by Alexander Corne
2003 Tokyo Motor Show Index by TCC Team (10/21/2003)
Holden stole the Sydney International Motor Show, which opened on October 16, with a radical new production-ready coupe destined to outshine the 350-hp (260kW) 5.7-liter LS1-powered Pontiac GTOs even before the first U.S.-bound cars ship out. The new all-wheel drive Coupe4 is the brainchild of Holden’s go-faster division: Holden Special Vehicles. Power is up to 362 hp (270kW) and drive through the strengthened four-speed auto is split 38 percent front, 62 percent rear, giving the Coupe4 a launch to 100 km/h time of 6.1 seconds on sealed surfaces and an impressive 6.6 seconds on gravel. Australia’s first homegrown all-wheel drive coupe runs 19-inch alloys, a wider track all round, complete with natty wheel arch extensions. A muscular body kit front and rear adds muscle tone without looking garish, and four fat chromed tailpipes complete the look-at-me image.
Holden CEO Peter Hanenberger denied the body kit would be fitted to the 2004 Pontiacs to counter the ‘jelly bean’ critiques leveled at the sleek coupe, designed to resurrect the GTO nameplate in the U.S. Hanenberger, who retires late this year, says up to 200 of the Coupe4 models will be built next year priced about US$60,000, though there are no export plans in the frame — yet. However exports of the regular Holden Monaro to the United Kingdom will start later this year, the Holden Lion replaced by the Vauxhall Griffin badge. Asked how many cars would go to the U.K., where it will be sold in a premium market segment, Mr Hanenberger said: “If we do above 1000 it would be a dream (come true). We don’t need big volumes as a global niche manufacturer to be profitable and successful.”
2004 Holden HSV Avalanche
The HSV Avalanche will be specified to match luxury European off-roaders with high intensity discharge lamps, tire-pressure monitoring systems and on-board DVD entertainment systems, as well as leather sports seats.
Holden hopes for bilateral bliss
General Motors’ Australian brand Holden eagerly anticipated U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit Down Under country this past week when, it was hoped, the presidential push for a bilateral trade agreement will speed up the so-far long drawn-out process.
Holden is poised to ship its first batch of Pontiac GTO-badged LS1-powered Coupes to the U.S., but has several more models in the pipeline. Next up would be the replacement for the Chevrolet El Camino, based on Holden’s in-house V-8-powered Utility. Holden CEO Peter Hanenberger says it would be next to go should the U.S. “Chicken Tax,” which loads a 25-percent duty on imported utes, be waived under a new BTA. A BTA with Thailand is also in the mix, a new market Holden has just declared for its rear-wheel drive Commodore V-6 and V-8 sedans, which currently face an 80 percent import duty. Conversely, utilities made by GM in Thailand attract a five percent tariff slug entering Australia.
Mr. Hanenberger would not be drawn on the future prospects of next generation VE Commodore sedans or derivatives providing the underpinnings for future GM North America products, or for European markets for that matter, but the new vehicles, due late in 2005 in Australia will supply their chassis componentry to a range of GM’s larger vehicles towards the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, Holden’s all-new engine factory in Melbourne is set to start production of the High Feature V-6 engine family on October 29. First recipients of the engines will be Buick Rendezvous SUVs, with Saab, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and other GM brands queuing up for the engines. Holden won’t get to use the HFV6 derivatives until this time next year for the final iteration of the VT Commodore series, dubbed VZ. The HF V-6 will be fitted to all Holden products from early 2005.
Ford heads into new Territory
2004 Ford Territory
The Territory goes on sale in Australia on June 1, 2004, but will be right-hand drive only and powered by a 245-hp (182 kW) 4.0-liter in-line six cylinder. No V-8 engines are coming, but a 240 kW turbo six is a good bet.
Ford revealed the complete vehicle at the Sydney Show. It will be sold in two- and four-wheel drive, five- or seven-seat options, and in low or high series specification. It will be Australia’s first home-grown all-wheel drive crossover SUV as opposed to GM Holden’s Commodore wagon-derived Adventra V-8.
The Territory is expected to vastly undercut Holden’s Adventra pricing by about 20 percent, with a starting price about $40,000 (US$28,000) for the rear-drive model. The all-wheel drive version will be about A$3000-A$5000 more.
Optional features will include Hill Descent Control, an enhanced version of Land Rover’s system while Volvo safety devices such as the side curtain airbags (another first for an Aussie-built vehicle) will be fitted to high series models.
The Territory was first revealed as a concept 18 months ago, but two production ready versions were displayed in Sydney. One appeared minus its left hand doors and B-pillar, unlocking the secrets of its flexible interior for the first time. Equipped with a third row and a slide-forward second row of seats, the Territory can hold seven adults. Both rear rows fold flat for extra loading capacity. In excess of 30 storage compartments including a unique lockable under seat tray big enough for a laptop computer, are highlights.
The actual show car is a working prototype that has already covered 40,000 km on test, so the public were kept at arms length by placing it on a turntable.
“We didn’t have the resources to build a car for people to sit in,” said Ford Australia President, Geoff Polites.
