Continental Shift: The Future of Holden

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Holden’s shown the Commodore’s replacement to dealers and it isn’t rear-drive or a V8. Looks like Ford might just have the upper hand beyond 2016.

So, late last week Practical Motoring learned that General Motors Holden had already shown some of its top-tier dealers the car that will replace the Commodore in 2017. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last little while, Holden is ceasing local production in 2017.

Anyway, it turns out the replacement for the Commodore won’t be a rear-wheel drive or come with a V8. Shock and indeed horror. Apparently there are three possible candidates and they are the Buick Lacrosse, the Chevrolet Impala, and the Opel Insignia. I’ll forgive if you can’t remember Opel; it was only here for five minutes last year before closing the doors, heading back to Europe and leaving a bunch of local dealers nursing some serious debt.

The smart money is on the Opel Insignia lobbing Down Under with the possibility of a Chinese-built Commodore being all but dead and buried. Why the Opel? Well, it’s available in wagon form whereas the others aren’t.

But, the problem with Holden’s post 2017 line-up is that it’s likely to be a rag-tag bunch of cars drawn from all across the General Motors Empire. And while there’ll no doubt be styling similarities between them all there’s likely to be a chasm from model to model in terms of quality and perceived value. But that’ll be for the marketers to sort out…

The other problem facing Holden’s Down Under operations is that Ford, while also without its own Big Aussie, the Falcon, will have a dominant line-up with just about every model in its line-up very likely to be either the benchmark in the class, or very nearly so.

So, what will replace the Falcon when the last one rolls down the line in 2016, well, it’s likely to be the Mondeo. And, for Ford that’s good news because the thing is a gem to drive and reasonably well established here. The Territory will be replaced by the Ford Everest, there’s a new Focus on the way and the Ford Ranger is already beloved Down Under. Oh, and then there’s the Mustang which has just seen the first-ever right-hand model built ahead of its global roll out into right-hand drive markets from 2015.

So, for Ford, the years beyond 2016 should be pretty good, and if it’s marketing team and accountants can work together on messaging and price, then Ford might just become the dominant player in the almost 50-year Ford Vs Holden stoush. And it hasn’t ever been that.

Is it worth getting into the debate about what killed the Commodore? Plenty of very clever people have suggested it was everything from the Aussie dollar to a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon. Anyway, despite strong sales of the Commodore at the moment, it and the Falcon are doomed. We’re a nation that’s embraced the SUV because of the flexibility it offers and, yes, we’re a big country but the argument we need a ‘big car’no longer holds water. And that’s because of the SUV and the fact you can keep going when the bitumen ends.

What about V8 Supercars? Well, you’ll have noticed the organisers have wooed other makers into the fold (Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Nissan) but without Ford and Holden it probably won’t be the same. Who knows? As usual, we’d love to hear your thoughts. See you in the comments.

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