Four Wheel MLP

Holden reports a 120 million loss. Ouch:

Despite the Commodore maintaining its position as the number one selling vehicle down under in 2006, total revenues were down 7.8% over the period, which meant that Holden ended up with a substantial $123.7 million loss.

That is about the only bad news for Holden. Their Zeta platform has been generating excitement nearly everywhere else it has been seen. The arrival of the Pontiac G8 (export Commodore for the US market) is building interest again as the V8 version of it was announced as being under 35K USD. There has also been an HSV Clubsport spotted in Michigan. A LHD Commodore was spotted in Arizona and a snapshot of a two-door mule in Australia sparked debate in the US over whether the photo was a new Monaro, GTO or Camaro mule. These sightings have fueled increasing speculation on the US automotive boards, not to mention envy, with the news that the 7.0L LS7 engine is heading to Australia into the HSV line which is only available in the Chevrolet Corvette in the US.

Europe is part of Holden’s export market and Fifth Gear in the UK got to drive the Vauxhall VXR8. It surprised me that the US car media whinged about the styling of the Monaro when it came to the US as the GTO, yet the British media instead thrashed the car, where it spent most of its time sideways on film.

Edmunds drives the HSV Grange as the speculated next Chevrolet Impala for 2009/2010. This is the same platform that Buick in the US refused but caused howls of anger amongst US enthusiasts when they realised that it was the same car as Holden was exporting to China as a Buick Park Avenue and South Korea as a Daewoo.

What about Ford Australia? There is some speculation that the Falcon’s platform may be used in the next-gen Mustang, but nothing about bringing the Falcon or FPVs over to the US. Which is a shame. Then again, the car itself is the most visual part of an auto manufacturers work. It seems that Holden and Ford Australia are being used heavily for their engineering and design expertise outside of the Commodore and Falcon projects; which is a good thing.

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derrida derider
derrida derider
14 years ago

7.O litres? WTF?

Surely the day of huge, crude castiron V8s is passing even in the US. Even if Holden does have some export success (and based on past gaps between hype and performance in Australian car exporting, I’m sceptical), with their subsidised space-inefficient gas-guzzling cars they’re just locking themselves further into a declining sector. And we – Australian tax payers and consumers – pay a price for this.

Robert Merkel
14 years ago

On the topic of “crude, castiron V8’s”, the engine going into that Commodore is more powerful, lighter, and similarly fuel-efficient to its main competitor – the BMW M5. In any case, we’re talking a very specialised toy that will be sold to about 150 people, and each of them will driven about as much as a Porsche. Which, incidentally, it will match in a straight line.

More generally, the reason Australia still has a car industry is that it has specialized in a unique model segment – big but cheap sedans. There is no way in hell that the car manufacturers are going to make small cars here when they churn them out by the millions in factories throughout Asia with lower labor costs.

As to the future of the large car, pluggable hybrids, biofuels, and the like are perfectly practical for large cars as well as small. There will be plenty of consumers who are prepared to pay for the technology to make large cars low carbon emitters. There are already, judging by Toyota’s decision to release a Lexus hybrid.

cam
cam
14 years ago

DD, You can’t generalise like that. I drive a car with an American V8 in it and it is as fuel-efficient as my wife’s Outback which is a four cylinder.

David Rubie
David Rubie
14 years ago

derrida derider wrote:
Surely the day of huge, crude castiron V8s is passing even in the US.
It is – sort of. Once upon a time, those thin-wall cast iron V8’s were the hybrids of their day (although heavily concentrated on generating power rather than fuel efficiency). Plus, unlike hybrids, they were cheap to make, simple to fix and exceedingly popular. Most of those engines end up in personal trucks which are still very popular (although slowly declining).

New V8’s are generally aluminium, are covered in technology (variable valve timing, electronic fuel control systems) where a bucket with 4 holes for air and fuel used to do the job. Would I buy one? Nope. Can you tear a V8 loving bloke from one of these beasts? Nope. (full disclosure: once a week I drive my old V8 Jeep and for a car nut they are a hoot).

Therein lies the problem – most car companies with enormous development lead times simply can’t respond quickly enough to consumer demand and therefore must develop multiple lines of vehicles to hedge their bets. As usual, GM bet wrongly (they’ve got form on incredibly short sighted decision making like replacing the Kingswood with the much smaller Commodore, right at the time when petrol got cheaper again).

derrida derider
derrida derider
14 years ago

Robert, if aussie cars are so cheap why have they always needed propping up by tariffs, export subsidies, “adjustment assistance” for their workers and tax holidays or even outright direct subsidies from state goverments? As I keep saying, the day the first FC Holden rolled off the assembly line was a black day for Australia.

Its absolutely true that large cars can be made more fuel and space) efficient – but not in Australia, and ultimately not as rear-wheel drive sedans. Here in Oz they haven’t even managed to put a diesel in one yet, FFS, let alone hybrids.

As David points out, Ford and Holden have a track record like their US parents of getting things spectacularly wrong, all while erring on the side of crudeness in design and construction. Holden just spent $1.3b developing a Commodore which was no larger, but was also heavier and with higher fuel consumption, than its predecessor – and launched it just as fuel prices took off again.

