VE NEWS: Lutz approves Bruce Newton, drive.com.au 08/08/06 Holden’s $1 billion VE Commodore now has a fan at the very top of parent General Motors, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz describing it as “a magic vehicle” after his first drive of the SS-V sports sedan flagship. Lutz's comments weren't made in a sanitised press release, but in an email sent to Holden managing director Denny Mooney after he sampled a production version of the new VE 6.0-litre V8 at GM's Milford proving ground outside Detroit. The support of Lutz, who heads up GM's global vehicle development program, is a crucial win for Holden, which is negotiating to export a high performance version of VE to the USA as a Pontiac as early as 2008. "I thought the car was an extreme pleasure to drive," Lutz wrote. "Compliant, yet very, very responsive. Excellent steering feel and weight, very neutral handling, with neither limit understeer nor limit oversteer in evidence. This car redefines "neutral". "It seems never to be caught off balance, no matter what the driver does in terms of messing up the entry to the corner. The car seems to say 'I've never seen it done this way before, but, OK, I can handle it!'. "It's a magic vehicle. "And I also congratulate GMH on the interior gloss and grain, as well as switch gear feel and quality. We've improved a lot in the US, but this is still way, way better." Lutz's high praise will be greeted jubilantly within Holden. The VE is very much its own design rather than an adapted European or US platform. The core rear-wheel drive architecture developed by Holden will underpin a variety of vehicles to be manufactured in Australia, Asia and the USA. It is expected a reborn Chevrolet Camaro sports coupe based on the Aussie-developed underpinnings will be confirmed soon for production in the North America. But Mooney is also chasing completely built-up export from Australia to the USA to supplement existing deals that will see VE variations go to the Middle East, China, Korea, Brazil, the UK, South Africa and New Zealand. Holden did have an export deal to the USA, the Monaro selling there as a reborn Pontiac GTO. That deal is now defunct, but as first reported by drive.com.au several weeks ago, Mooney is back in negotiations with Pontiac. While he first publicly talked about SS-V replacing the ageing Pontiac Grand Prix front-wheel drive sedan, Mooney's sights have moved upmarket after further negotiations in the USA in the last 10 days with the brand's general manager John Larson. That's because Holden would have the capacity to supply no more than 20,000 cars per year from its Elizabeth assembly plant. That's a drop in the sales bucket for a mainstream car in the USA. So with such constrained ability to supply and a $20 million bill to legalise VE for US highways Mooney wants to sell Pontiac a more upmarket car. This dovetails neatly with the brand's stated ambition to sell only rear-wheel drive vehicles down the track. "My thinking is you do an SS or even an HSV - a high margin, low volume car image car. Kick ass, high performance, high content. You are not trying to do big volume but it is a great image car. "This is an image car, a retail car, great car. "So the volume won't be high by their standards, but it's enough demand from my standpoint. If we can be at 2008, 2009, 2010 when the car here is three, four years old, is starting to decay on our local volume and we had that extra demand… it helps keep the plant running at 100 per cent utilisation, which is what I want. "There is no question when I look at our plant capacity and then look at demand two, three, four years down the road that I would love to have one more good-sized export program to guarantee we have more demand than supply," Mooney said.