Cliffnotes - The next generation Holden Commodore will be the basis of an entirely new generation of powerful GM RWD cars in the US. Buick - Roadmaster and Velite. Chevrolet - Camaro, Caprice, El Camino, Impala, and Monte Carlo. Pontiac - Grand Prix (G8) and GTO. Saab - 9-5/9-6. The man who styled the Monaro and last generation of Holdens will be overseeing the design of these new cars. The Pontiac Solstice will also be the basis for new compact GM RWD cars. Chevrolet - Nomad. Holden - Torana. Saturn - Evoke and Sky. The Corvette will continue to be the basis of the Cadillac XLR. The Sigma will continue to be exclusive to Cadillac. ------ Scandinavians on the horizon Unofficial rendering - The rest of the General Motors world wants a piece of the next generation Commodore. The latest with the hand out is GM's Swedish arm, Saab. Exclusive report by Hilton Holloway and Bob Jennings. Bob Jennings Wednesday October 8 2003 Saab is the latest General Motors brand looking to grab the next, all-new Commodore. Three weeks ago Drive reported that Opel of Germany was looking to use the underpinnings of the 2006 VE Commodore for its next large car. But now other badges from the General Motors empire -- primarily Saab -- are keen for a closer look. To date, Saab has been exclusively front-drive, but the Detroit head office is anxious to expand the Swede's range. Bob Lutz, GM's charismatic vice-chairman in charge of product development, told Drive at last month's Frankfurt motor show that the Commodore platform was under consideration for Saab to add a bigger model to its current line-up. Drive has since discovered that high-level GM executives are now considering plans to install a Commodore production line at Saab's Trollhattan factory. At least two models would be built there: the production version of Opel's Insignia, referred to as an executive coupe, and the next-generation big Saab, which would switch to rear-drive. "[The VE Commodore] is a premium rear-drive platform and if it's approved it could be built on several continents," Lutz said. "Differentiating the products just becomes the need for a local body and interior." Lutz said that the plan was part of his vision to have a "supermarket" of global architectures that GM brands could pull off the shelf and clad with their own bodies and interiors "very quickly and effectively with lower engineering and tooling costs". In the interview, Lutz mentioned Saab as a potential partner in the process. Drive asked whether Saab would consider building a rear-drive car. "A rear-drive Saab? Why not?" he said. "It's not confirmed and I certainly haven't seen any sketches of such a car, but if Saab wants to participate with a 9-6, [with] rear- and four-wheel drive, that's up to GM Europe. But it's the kind of thinking we want around the company." GM is reported to be keen to build a smaller, rear-drive Cadillac -- possibly in Sweden -- to try to break into the booming European "premium" market. The project is at a very early stage. GM is ironing out major issues, including whether the global chassis needs a range of wheelbases. A 4WD variant of this chassis (following Holden's AWD development for the Adventra) would make it possible for Opel and Saab to build much-needed rivals for the Volvo XC90 and VW Touareg. The new large Opel's exterior styling is expected to be vested in the brand's highly regarded design director, Martin Smith -- and not Mike Simcoe, the man who effectively put Holden under the General Motors spotlight by penning the Monaro. Simcoe, Holden's design chief, told Drive the Australian brand is "pretty much the only game in town" for large rear-drive platforms. Simcoe is now also the executive director of GM's Asia Pacific Design, leading the design strategy of GM-Daewoo in South Korea. "Holden has the expertise," he said. "Since Bob Lutz removed the 'not invented here' factor from GM's thinking, Holden is being considered as a provider of rear-drive platforms. Before that, nobody wanted to hear about us." Such is the interest in the VE Commodore that it will be designed from the start with global use in mind. Simcoe said the interest of other GM operations in Commodore architecture does not necessarily mean there will be a massive increase in exports. The real cost of investment in a vehicle is in the design, engineering and validation of the platform and drivetrain, Simcoe said. Holden did this for the current platform and will do so for the VE. It would be relatively simple for Holden to supply the "intellectual property" and for overseas GM affiliates to build their own versions of its platform and fit them with bodies and badges to suit local markets. ------ Uncle Sam wants the Monaro Man... By Joshua Dowling The Sydney Morning Herald Friday January 10 2003 Holden's chief designer Michael Simcoe, who penned the Monaro, has become hot property in the GM world, attracting top job offers within the company. But Holden has fought hard to retain him. When GM approached Simcoe (pictured) about a senior assignment in the US, Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger stepped in and requested Simcoe be allowed to stay to complete the all-new 2006 Commodore. Holden executives would not comment on the assignment but Simcoe told Drive "there were some discussions". Detroit is familiar territory