Aidan
Aidan
14 years ago

Cam, what are your fuel efficiency numbers for round-town driving?

When we bought a “new” car we decided on a 10 year old Mazda 626. We get about 8.0L/100 km around town (Canberra, so maybe a little better than if we were in Sydney gridlock) and 7.0L/100km on the open road.

We also looked at Mitsubishi Magnas but the 6-cylinder versions did 12L/100 around town and the 4-cylinder one weren’t a great deal better (11L/100?). We didn’t even bother looking at Commodores and Falcons.

According to Peter Martin Holden and Commodore are being propped up by fleet purchases because consumers don’t want them.

The best thing an incoming Labor Govt could do would be to put a fuel efficiency requirement on the tax concession for new cars (phased in to allow the local industry to offer competitive models).

Bannerman
14 years ago

Feul efficiency isn’t all to do with the size of the donk under the bonnet. A lot of it has to do with the nut behind the wheel.

I’ve driven latest Falcon, Commodore, Mister-Bishi and Toy-Yoda. Quite frankly, there’s bugger all between them when you get to litres/100kms. For mine, a six cylinder is far more viable for Australian driving conditions than any four cylinder. If you do a lot of high-speed, long-distance driving, an eight would be as economical as a six and a damn site more comfortable to steer. If you toodle around town, then drive a four, but don’t be surprised if your neighbour’s six is just as economical.

David Rubie
David Rubie
14 years ago

As another aside, the modern Commodore and Falcon are both less fuel efficient than the equivalent models 10 years ago. A lot of this has to do with weight and crash testing requirements, but can also be ascribed to the far more powerful engines under the bonnet. The single cam EL Falcon in 1998 made 157Kw hauling 1540Kg. A BF falcon makes 190Kw (that’s an awful lot of power for a family sedan) but hauls around 1700Kg depending on specification. Little wonder that the fuel consumption figures started going backwards. To put that 190Kw in perspective, it’s about the same power that the mega-buck, HSV V8 vehicles used to make (180Kw) and be considered ultra high performance.

Also, as Bannerman points out, the nut behind the wheel is often a big factor in fuel efficiency, although no matter how good they are, they still can’t beat physics. My wife can use measurably less fuel on a trip of 300Km in her old Falcon than I can. She used to have a Territory, but that vehicle was so bad on fuel it wasn’t worth taking up the lease once it expired (hence the old Falcon :-)

Robert Merkel
14 years ago

DD, when I say “cheap”, I mean compared to other large (and, in the case of the Falcadore) rear-drive sedans. Aside from the luxury limousines, only the Yanks make a few large, rear-drive sedans, and by all reports most (with the exception of the Chrysler/Dodge large sedan) are complete bolt-buckets based on platforms from the 1980s.

That’s why Holden Statesmans are exported to China; GM doesn’t have an equivalent vehicle in its global product portfolio.

I’ve talked to people in the industry. If Australia’s preference for large vehicles disappears, so does the local car industry. That may or may not be a bad thing. But don’t kid yourself that Toyota is going to start churning out Corollas again. It’s not going to happen.

Aidan
Aidan
14 years ago

“Feul efficiency isnt all to do with the size of the donk under the bonnet. A lot of it has to do with the nut behind the wheel.”

The ADR (Australian Design Rule) specs are driver-independent and give an objective measure of the relative fuel efficiency of different vehicles.

“If you do a lot of high-speed, long-distance driving”

Big if.

“If you toodle around town, then drive a four, but dont be surprised if your neighbours six is just as economical.”

ADR ADR 81/01 fuel consumption (L/100km)
Sourced from http://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/

Honda Civic VTi 1.8L 4cyl, Man 5 spd 6.9
Ford LS Focus CL 2.0L 4cyl , Man 5 speed 7.1
Toyota Corolla 1.8L 4cyl, Man 6 spd 7.3
Holden ZC Vectra CD 2.2L 4cyl , Man 5 speed 8.2
Holden ZC Vectra CDXi 3.2L 6cyl , Man 5 speed 9.9
Ford BF MK II Falcon Fairlane Ghia 4.0L 6cyl, Auto 6spd 10.4
Holden VZ Commodore Acclaim 3.6L 6cyl, Auto 4 spd 11.0

The ADR standards are based on international regs which mandate 1/3 of the 11km trip is at 100km/h to simulate highway driving. For toddling around town the Holden and Falcon would come out substantially worse in comparison to the smaller engined cars.

aidan
aidan
14 years ago

Found a nice description of the UN ECE test standard:

http://www.nccc.gov.sg/fueleconomy/Standard.shtm

So the “extra-urban” bit involves accelerating and decelerating at higher speeds, but no “cruising” as such. The larger cars would no doubt have much better fuel economy than these figures on the open road.

This tallies with other observations and figures I have seen before where the open road cruising performance of the larger cars is comparable to the smaller 4cyl jobs. They still suck (petrol) around town though.