The Territory is based on the platform of the right-hand drive Falcon sedan but with all new front suspension and revised Control Blade IRS. Unlike Holden’s Adventra or the HSV Avalanche, the Territory has a completely fresh skin and will seat up to seven adults. Mr. Polites said revealing the Territory at the show eight months ahead of launch would give the show’s 300,000 visitors the chance to see the car and compare it with the Holden, which is already on sale.
“You’ve got to educate the customers in order to get to the volumes we want to reach, about 30,000 a year,” Polites said.
Mitsubishi Australia gears up for bigger year in U.S.
The 2004 model year Mitsubishi Diamante sets sail from Adelaide, Australia this week, hoping to rescue the model’s fortunes in the United States.
Sales of the 2003 Diamante 3.5-liter V-6 sedan are well down on 2002 when almost 17,000 were sold. This year, only 8000 will be sold. The revised model should return to about 1000 a month through 2004.
The Diamante, revealed at the New York Motor Show this year, introduced Mitsubishi chief designer Olivier Boulay’s new “Global Styling” for Mitsubishi products. A sporty VR-X model is expected to help raise the Diamante’s profile in an increasingly competitive and depressed market.
The all-wheel drive sedan version developed in Australia will not be exported in left-hand drive because the projected return on investment for LHD development proved insufficient. At present, all-wheel drive is not signed off for the next-generation Diamante due in 2005 in Australia and 2006 in the U.S.
Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited will export 12,000 vehicles in all this year to markets as diverse as the Middle East and New Zealand, down from 24,000 in 2002, but expected to rebound to about 20,000 worldwide in 2004.
MMAL Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, Bill Pike, recently visited the U.S. to discuss sales projections for the 2004 model and returned buoyed.
“There is renewed enthusiasm for the car. I met with the new Mitsubishi CEO in U.S. to discuss how to position and market the car,” he said.
The Diamante, sold in Australia as the Verada (and its down-spec cousin Magna) have made little impact in facelifted guise in the first two months on sale, despite a fulsome spec list and attractive pricing. But MMAL executives put the slow start down to dealers having to clear stocks of the old car, denying the bold Boulay styling has polarised buyers.
The 2005 replacement for the Diamante, built on the Galant platform and code-named PS41, is not yet signed off for export to the U.S., though a long-wheelbase luxury version PSL, due in 2007, has U.S. exports marked on its card.
Mr Pike said negotiations and discussion on the export potential for the PSL for worldwide markets are currently underway.
“The are lots of open issues on a lot of countries. Global design gives us lots of opportunities we don’t currently have,” he said of the 2007 PSL’s export potential.
The PS41 and PSL are believed to be in line for a performance hike thanks to a larger V-6 engine, expected to be a version of the 3.8-liter unit used in today’s Pajero 4WD SUV.
Aussie design chief plots Daewoo’s new look
Michael Simcoe, Holden’s Melbourne-based Director of Design and recently appointed GM Director of Design for the Asia Pacific Region, says Daewoo won’t be rushing concept cars to major international shows.
“My job is to fix the design department,” he says candidly.
Citing a huge cultural chasm between the Koreans and Western ideas mainly in management but flowing into design language, Simcoe — who penned the 2004 V-8 Pontiac GTO (nee Holden Monaro) — says freeing the minds of the design staff is a priority.
“They have some good people but they are used to taking direction from the top on everything.”
He says micro management from the head of the company in all matters previously stifled creativity. Designers knew lines were wrong but wouldn’t say so. Now he is trying to free up initiative within a broader set of guidelines.
“There is a push to get a compact SUV. They don’t have any and that’s where they’re hurting. SUVs are vital for both of the key growth markets of the U.S. and Europe,” he says.
What he doesn’t say in so many worlds is that GM’s Holden too needs a compact SUV.
While key competitor showrooms overflow with 4WD and crossovers, Holden has only the tiny rebadged Suzuki/GM Cruze and its own homegrown V-8 powered Adventra. A rebadged Daweoo SUV for Holden would be handy.
Daewoo’s future lies not only with its own brand, but by building vehicles for others. Daewoo-built Suzuki branded vehicles already sell in the U.S. with Chevrolet following.
Designing a vehicle or vehicle line destined for multiple brands, multiple markets, and multiple market levels is no challenge for Simcoe. His 1997 Holden VT Commodore is sold in the Middle East as a Chevrolet and in South America as an Opel.
“Daewoo has six platforms and a few variants. At Holden we have one platform and many variants (over 30 at the last count).”
So what of the design direction for Daewoo after 2004? “They will be distinctive vehicles, but still seen as Korean,” Simcoe says, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“In the past there have been so many other (external) design houses all doing their interpretation of what a Korean vehicle, or Daewoo, should be, that in the mix they lost the plot.
“From a numerical point of view the quality is good, but perceived quality not very good. That’s due to the type of materials they use.
“Daewoo is positioned as an entry-level vehicle, that’s their core, that’s why GM bought them. They could move some vehicles a bit further up the tree, and we will have to do that because of the brands they’ll build for.
“Chevrolet is not a bottom-end brand. When they build for Shanghai GM and their Buick nameplate that’s up-market, and Suzuki does not want bottom-end vehicles,” he says.