for Simcoe, who worked in Cadillac's advanced design studio from 1990 to 1992. "It's good experience and I would consider something if it came up further down the track," he said, "but I have a family now and things are different." According to industry analysts, Simcoe's stocks in the design world increased with the unveiling of the Pontiac GTO at the Los Angeles and Detroit shows this week. General Motors product supremo Bob Lutz invited Simcoe on stage after the LA unveiling in recognition of his achievement. According to Jaguar's chief designer, Ian Callum - who worked with the Australian at Holden Special Vehicles - Simcoe is already well regarded internationally. "If we had more people with Simcoe's talent, we wouldn't have some of the strange things we have today," Callum told Drive. "I know Mike, I know Holden and I know the car, and I'm really quite chuffed for him. He deserves the credit." ------ Holden to engineer GM global architecture Holden's design studio working on the Monaro By Joshua Dowling The Sydney Morning Herald Friday February 20 2004 The last time Bob Lutz visited Holden with senior executives from General Motors, he set the wheels in motion to export the Monaro to America. On this week's flying visit, General Motors' flamboyant product chief and his peers had a sneak preview of the all-new 2006 Commodore range, most of which is likely to be sold and assembled overseas. Reports in overseas motoring media claim that General Motors is close to announcing the Commodore's global plans. But at a media briefing on Tuesday at Holden's proving ground on the outskirts of Melbourne, Lutz said a date was yet to be finalised. Everybody is hard at work and the assumption is it will all be approved, but [the corporation] likes to time these [announcements] for maximum effect, said Lutz. Our friends in the communications department are trying to keep a lid on it for the time being. Part of the reason for the delay in the announcement is that it affects many parties. The skeleton of the next Commodore is likely to be used in vehicles GM sells in the USA, Europe, Korea, China and the Middle East. The 2006 Commodore will be the first vehicle to use the all-new structure. But, thanks to computer and satellite technology, Holden designers could style Commodore-based variants for other GM divisions - namely Saab, Cadillac, Buick and Pontiac - from their studios in Port Melbourne. Technology allows the three-dimensional designs and other vital statistics to be transmitted electronically to GM's design centres in the US and Europe. Once [the 2006 Commodore] is over we're going to have some spare engineering capacity, said Lutz. With the technology you can have Holden chief designer Mike Simcoe design a Cadillac, transfer the data to Detroit, and then have designers in America mill the clay model there, polish it up and critique it. Nowadays it almost doesn't matter where the physical clay [model] is. Early VT Coupe sketch, which later became the Monaro Saab's advanced design studio, he said, is currently working on a Cadillac project. So, I think very definitely that Holden will be more involved in future global design. Lutz also stressed that Australian designers - not Americans - would design the next generation Pontiac GTO. Meanwhile, the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the US would not automatically lead to an export order for Holden Utes, Lutz said, because Holden's factory in Adelaide is running at maximum capacity and negotiations with America's powerful United Auto Workers (UAW) union are yet to take place. We have a highly co-operative relationship with the UAW, Lutz said. You don't want to disrupt it. It's like if I want to buy another airplane. I can absolutely do it and confront my wife and say it was my money, I decided I needed another airplane and she would say, 'Yes, dear', but there would be a disturbed relationship for a considerable period of time. When asked if the UAW would accept more imported vehicles if the trade agreement with Australia was ratified, Lutz said: Intellectually, it's understood. On an emotional level, it's hard to digest at a time when we don't have all our [factories] running at full capacity and we're still talking about having excess capacity in the US. Don't forget that, for Americans, the concept of the country existing in a global economy is much harder to accept than it is for Europeans and other people because we were like a world unto our own for so many decades. Lutz said the UAW might be less opposed to imports once Cadillacs, Corvettes, Hummers and other vehicles were exported overseas: It's a two-way street. Lutz, 72, who has worked for BMW, Ford and Chrysler during his illustrious career and who flies a military fighter plane in his spare time, said he has no plans to retire. I don't think about it, he said. As far as I'm concerned, I serve at the pleasure of [General Motors CEO] Rick Wagoner and the board of directors, and I'm willing to do it as long as they'll have me. I'm having the time of my life, he said as he sampled the Monaro-based Pontiac GTO at 200kmh on Holden's high-speed test track. This job beats retirement any day. Tell me where in retirement you can do this. ------ El Camino in the works Holden VY Ute General Motors' Australian brand Holden eagerly anticipated