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Tim O'Brien | Sep 1, 2016

Things are moving at Holden. The closedown of manufacturing here, and the imminent end of ‘the Australian Commodore' - and everything that notion means to a company which has built its brand on the foundation of a ‘true blue’ Australian heritage - is clearly concentrating minds in GM Holden.

At a media briefing coinciding with the launch of the new Trailblazer seven-seat 4X4 wagon, Mark Bernard, Chairman and Managing Director, said, “Our challenge is to redefine what Holden means to Australia.”

A challenge indeed.

Future Holden SUV range
Future Holden SUV range

According to Mr Barnard, the new thinking driving the company comes from an acceptance of what people “had been telling us; Holden you need to change”.

Among the key shifts is a fresh focus on customer service and a reaffirmation of some innovative ideas like capped price servicing for every Holden ever produced, as well as new ideas like ‘“take your time test drive”, allowing customers to take a demo vehicle for a 24 hour test drive.

There is also a commitment to look after customers “inside and outside the warranty period”.
But, the changes to the relationships with Holden customers aside, central to Holden’s plans is a revitalised product portfolio containing some interesting new models.

 

Holden Acadia large SUV

Holden has previously promised 24 new model releases “before 2020”, and re-affirmed that commitment. It also has five new models for launch for the remainder of this year - including the Trailblazer we’re driving today.

The redesigned Barina
The redesigned Barina

Of these, Holden design chief Richard Ferlazzo last night showed off the redesigned Barina and Trax projects from Holden’s global design studio, which have been seen previously in their Chevrolet-badged form, and the new Astra, due for imminent launch.

Not expected however was the reveal of the all-wheel-drive Holden Acadia SUV - shown still in left-hand-drive form, and with a foil Holden badge set in its grille.

Built atop the platform shared with the Chevrolet Traverse and with an east/west 3.6 litre V6 petrol engine in the nose, and available all wheel drive, the Acadia is to take on the likes of the Toyota Kluger here.

It will be an important new addition to the Holden line-up, and, its presence here shows that Mr Barnard’s assurances that the close-down of manufacturing will allow Holden to “have more vehicles in more segments” and to also “leverage GM’s global product portfolio” will bring some interesting cars to this market.

Not discussed last night, and a subject none in Holden will be drawn on, is a large car rear-wheel-drive sedan, built atop a Cadillac platform, that is clearly in development in Holden’s design facilities here.

Cadillac's rear wheel drive chassis may underpin the next Holden SS
Cadillac's rear wheel drive chassis may underpin the next Holden SS

The frequency and numbers of Cadillac sedans seen slipping in and out of Holden’s Lang Lang facility clearly points to such a car. The continuance of the Chevrolet SS - RWD, V8 powered, familiar to us all - in the North American market indicates that such a car, a new model with a Chev badge (at the least), is likely.

And likely, we would think, given the engineering and development clearly going on here, to return with a Holden badge on the nose. And perhaps be badged Commodore.

We live in interesting times.

We’re driving the new Trailblazer today, watch for the review coming shortly.

MORE: Holden News and Reviews

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