AUSTRALIA: Aussies brace for FWD, I4, Chinese Holden Commodore
China's current Commodore sized Buick - the LaCrosse
The Holden Commodore from 2017 will be front drive with a transverse I4 engine and "likely" made in China, according to News Corp Australia.
"To gain approval to develop a new Commodore, General Motors did a top-secret deal with Holden to pair the next generation sedan with a Buick that was originally exclusive to the Chinese market," a news.com.au report said.
Holden won the contract to design the car, which was then due to be built in Australia and China.
But now that Holden has decided to shut its Elizabeth, South Australia, car assembly line in 2017, China is poised to become the sole producer of the vehicle, the report said.
It added that documents obtained by News Corp Australia confirmed "every Holden fan's worst nightmare: the next generation Commodore will be a front-wheel-drive car powered by a four cylinder engine".
Every top-selling Holden since the birth of the company in 1948 has been a six cylinder, rear wheel drive sedan.
"The last time Holden sold a four-cylinder Commodore in the early 1980s, sales tanked," the report said. "The four cylinder Ford Falcon released last year has also failed to boost sales, accounting for less than 10% of deliveries.
The report added Holden insiders were now fighting to make a V6 available as an option on the future Commodore.
When asked why Holden would continue with the Commodore badge given that the 2017 version bears no resemblance to the models before it, a Holden insider said: "It's easier to explain to buyers that something has changed about a car they know, than to say 'Here's the new Holden XYZ'."
The 2017 Commodore will lose its practical box-shaped body and instead take on sleek styling cues from Europe.
Sales of European sedans have been revived overseas since they were restyled to look like four door coupes.
A Holden insider reportedly the new Commodore would be almost 5m long and almost as wide as the current car, but it would look smaller because of the low roofline.
"It's about making sedans look cool again," said one Holden insider. "Audi's done it, Mercedes has done, now we're going to do it. It's the only way to bring customers back to sedans."
The shift away from traditional cars is so strong that there will be no wagon version of the new Commodore for the first time ever.