U.S. President George W. Bush's visit Down Under country this past week when, it was hoped, the presidential push for a bilateral trade agreement will speed up the so-far long drawn-out process. GM is poised to ship its first batch of Pontiac GTO coupes to the U.S., and has several more models in the pipeline. Next up would be the replacement for the long retired Chevrolet El Camino SS, based on Holden's muscular V-8-powered Utility. Holden CEO Peter Hanenberger says it would be next to go should the U.S. "Chicken Tax," which loads a 25-percent duty on imported utes, be waived under a new BTA. A BTA with Thailand is also in the mix, a new market Holden has just declared for its rear-wheel drive Commodore V-6 and V-8 sedans, which currently face an 80 percent import duty. Conversely, utilities assembled in Thailand attract a five percent tariff slug entering Australia. Meanwhile, GM's all-new engine factory in Melbourne is set to start production of the Cadillac High Feature (HF) V-6 engine family on October 29. First recipients of the engines will be Buick Rendezvous SUVs, with Saab, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and other GM brands queuing up for the all new engine. Holden won't get to use the HFV6 derivatives until this time next year for the final iteration of the VT Commodore series, dubbed VZ. The HF V-6 will be fitted to all Holden products from early 2005. ------ GM's product czar Bob Lutz shows zest for Holden Zeta architecture By BRUCE NEWTON 20 February 2004 GENERAL MOTORS product czar Bob Lutz has forecast a "huge" future for the new Holden-developed VE Commodore architecture, predicting it will underpin a minimum of 400,000 cars worldwide. And Mr Lutz’s estimate on build numbers is regarded as conservative within Holden. Mr Lutz is at the head of a heavyweight GM delegation visiting Holden this week which also includes world engineering boss Jim Queen and design chief Ed Welburn. The group was given an in-depth tour of the VE, the Zeta architecture and various spin-off concepts at Holden’s Fishermens Bend headquarters on Monday. "Holden has a major, major, major role to play in at least one worldwide architecture," Mr Lutz said at a press function on Tuesday at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground. "It’s potential could be huge. We’re talking rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, V6, V8. Some of the plans are still very fuzzy, but if you look at the European potential, the Asian potential, Holden and the United States and it could be 400,000." At least some of GM’s plans for the architecture codenamed Zeta – which will be first employed under a production car when the all-new VE Commodore is launched in the first half of 2006 – could be announced as soon as the second quarter of 2004. That date was mooted by new Holden managing director Denny Mooney on Tuesday. The announcement could coincide with a Zeta-based Buick convertible show car tipped to be unveiled at the New York auto show in April, although that concept is far from confirmed. Holden sources say it is more likely that Zeta’s global role will be first announced in Australia. The Zeta architecture will be manufactured in Australia under VE Commodore, its derivatives and exports, in the US under Buicks, Chevrolets and Pontiacs, and is also under consideration to underpin a forthcoming Opel large car and the replacement for the Saab 9-5 luxury model. The first foreign model expected to emerge is a Buick flagship sedan late in 2006. Holden already exports Commodores, Monaros and long wheelbase cars as Chevs and Pontiacs to various export markets, the best known being the Pontiac GTO. The difference with Zeta is the architecture technology would be primarily exported for overseas manufacture and the sheetmetal on top would not necessarily bear any resemblance to any Holdens. Asked about Mr Lutz’s 400,000 build estimate, Mr Mooney responded: "It could be more than that, 400,000 isn’t even two plants. You’ve got to remember a plant in North America in a two-shift operation will run about 240,000 units, a three-shift operation will do over 300,000. "I think that (Lutz estimate) is conservative." ------ Buick Boost: Holden engineered platform is set to play a vital role in the repositioning of Buick in the US. By BRUCE NEWTON 26 February 2004 STRUGGLING US brand Buick is set to be the first North American recipient of Holden’s Zeta architecture. General Motors has plans to reposition Buick as its direct opposition to Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus. Holden technology will play a key role in making that happen. First signs of the co-operation should come in April at the New York auto show with the unveiling of a convertible concept expected to be called Velite. But Buick will have to wait until 2007 before being able to exploit the architecture with a production car. And according to GoAuto sources in the US that won’t be all, with the production convertible set to follow it on to the market in 2008. As you can see from the launch schedule reproduced below, Zeta will also underpin Chevrolets and Pontiacs in North America. And the list we have obtained is by no means complete. Zeta has been developed by Holden for the VE Commodore and its derivatives but, as part of GM’s global architecture strategy, the