General
Motors has given its Down Under subsidiary the go-ahead to build an all wheel
drive version of the Opel Omega-based Holden Commodore as part of the next phase
of its multi-million push into global markets, writes Mike Duffy.

The new car will open up significant numbers of new jobs at Holden’s Adelaide
assembly plant and the company’s engine plant at Port Melbourne.

Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger today announced that
the new variant would be developed and built for release between 2003 and 2005.

The all wheel drive version of Australia’s top selling car will be offered
in saloon, estate and utility (pickup) forms and will be offered with a choice
of V6 or V8 engines.


Strategic
Review-


General
Motors


Now the announcement has been made, the project is top secret,” Hanenberger
said.

“No further details about design, specification or price will be released
until we are ready to gauge reaction at motor shows.

“All I will say for now is that it will be a very sophisticated vehicle with
all the comforts expected of a high class passenger car with four wheel drive.”

Mr Hanenberger said the business plan presented to Holden’s parent company
was based on an annual build of around 25,000 cars.

He said it was likely GM suspension experts from Europe, the United States
and Australia would work together to come up with a four wheel drive design.

“It will be a terrific vehicle and I believe it has powerful export potential
– particularly in the rugged export markets in which we are currently selling
Commodore – the Middle East and South Africa,” Hanenberger said.

Holden has made no secret of its plans to build 180,000 vehicles a year by
2008 for domestic and export markets.

“The only way to achieve and better this annual production is to expand
our portfolio of vehicles,” Hanenberger said.

Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi are all looking at producing all wheel drive versions
of their locally-produced cars to win back sales lost to imported four wheel
drives.

Currently, no car maker produces a four wheel drive passenger vehicle in Australia.

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