Holden is gone… but General Motors hasn’t given up on Australia just yet.
Amid its announcement of Holden’s closure, the American company revealed it would like to maintain an “on-going niche presence” in Australia under the GM Specialty Vehicles banner. But what does that mean?
At this stage there’s no official word, but the most logical outcome is a partnership with Holden Special Vehicles (HSV). It made a name for itself converting humble Holdens into serious performance cars for the better part of three decades, but these days its focus is on converting US-built Chevrolet to right-hand drive for local sale. Just what GM needs to make its Specialty Vehicles business work.
HSV has a head start
Unlike any other arrangement, HSV has an existing relationship with Holden and General Motors with its current business converting the Chevrolet Camaro sports coupe and Silverado 2500 heavy-duty pick-up.
At present HSV buys the cars directly from the US, so a closer deal between HSV and GM could mean better access to vehicles at a lower rate; which in turn could mean lower prices for Australian customers or more choice.
Currently HSV offers the Camaro in both 2SS and hardcore ZL1 variants, and if the rumours are to be believed, GM will help support getting the Camaro on the Supercars grid in 2021.
The Silverado 2500 may not be as sexy as the Camaro, but these trucks are capable of towing nearly 6000kg, which is a significant boost over most dual-cab one-tonne utes. Both of these vehicles fit the criteria of being the sort of niche and premium vehicles GM Speciality Vehicles wants to focus on.
HSV has an expanding line-up
Almost lost amid the drama and emotion of the Holden closure was HSV’s long-anticipated confirmation that it will sell the Silverado 1500 locally, beginning in March. This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. Mainly, this size of US-style ute is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, as sales of the rival Ram 1500 demonstrate.
The other reason it’s important is because the Silverado 1500 uses the same underpinnings as several key GM vehicles, which would make it easier for HSV to increase its offering into the booming SUV market. For example, both the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban are built on the same chassis as the 1500, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine HSV offering both of those big, family-friendly SUVs within the next few years under the GM Specialty Vehicles banner.
HSV can save the Corvette
One of the biggest signs of optimism for Holden in recent times had been the confirmation that the iconic Chevrolet Corvette Stingray would be making its way to local showrooms in right-hand drive.
While the death of Holden has put a major question mark over the Corvette’s Australian future, it hasn’t been completely ruled out. Speaking at the announcement of Holden’s demise, GM International executive, Julian Blissett, confirmed the right-hand drive Corvette project was continuing.
“It will still exist,” Blissett said. “We haven’t decided what we’ll do with that yet, but it’s still being developed.”
Partnering with HSV would allow GM Specialty Vehicles to seamlessly integrate into its dealer network, selling the Corvette alongside the Camaro and Silverados.
HSV could build a Raptor rival
The success of the Ford Ranger Raptor, with its high-speed off-road performance and big price tag, has been noticed by other car makers. And that includes HSV, which is known to have looked at GM’s answer to the Raptor – the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 – in detail.
Unfortunately, it’s believed that HSV ditched plans to import and convert the hardcore Colorado, citing difficulty getting it into showrooms as a competitive price. If GM is able to assist HSV with a better deal from the factory, it could pave the way for this to make its way down under.
With its 230kW 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine, unique dampers from specialist Multimatic, front and rear locking diffs and a more aggressive bodykit the ZR2 would have what it takes to give the Ranger Raptor a run for its money.