technology will be exported internationally to underpin a new generation of vehicles. Zeta can be formatted in rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, with V6 and V8 drivetrains and in a variety of wheelbases. Last week, during an Australian visit, GM product czar Bob Lutz put the worldwide opportunities for Zeta at about 400,000 units per annum, but that is a very conservative number. Zeta production is expected to start at the Buick plant in Oshawa, Canada, in 2006. In 2002 215,727 Buick Century and Regal models were built there. Add the potential for a second US plant, Fishermens Bend production and possible European use (Saab and Opel), and the Zeta total climbs beyond 500,000. So why Buick first? Because it’s in a much weaker state than Chevrolet or Pontiac. Last year it sold 259,348 vehicles, a 30 per cent slide from 2002. GM plans to reposition Buick more upscale with higher prices, more standard equipment and options not offered on current models. "It will be American premium luxury,” GM North America president Gary Cowger told Automotive News this month. "When you think about Buick, you’ve got to think about going right head-to-head with Lexus – only (with) American premium luxury, distinguishing itself with very tasteful executions of interiors, getting back to more classic designs." The first step in Buick’s resurgence came at the Chicago auto show when the all new mid-size LaCrosse was revealed. Replacing the Regal and the Century, the LaCrosse was one of Mr Lutz’s first projects when he re-joined GM. He killed the original proposal and closely managed the exterior and interior styling re-designs. Significantly, Mr Lutz’s previous utterances about Holdens that will sell in the US have not only included the Monaro as GTO and the SS Utility as a Chevrolet El Camino, but also the long wheelbase Statesman as a reborn Buick Roadmaster. ------ Michael Simcoe led design for the Holden Commodore, Statesman and Monaro. By DAVE GUILFORD | Automotive News (08:01 July 06, 2004) DETROIT - Michael Simcoe, an Australian who heads General Motors' Asian design, will lead design of GM's North American cars effective Aug. 1. It shows GM's increasing effort to move rising designers around the globe to gain an international perspective. The move is one of three design leadership changes, a GM spokesman said: 1. Simcoe, 47, will replace Bryan Nesbitt as executive director for unibody vehicles in North America. Simcoe has been executive director for Asia Pacific design since Sept. 1. Simcoe rose in the design ranks of GM's Australian subsidiary, Holden Ltd., becoming design director in 2001. Designs he was responsible for include the Holden Monaro and the Pontiac GTO. 2. David Lyon, 35, will replace Simcoe as head of Asia Pacific design. He is executive director for design of body-on-frame vehicles in North America, a post he took Jan. 1. Previously, he was design director for the truck interior studio and chief designer of the upcoming Buick LaCrosse, Centieme and Bengal concept cars. 3. Ken Parkinson, 41, will replace Lyon as executive director for body-on-frame vehicles in North America. He is director of design for small and mid-sized truck interiors, a post he took June 1. Previously, he was design director for Delta small cars and Epsilon mid-sized cars and spent three years on assignment in Japan. The changes were triggered by Nesbitt's departure to head Adam Opel AG design in April. Shortly after Nesbitt moved to Opel, Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said that broadening the global experience of designers would be a priority in picking his replacement. ------ The platform now arriving Somewhere under the skin of this concept car is the 2006 Commodore and Hilton Holloway has driven it. Hilton Holloway Friday July 16 2004 The outskirts of Frankfurt are not where you'd expect to find the next generation of Australia's biggest-selling car. Yet, here I am behind the wheel of the vehicle that will form the basis of the 2006 Holden Commodore -- the VE. I'm on a vast, grey, concrete runway at a former US Air Force base close to the factory in Russelsheim where the car that spawned the Commodore was born 25 years ago. General Motors has allowed a handful of European motoring writers behind the wheel of its Insignia concept car from last year's Frankfurt motor show. To my colleagues, it's just another concept vehicle but its significance is not lost on me. GM's media minders insist the car is a design study only but Drive knows better than that. Beneath the bulging flanks and sweeping curves is the platform that Australians will be driving a couple of years from now. Under the bulbous bonnet is an engine familiar to Australians, the 5.7-litre V8 which powers today's high performance Commodores. It sounds great and we haven't even got into Drive yet. I'm not allowed to engage the four-speed automatic, that's the job of the German engineer sitting in the back seat, babysitting this $3 million hand-built machine. "OK, you go now," he commands in an authoritative German accent. And with that, we commence the first of four slow laps of the runway, about six kilometres in total, with a top speed of just 40kmh. So I don't exceed that speed, the engineers have fitted an electronic speed limiter to the car. It's not the engine or the