February 05, 2013

Horse 1436 - VF Commodore... The Final Curtain Call?

Holden ‏@holdennews
#VFCommodore is revealed Sunday but we'll be piecing it together online this week. Get involved! https://buildthecommodore.com.au/ 
- Holden, via Twitter, 4th Feb 2013

It is probably quite odd that I should get excited about the VF Commodore, considering that I'll never own one and more than likely never drive one but I suspect that it will be Holden's last hurrah. After final production of the Commodore, the General will want to build the Chevrolet SS in America and Commodores in their new $450m plant in Argentina. See Horse 1390
After the end of Commodore production, Holden's very reason for existence is brought into question and considering that the entire of the lineup except the Cruze hatchback would be built by Daewoo and sold everywhere else in the world as a Chevrolet, it makes sense to just ditch the brand altogether.

So then, the reason why I'm interested in the VF Commodore if it has nothing to do with driving it, is entirely different. I want to see just how close the Chevrolet SS which has already been spied testing in NASCAR will be to the Commodore in terms of styling.
NASCAR abandoned any resemblance to road going cars a long time ago but the stickers both front and rear are supposed to give a passing glance to what's on the road; the V8Supercars have also reached the point where the only common componentry between the race and road cars are the badges fore and aft, so really the VF itself is sort of an exercise in trying to pick what future Chevrolets (which will replace Holdens) will look like.

Will they be twins separated at birth?

There isn't a whole heap that can be done different in principle with the VF compared with the VE.
Maybe the 3L V6 will be standard and I suppose that there might be a difference with the 6.2L V8 but other than that, the rest of the differences will be subtle. Maybe Holden will fit progressive cylinder shut-down technology, which already exists on some Cadillacs or maybe Holden will finally introduce a diesel to the range. A diesel would increase the longetivity of the ute at least.
Things like ABS and IRS were standard a long time ago, so really apart from ESP there aren't a lot of completely new sweeping changes which even can be made. This means that VF will probably be more evolution than revolution.
The most boring things from a marketing perspective are perhaps the most critical to the wallets of owners over the life if the vehicle; that is the eternal race for increased fuel economy at the same time as increased power.

I sort of expected five years ago that Opel/Vauxhall and Holden/Chevrolet would have shared common cars by now but the  GFC which saw GM in America bailed out by the US Government and the semi sort of spin off of GM Europe put paid to that.
It's weird but you now have a situation where Opel dealers will try and sell you a Polish built Astra and claim that its better quality than an Australian built Cruze despite both of them sharing the same platform and engines which come out of the same factory in Elizabeth.
Actually the fact that Holden builds the Cruze at all sort of betrays the fact that the market moved on from large cars a long time ago. The highest selling cars on a month by month basis over the past few years have been the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla. Occasionally the Cruze breaks into the top two but I don't think that it has claimed the top peg yet.
Australians are actually more likely to buy cars which are eligible for the British Touring Car Championship than they are for cars raced in V8Supercars. I read somewhere that the average age of a Commodore buyer was well over the age of fifty; that sort of suggests that the current average demographic are the same customers who were buying HT Kingswoods 35 years ago.

Holden might be allowed to live on a little longer if the American public see that the Australian built car is really quite good by world standards and if Holden is able to convince Detroit that the ute is a thing worth bringing back under the El Camino badge then it might be given another lifeline.
Unless the VF Commodore is absolutely and utterly exceptional, then I sort of think that this is the end of the road.  I know that Australians build cars which can be the best in the world but it's a real pity and crying shame that GM in Detroit doesn't see that too.
I wait expectantly for the launch of the VF Commodore on Sunday because sadly I suspect it will be the last to be built in Australia and probably also the last ever.

Holden's Motorsport division via Twitter on @HoldenMsport may have inadvertently spilled the beans on what the front of the VF will look like by showing spy shots of the Chevrolet SS undergoing testing before the 2013 NASCAR season:

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