Has the first step been taken towards replacing the Holden name with Chevrolet in Australia?
Holden management says no, but the confirmation that two models from parent General Motors’ global blue-collar brand will be sold in selected Holden dealerships from the second half of 2018 retaining their Chevrolet badges will only escalate speculation.
Ever since Holden announced its intention to cease local production there have been persistent suggestions General Motors management in Detroit was considering a name change.
Without unique locally-built vehicles such as the Commodore, which ceased production when the Elizabeth plant closed last October, Holden was shorn of its unique selling proposition and the reason to keep its local name. Or so the argument goes.
But Holden managing director Mark Bernhard says the arrival of the two Chevrolets is not a foot in the door for change.
“The Holden brand has held a special place in the hearts of Australians for over 160 years and will continue to do so for years to come,” he told The New Daily.
“We have incredible brand awareness, our customer satisfaction scores continue to rise, we have exciting new products on the way and have just announced we are investing over $150m into our dealer network.
“We have no reason to change our brand.”
So why are the Camaro V8 sports car and gigantic Silverado pick-up truck being sold here with the Chevrolet bow-tie badge and not the Holden Lion?
Mr Bernhard argues leaving the Silverado and Camaro unchanged is appropriate because they are intrinsically Chevrolet and will be niche players here in terms of volume.
But big sellers, like the Cruze small car which is sold as a Chevrolet in most markets, will always be badged Holden.
“Camaro and Silverado are iconic Chevrolet vehicles, so we’ll let the famed bow-tie speak for itself,” Mr Bernhard said. “The DNA of both of these vehicles is pure Chevrolet and we’re going to honour that.”
The arrival of the Camaro and Silverado are key components of a new deal between Holden and its authorised independent vehicle modifier, Holden Special Vehicles, which is owned by the Walkinshaw family.
HSV has until now relied on developing hot-rod versions of the locally-built Commodore V8s. Over the past 30 years it has built about 90,000 of them.
Now, it will convert the North American-built Silverado and Camaro to right-hand drive in a new factory in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton. Other GM global models such as the full-size Chevrolet Suburban SUV are expected to be added to the line-up in the future.
The Chevrolet models will be offered through selected Holden dealers which are part of the HSV network. The showrooms will be updated to include bow-tie branding.
HSV will also launch a modified version of the Holden Colorado 4×4 crew-cab early in the new year dubbed the SportsCat.
But HSV has no plans to offer a higher-performance version of the imported ZB Commodore that launches next February. Instead, the Chevrolet Camaro will fulfil the role of V8 sports performer.
HSV will convert five different versions of the Silverado, which comes with a huge 6.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 engine, 332kW of power and a massive 1234Nm worth of torque. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch in the second quarter of 2018.
A single Camaro coupe model will start production in July 2018. Pricing for the 6.2-litre 340kW V8 is expected to start under $80,000.