underpinnings they're worried about, it's the fragile, hand-moulded body which is made of metal and composite materials. Under the grey German skies the Insignia cuts an impressive figure. This is the first time we've seen it away from bright motor show lights. It's a refreshingly bold and confident shape but don't expect the new Commodore to look like this. The 2006 model will be an all-new design but one which Holden insiders insist will be instantly recognisable as a Commodore. Just as the 1996 VS Commodore gave a clue as to how the then all-new 1997 VT Commodore would look, Holden says the slightly revised VZ Commodore due next month provides clues to the look of the all-new 2006 model. We're not here to judge the Insignia's looks, however, rather sample its soul. Once the delicate, leather-covered selector has been slotted into gear, the back of the car hunkers down, ready for action. After easing off the brake pedal the Insignia slinks away. It is immediately clear that the steering is yet to be calibrated. It's rather light and lifeless. That said, it only needs to be used to manoeuvre the car on and off trucks for its various show appearances. In most other respects, however, the Insignia doesn't feel like other concept cars I've sampled. Despite its apparently fragile, prototype status, it feels like a production car. Probably because what's underneath us is production-ready. Holden sent across an early VE Commodore platform on which Opel built this concept car. GM minders refused to let us look under the Insignia, so we can only report on what you can see in these pictures. Details such as suspension layout and design will remain under wraps until the VE Commodore goes on sale in March 2006. But what we can determine -- judging by the position of the wheels -- is that the next Commodore will have a longer and wider track. With this in mind, what can we conclude from our brief encounter? Of most interest to Commodore drivers is that the wheels will be pushed out as far as possible to each corner of the car. The result is a wider and longer stance which should lead to more sure-footed handling. The massive 20-inch wheels add to the sumo wrestler-like stance. The bigger footprint gives an immense sense of stability and security, without detracting from its agility. The extra girth will also enable Holden designers to create a roomier cabin in the 2006 Commodore. As the drive comes to an end, the engineer sitting in the back seat leans forward and says "OK?" as he puts the transmission into Park once we come to rest. And that's it. No fanfare, no fuss. My experience of the chassis which will drive Holden's around the world for the next 10 years is over in less than 10 minutes. Our expertise goes around the world The Opel Insignia is just one of a number of vehicles that could, one day, have Australian know-how underneath them. As Drive has reported in the past, General Motors has given Holden the responsibility for engineering the large, rear-drive Zeta platform for the mass market worldwide. It is a significant step for Holden and a sign of its maturity as a global automotive player. The Commodore was born a little over 25 years ago after Holden localised the large Opel sedan from Germany. Since then, Holden has made an increasing number of modifications to the Opel donor car and today there is little resemblance between the two. With the 2006 model, Holden and the Commodore will have come full circle -- Holden will be engineering large, rear-drive sedans for markets in Europe, North America and the rest of the world. Holden exports the Commodore and Statesman to the Middle East as a Chevrolet and the Monaro to the US as a Pontiac. It is possible that the next Commodore will be assembled and sold in Sweden as a Saab, America as a Buick and Korea and China as a Daewoo. And, of course, it will continue to be built in Adelaide as a Holden. General Motors' Australian outpost has found itself in a prime position to take responsibility for all GM's mass-market rear-drive cars. While the rest of the world dropped rear-drive in favour of front-drive, Holden kept the faith and eventually became the only company in the GM empire to build large, rear-drive sedans. When GM finally realised there was a trend back to rear-drive cars, it called Holden for help. GM's global product supremo, Bob Lutz, had been impressed by what Holden could achieve with relatively little money. He rushed through an export version of the Monaro coupe to be sold as the Pontiac GTO in America with a view to eventually seeing the new-generation VE platform adopted worldwide. The VE is said to be the first of a series of global platforms masterminded by a single development team, which then supplies the fixed technology to GM's various brands around the world. Drive understands that the plans are locked in but General Motors is saving the announcements for later, to coincide with various international motor shows around the world. ------ Australian to head up GM's car exterior design division in the USA Mike Simcoe: American cars need to become more focussed. By BRUCE NEWTON 8 July 2004 THE leading Australian designer Michael Simcoe has been handed the task of improving the looks of the General Motors car family in North America. Mr Simcoe takes up the three-year position of Executive