For Monaro to return, Holden needs to secure a fresh coupe export deal
By JAMES STANFORD 6 March 2008
THE prospects of a Holden Monaro entering a new generation via the awesome Coupe 60 concept now rests on the Australian manufacturer securing an export deal.
GM Holden’s new managing director Mark Reuss told GoAuto at the Melbourne International Motor Show last week that if the Coupe 60 was to be put into production, a substantial amount of its projected sales volumes would have to come from overseas.
“It would need to have a healthy export volume somewhere; I mean, 50 per cent of our volume right now is export,” Mr Reuss said.
“To keep the business viable and to keep Holden sustained with manufacturing, we want to export, that is part of it.”
Holden will have its first chance to gather support for a Coupe 60 project at a General Motors internal conference in Orlando, US, next month, where the vehicle’s future as a new member of the Pontiac stable will be high on the agenda.
Mr Reuss said Holden planned to send the Coupe 60 to the conference to show the rest of the GM world. The American, who officially started his role at Holden just days before he presented the Coupe 60 in Melbourne last Friday, was keen to point out the car was no more than a show star – at this stage.
“Right now it is a concept car, and as with every concept car, we want to see what the reaction is,” Mr Reuss said.
“If there is a strong reaction, then we have got to look at the business around it and we make judgements, but right now it is a concept to celebrate the (60th) anniversary (of Holden in Australia).”
The Coupe 60 concept is built off the VE Commodore platform and is not simply a rebodied version of the Camaro coupe that Holden has engineered for the US.
“This is all VE architecture that has been stretched. If you look at the front of the Camaro, it has a flex on the VE architecture that provides a more American muscle car proportion to the car,” Mr Reuss said. “If you look at the Coupe 60 it is very traditional VE Commodore-based with the shorter front hood, or bonnet as you guys say.”
Mr Reuss said any potential Coupe 60 production car could not be shared with the Camaro platform and still resemble the concept car that stole the show in Melbourne, despite both being built from the Holden-engineered “Zeta” platform architecture. “The proportion there is really VE.
This would not be something where we just say we can fl ex it between a Camaro and a Coupe,” he said.
As GoAuto reported last week, Holden design chief Tony Stolfo, who drove the car onto the stage in Melbourne, revealed that a coupe had been in the original global rear wheel drive portfolio plan devised in 2002, and that the Coupe 60 was capable for production.
“I would love to keep the pillar-less look, but it would all come down to structure and safety,” Mr Stolfo said. When asked how Holden could consider not putting the Coupe 60 into production, Mr Stolfo replied: “It all just comes down to capital investment.”
Mr Reuss said Holden had not yet formulated a business case for the vehicle. “We have got to see that something is relevant before we start looking at the business of it,” he said.
He also denied the stunning concept car was presented in order to take the spotlight off Ford Australia’s all-new FG Falcon range, which made its first public appearance in the same hall at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre last week.
“I wouldn’t comment on the opposition. We are doing what we are doing because of the 60th birthday,” Mr Reuss said.
“It is a wonderful car, the Australian market loves the coupe and so that’s why we did it.” It seems the American market also loves coupes such as the Holden concept car.
US fan sites are already speculating that the Coupe 60 could be sold as a Pontiac Coupe which would be a much more affordable model than the Chevrolet Camaro.
General Motors product chief Bob Lutz saw the Coupe 60 before it was revealed and was an instant fan, explained Mr Reuss. “He said it was drop-dead gorgeous,” he said.
Asked for his own opinion, Mr Reuss said: “I used to do concept cars in Detroit for GM and this is one of the finest concept cars I have seen. It is stunning,” he said.
While the production future of the Coupe 60 is yet to be decided, some of the technology it features could soon appear in road-going cars.
The concept car runs a 6.0-litre V8 with displacement on demand technology, which Holden calls active fuel management, and can run on E85 ethanol fuel.
Asked whether future Holdens would feature fuel-saving technology, Mr Reuss said: “Absolutely.”
“I’m not going to give you a timeframe today, but those technologies, we have a lot of that technology built into some of the V8s we have done for truck platforms and some of the V6 and V8 cars, so we have it around the company,” he said.
“Boy, if we can leverage that technology from the bigger company and bring it here as fast as I possibly can, then maybe that would be a good thought.”
Holden engineers attempted to have the 6.0-litre V8 VE models run displacement on demand technology, which shuts down some cylinders to improve fuel consumption when cruising, but were unable to have it ready in time.
Company insiders told GoAuto that engineers were unable to make the system smoothly enough to put it into production back in 2006.
That should be about to change, however, with an announcement due in the coming months.
As for E85 ‘flex-fuel’ technology, which enables the vehicle to run on a fuel mix containing a mixture of up to 85 per cent ethanol, Mr Reuss also signalled the company would consider it for local duty.
“Anything we can do to give ourselves a more robust fuel supply with bio-fuels is a great thing to do,” he said.