New, lightweight Holden Commodore due in 2013

words - Joshua Dowling
Aluminium panels and other weight-saving measures planned as Holden embarks on battle of the bulge

The Holden Commodore is going on a crash diet -- the lion could soon become an alloy cat.

In an attempt to burn the kilos the car maker is planning on using lightweight aluminium for key components such as the bonnet, boot and some underbody parts.

The Carsales Network understands that Holden has had to take the drastic measures to ensure the Commodore meets stringent internal fuel economy targets, and is well-placed for sharp rises in petrol prices.

Aluminium is more expensive than regular steel and is typically only used on luxury cars such as the Jaguar XJ and Audi A8 limousines. If the Commodore were to adopt the precious metal for body parts it would become the first Australian-made car to do so.

The Carsales Network understands that Holden has managed to slash between 50kg and 100kg from the Commodore’s 1800kg average weight. This may not sound like much, but on such a large vehicle, a weight loss of this magnitude is equivalent to winning The Biggest Loser.

Meanwhile, at the media preview drive of the new Holden Cruze small car yesterday, the company's chief designer Tony Stolfo let slip when we can expect a new Commodore, and gave a hint to at least one of its visual cues.

When describing a sharp vertical crease in the new Cruze’s rear bumper during a walkaround presentation, Stolfo said: "See that hard edge on the rear corner ... it gives you clues [to] Model Year 14 Commodore, and the distinct styling we’ll drive into that vehicle, and also the aero attributes we’re pushing into the vehicles."

Similar bumper creases are used on eco models such as the Toyota Prius and are designed to improve freeway fuel economy by separating air turbulence from the rear of the car.

Using history as a guide, "Model Year 14" likely means the next Commodore will be introduced some time in 2013. Until now, Holden had not indicated when a new Commodore would arrive in showrooms.

The VE Commodore, released in 2006, was originally due for replacement in 2012 following a five or six year model cycle. Instead, it released a mildly updated Series II model in 2010, with new front and rear bumpers and a touch screen display.

The Global Financial Crisis in late 2008 -- which forced General Motors North America into bankruptcy and almost saw the closure or sale of Holden -- delayed the development and introduction of a new Commodore.

But Holden must be close to finalising a new model. The global head of General Motors design, Ed Welburn, was in Australia last month to view the new Commodore and other models that Holden's highly regarded design team is working on for other General Motors divisions around the world. (More than two-thirds of Holden's design work is for foreign General Motors brands.) 
What's not clear is whether the 2013 Commodore is an all-new model or a facelift of the current vehicle. In an interview with the Carsales Network, a guarded Holden boss Mike Devereux said: "I think Tony [Stolfo] and Ed [Welburn] have said all that we want to say about future Commodores.

"My preference is to not put things out there that begin to create speculation given how veraciously Australian consumers consume news about this particular vehicle. I'm not trying to be cute but I think Ed and Tony have said all we want to say about any Commodore development at this point in time, on the record, publicly."

When asked about the possibility of using aluminium in the new Commodore, Devereux said: "The industry has the capability of doing it."

When asked if Holden could do it, he said: "Of course. Anything is possible but there are cost tradeoffs and materials tradeoffs. We don't stamp anything like that today."

Devereux said the Commodore was in a perpetual fuel economy drive and there were "five or six" ways to cut consumption and mass: "Over time we will try to lightweight Commodore, even in its current form. We will do things to reduce fuel consumption every single year."

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Published : Thursday, 17 March 2011
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