Director Design, Body Frame Integral Architectures at GM’s Warren design headquarters, near Detroit in Michigan in late September. In his new role he will be in charge of all car and car-based exterior design such as cross-overs developed by GM's North American subsidiaries. That lot includes Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn, as well as the increasingly global luxury brand Cadillac. Mr Simcoe will also have charge over the exterior design adaptation of GM monocoque vehicles that are developed outside North America and sold there or overseas under one of the domestic nameplates. Mr Simcoe succeeds Bryan Nesbitt, who has moved to Opel in Europe to replace Martin Smith, who has left for Ford. The rotation is a key indicator of GM global product czar Bob Lutz's determination to globalise the company's design philosophy. It also demonstrates how far the GM world has changed. It wasn't that long ago that Americans like the late Joe Schemansky and his successor Leo Pruneau were being sent out to Holden to run its design department. Mr Lutz has placed Mr Simcoe in a crucial job. GM, like Ford and Chrysler Group, is seeking to reclaim ground lost in the car market to the Japanese, who in turn are now eating into the big three’s domestic truck volume. While a gifted designer in his own right, Mr Simcoe is also regarded as a strong leader, organiser and motivator. That’s important in his new role, where he will be responsible for 1500 staff. Currently, around 140 GM employees report to him. The first design updates he will influence are probably less than three years away, while it will be closer to five years before all-new products bearing his stamp will be unveiled. Mr Simcoe said his priorities would be to ensure car designs emerging from Warren were “world class and best practice”, with a particular emphasis on improving packaging and perceived quality. "There is nothing specific about American cars or trucks that I don’t like other than they probably need to be a bit more focused,” the 46-year old said. "They need to be quite specific, the design needs to suit the brand which some doesn’t and needs to get away from the “me too” that they have been into. In fact rather than being leaders, they are being led in some cases.” Mr Simcoe will be in-line with four other executive directors reporting directly to world design chief Ed Welburn. The other EDs are responsible for body on frame; interiors; advanced and engineering. It is the second time Mr Simcoe has been offered this job by Mr Lutz. The first time, two years ago, Mr Simcoe was Holden design director and wanted to see through the development of the new generation VE Commodore family, which is based on the all-new Zeta architecture. In between Mr Simcoe took on the role of Executive Director GM Asia Pacific Design, a halfway house position that enabled him to leave his family based in Melbourne, although he spent two weeks in every month in Seoul at GM Daewoo, as well as overseeing a small design studio in China. Reflecting GM’s priorities, Mr Simcoe’s replacement in the Asia-Pacific role, American Dave Lyon, will be based in Seoul. There’s a certain irony to Mr Simcoe’s appointment, as the man who led the creation of the Commodore-based Monaro coupe, which has since been sold on to the Americans as a 21st century Pontiac GTO. Although met with widespread acclaim for its performance, the car’s styling has been branded as underwhelming by the Americans, a concern reflected in slower than expected initial sales. "I guess they (GM) are coming to Australia looking for someone out of the studios here because we have got car experience and ... that’s not working well for them in North America," explained Mr Simcoe. "Clearly they like what they see here and are chasing that expertise. "I guess what they are chasing from me is good solid design related to getting their architectures right, getting their cars right and what we have been able to do here, and … to some degree tame engineering and make sure that the engineering guys and manufacturing for that matter can help deliver what essentially is what sells the vehicle, and that’s the appearance of it." Mr Simcoe’s appointment undoubtedly relates to the global ambitions GM has developed for Zeta, which will underpin Buick, Chevrolet and Pontiac future models. Mr Simcoe previously spent two years working at Warren in the early 1990s, a period he has said was vital in his development of the record breaking VT Commodore’s exterior shape. ------ Australian big wheel in Detroit Bob Jennings Tuesday July 13 2004 Holden's design boss, Michael Simcoe -- best-known for his secret design of the Monaro -- has succumbed to pressure from General Motors vice-chairman for product development Bob Lutz to go to America to help sort out the world's biggest automotive company's American car division. Simcoe (pictured) has been appointed executive director of design, for "Body Frame Integral Architectures". In layman's terms, that means he will be responsible for all American vehicles which don't have a separate "frame" or chassis; this includes the car lines of Chevrolet, Cadillac, Pontiac and Saturn. And it's these car lines which aren't doing well in the US; General Motors main sales strength is in "trucks", the big, gas-guzzling recreational vehicles such