late 2013.