as utes and four-wheel-drives which outsell conventional cars.advertisement Simcoe was first approached by Lutz two years ago -- and knocked him back. "We had other stuff that still needed doing at Holden, and it would have been silly to walk out of the place at that stage," Simcoe said. The job in which he was involved was what he reckons is the high point of his 21-year career with Holden, the ground-up design of the VE Commodore, which is slated for introduction in April 2006. "It's a car not even vaguely related to anyone else's architecture; it's 100 percent Australian and which has the rest of the (GM) world interested," said Simcoe, who relates the satisfaction involved in this vehicle more highly than the lounge-room wall-designed Monaro, which was only revealed to a subsequently enthusiastic Holden heirachy as a full-scale model. "The Monaro was a great project and a great experience, but it is not as good (as the VE) because it was a version of an existing vehicle. The VT on which the Monaro was based was more important, and the VE is more important again; we controlled our own destiny so at that level is is more important." As the design phase of the VE scaled down, Lutz appointed Simcoe executive director of GM Asia Pacific design, which included China and in particular GM's recent acquisition, Daewoo, although he continued to play a key role at Holden and spent two weeks a month in Melbourne and two in Seoul. In this way Holden was weaned off Simcoe and developed under the leadership of Antony Stolfo. "American tastes are already being changed," said Simcoe. "The US government will wake up to itself and trucks will die off. "GM in North America is staring hard at its navel and has to re-invent itself," he said, adding that design clinics in the US showed that buyers were becoming tired of truck-like vehicles. American cars needed to be "more sensible" than trucks and had to incorporate world class practice in such key issues as "packaging" (the way space was utilised) and quality. However, he added that he was daunted by the job in front of him. In Australia, he had a staff of about 140 people; in the US, he would be responsible for the work of 1500 people working on design. He is due to start in his new position on August 1, and although he hasn't yet seen the paperwork, he expected his contract in the US would be for three years, although he would need longer than this to turn around the car styling business. Simcoe admitted he would be taking his favourite "toy" with him; a classic 1956 fifth series Lancia Aurelia coupe which he has restored, and confided that the Detroit posting would give him the opportunity to add one more car to his collection he covets a 1963 "split window" Chevrolet Corvette. ------ Continental quest for VE Commodore Bobby dazzler: Auto czar Bob Lutz (top) believes the VE Commodore could knock off the Insignia concept (above) as the front-runner for GM Europe's next large car. By BRUCE NEWTON 3 November 2004 A REBADGED but barely restyled version of the forthcoming Holden VE Commodore is under serious consideration as the pragmatic solution to Opel and Vauxhall’s quest for a large sedan. While this proposal has the support of GM executives as high as global car czar Bob Lutz, there is still the push for a ‘purist’ solution, which is a production version of the Insignia concept revealed at Frankfurt in 2003. A decision is due by the end of the first quarter of 2005. The VE goes on sale in Australia in the first half of 2006. The Australian chief of Vauxhall, Kevin Wale, appears to fall into the Lutz camp of pragmatists, while Opel chief Carl-Peter Forster is at the head of the purists. However, to get Insignia up and flying Mr Forster has to pull together a viable business case, an obvious challenge at a time when GM Europe continues to bleed financially. Whichever way the choice goes, the Opel/Vauxhall large car that replaces the now retired Omega will be based on the Australian-developed Zeta rear-wheel drive architecture. And whatever design comes out of Australia bound for Europe it will close the loop on a process that began in the 1970s when the original first generation Commodore was based on Opel technology. "I think the Commodore could easily be the next generation top-of-the-range Opel saloon," said Mr Lutz. "No problem at all." "Basically it is the same design language and you could argue the original chassis was derived from the Opel Omega, so in a way it would be returning home. "And there is no question in my mind that when you drive the 2005 (Pontiac) GTO that Holden knows how to execute world class dynamics when it comes to chassis." Holden is also conducting a development program with turbo-diesel technology that would play a vital part in any Commodore export program to Europe. There appears to be three front-running sourcing choices for Holden turbo-diesel technology: Isuzu, the GM-Fiat joint venture and a new VM Motori unit being developed initially for use in the forthcoming Daewoo S3X cross-over that will be sold in Australia as a Holden. The introduction of the sophisticated new Alloytec engine also provides Holden with better European petrol engine options that can be built in capacities as small as 2.8 litres, with or without turbocharging. Mr Wale said that an Opel/Vauxhall Commodore as a mainstream model in Europe would assist in his desire to niche market other Holden models such as the Monaro and the utility. "The ideal arrangement for us would be to do one across Europe so we could use that as a somewhat mainstream product and leverage the derivatives off that," he said. "And we know how to do low-volume derivatives and the Monaro has been a great exercise to prove to us that we can do that. "Obviously I am biased," he added. "I know the Zeta is a terrific car and would do very well there (Europe). There are a lot of requirements for compliance with European conditions and particularly a diesel engine and emissions. So it is always an expensive exercise full stop, and that’s probably the biggest issue. "Styling-wise, yeah, I think one of the strong potentials is it could be similar to the Australian styling, but that is not the only one that is being considered." While Opel/Vauxhall appears a strong chance to take the VE Commodore, Mr Lutz revealed there was no guarantee it would be built in Australia, a direct result of the global architecture plans that GM is putting in place. "If we did it, would Opel want to assemble it? Would they want to duplicate the tooling? Would they take it directly from Holden with Opel badges on it? Would the parts go to GM South Africa? We could use the low labour rates in GM South Africa and then export to Europe because there are no duties for South African product coming into Europe. "We are playing all those games now and analysing business plan opportunities." Sizing up Saab WHILE a role for the Zeta architecture is locked in with Opel/Vauxhall, and possibly the VE Commodore sedan package, Mr Lutz says Saab is not quite so clear cut. The premium brand’s replacement for the ageing 9-5 large car has been linked to Zeta, but Mr Lutz told GoAuto that the Australian-developed technology was more likely to be seen under something larger. "It (a Zeta-based Saab) would need to be pretty premium. It would be 9-5-and-a-half, because you would want all-wheel drive because you wouldn’t want to have to explain to the world why Saab is suddenly rear-wheel drive," he said. Mr Lutz also flagged the proposition that such a car would probably not be built in Sweden, and potentially not even in Europe. "With this whole thing of global architectural integration, any Zeta plant should be able to build any other Zeta, so were we to decide to do a 9-5-and-a-half, or 9-6, or 9-8, or whatever you want to call it off of Zeta, it could come out China, or Korea," he said. "But that doesn’t mean Saab designers wouldn’t do the design, the detailing, the interior, the safety standards. "We have got to start sourcing globally, we no longer have the option of being able to tell ourselves that Saab is Swedish and every Saab must be built in Sweden. "Sweden is just about the most expensive country in the world now to build cars in. If it is one world, we are going to be treated as one world." Interestingly, Mr Lutz’s concerns about having to explain a rear-wheel drive Saab to the world is not shared by his boss, General Motors chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. "I personally think they (the issues of building a rear-wheel drive Saab) are manageable, but we just need to work through it a little bit," he told GoAuto. "But it is certainly a possible solution for that (large car) segment for Saab, and it may be the best way." ------ More from Down Under: Holden to play a large role in GM's future product plans JASON STEIN | Automotive News Posted Date: 12/2/04 DETROIT -- Holden Ltd., the force behind the reintroduction of the Pontiac GTO, will play a large role in General Motors' future product plans. GM has assigned its Australian subsidiary the design and engineering for a new generation of rear-wheel-drive cars on the Zeta architecture. Some, including a Buick sedan and the redesigned GTO, will be assembled in the United States. The Buick will be first in 2006. "Holden will take the lead for a lot of work, including most of the core engineering work," says Marty Hogan, program engineering manager for the current GTO. "The U.S. will still be responsible for regional needs and for meeting U.S. requirements, but Holden is serving a large need. "Because Holden has worked on the architecture before Zeta," Hogan says, it "will continue to integrate it." Holden's lean, profitable operation has become a role model for GM's global engineering, computer and design network. In America, Holden helped rework the right-hand-drive Monaro into the 2004 GTO. Hogan says 35 Holden engineers worked on the GTO, including 15 who oversaw the program from the GM Technical Center in Warren, Mich. But "ultimately, it's Holden's own architecture," Hogan says. "We're picking up work they've done and trying to apply their applications to the core engineering." This year, GM CEO Rick Wagoner reaffirmed Holden's importance. "Holden continues to play a critical role, both as a key local player and as a source of engineering and design expertise, with special focus on its large, rear-drive car capabilities," Wagoner told journalists in September at GM's global seminar in France. Holden's expertise is crucial to American development. Says Hogan: "There are not too many questions asked on this side that they don't have an answer for over there."