Compilation of Australian Pontiac GTO Articles

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    Dial M for Monaro

    Mention Monaro and Holden fans get misty-eyed. Will the new incarnation of the legendary coupe live up to the hype?


    Thursday 11 October 2001

    At exactly 9.06 this morning, Holden unveiled its new Monaro and invited you along to join in the celebrations.

    The show actually started at 8.52am at the Sydney Motor Show, but anyone with Internet access can go to a live Webcast ( and watch the action of this year’s most significant new model launch unfold.

    It is indicative of Holden’s approach to the new Monaro that a car with a 33-year-old name could appear in such a 21st century manner.

    Make no mistake, despite the badge, there’s nothing of the original HK model in the car that was launched in Sydney today. All that remains is the concept of a very large coupe with rear-wheel-drive and a big-capacity engine under the bonnet. And, of course, the name.

    Like its Kingswood-based predecessor, the new Monaro is unashamedly based on a prosaic family sedan, in this case the latest VX Commodore.

    Carefully leaked photographs, such as those appearing on Holden’s own website or the disguised Monaro that appeared at Sunday’s Bathurst 1000, show a car that looks a lot like a two-door Commodore. But be assured, once the Holden marketing machine goes into overdrive, they’ll be telling the public it is anything but.

    The facts are that the Monaro is significantly changed car to the standard Commodore, but also similar in many ways. There is little about the way it looks that has changed from the original design study that was shown at the Sydney Motor Show exactly three years ago and was then known simply as the Holden Coupe.

    That means actually only the bonnet and front fenders are interchangeable with a four-door Commodore because all other exterior panels are different. The windscreen has a greater rake, meaning there’s a new roof and swoopy C-pillars, and of course the doors are much longer, necessitating a shift backwards of the B-pillar by about 150mm.

    The boot has also been shortened by about 100mm and given a small, raised lip, and while the tail lights retain the same basic shape as the Commodore, expect to see different lenses incorporating circular elements for either the reverse or brake lights.

    The pictures on Holden’s website show that the front bumper and air dam assembly, which on the show car was basically taken directly from a Commodore SS, has also been given a more rounded appearance with a wider opening.

    Holden is also moving away from what in recent years has been a trademark "twin nostril" grille design. Next year’s VY Commodore is expected to have a single-slot grille, and it looks like the Monaro will get something similar, with one hole between the headlamps and a big Holden badge smack-bang in the middle.


    One significant change from the three-year-old show car is the Monaro’s ride height, which instead of being a visually pleasing but less practical ground-s****er, has been raised to meet engineering requirements of ride quality and clearance. Holden By Design will offer a lowering kit as well as an optional spoiler kit.

    The show car’s 18-inch alloy wheels look like being retained, at least on the range-topping model, and the suspension has been recalibrated to give a blend of good handling and reasonable ride quality.

    As previously revealed in Drive, there will be two Monaros available when they make it into showrooms early in December.

    The first and cheapest is called the Monaro CV6, which, as the name suggests, is powered by the same supercharged V6 engine that goes into several other Commodore-based models. Don’t expect to see a power hike in the two-door, mainly because Holden doesn’t see the Monaro having the same "boy racer" image of its SS sedan. So the CV6 will have a still respectable power output of 171 kilowatts, driving through a four-speed automatic transmission.

    Topping the range will be the Monaro CV8, powered by Holden’s standard 5.7-litre V8 and producing 225kW of power. This car is the spiritual successor to the classic Chev V8-powered Monaro muscle cars of the late 1960s and early '70s, but customers from those days could only have dreamed of the technology on board.

    Expect to see electrically powered seats, a six-stack CD player, anti-lock brakes, dual and side airbags and the choice of either six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions.

    The CV8 is $56,990 in both automatic and six-speed manual form, and the automatic-only CV6 is $47,990, making the Monaro reasonably expensive by Holden standards but dirt cheap in the world of large, rear-drive coupes now built virtually by only BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

    The design job on the Monaro didn’t stop at the exterior either, for while there is still plenty of Commodore in there, including the dashboard, instruments and centre console, much is also new. However, given Holden’s wish for the Monaro to be seen as a sport luxury car, fuzzy dice are unlikely to be on the options list.

    The Commodore’s rear bench seat is replaced by two heavily contoured buckets, making this strictly a four-seater, but because the Monaro retains the Commodore’s wheelbase, there will be plenty of space.

    There is the choice of highly individual yellow, blue or red leather on at least the CV8’s seats and longer door trims. The technicolor approach also applies to the exterior, with new hues of orange, yellow and green on the new car.

    That the Monaro has made it to production at all is something of a miracle, given that the period between Holden announcing it would go to market and today’s unveiling is barely 22 months. That’s a short time by international standards, and Holden has pooled huge technical resources to design most of the car on computer and eliminate many of the prototype phases, relying instead on a form of virtual design.

    Back in October, 1998, the Monaro was nothing more than a hastily constructed concept, but it had the backing of a whole company including chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger, who at that stage hadn’t even joined the company but was one of the few people inside General Motors to have seen the show car.

    Now the new Monaro is a reality, and it remains to be seen whether it can continue the icon status of the original legend whose name it bears.

    The models


    Price $47,990
    171kW supercharged V6 engine
    Leather interior
    Four airbags
    Anti-lock brakes
    Power windows, mirrors, seats
    CD sound system

    Price: $56,990 (manual and automatic) 225kW V8
    Premium 10-CD sound system
    Dual Priority Key system
    Twilight auto-on headlights
    Dual zone climate control air conditioning
    Footwell, reading and courtesy lights
    Variable instrument dimming

    How the Monaro differs from a regular Commodore

    The name
    Shorter overall
    Shorter boot with spare tyre protruding into bumper
    Lower roof line
    Steeper-raked windscreen
    Longer doors
    Only four seats
    Unique front and rear styling
    New-look face to flow through to future models
    Unique suspension package

    HSV holds tight


    It doesn’t take a genius to work out that HSV is just itching to show the world its version of the Monaro. It’s just that Holden wants the initial glory, so has ordered HSV to hold tight for a month or so while it stands under the spotlight of the media frenzy.

    But when it does arrive, the HSV versions will drop the Monaro name, instead opting for simply Coupe, in two specification levels: GTO and GTS.

    The GTO will make do with the 255kW engine from the "regular" HSVs, while the GTS will get the more potent 300kW version along with the premium cross-drilled brake package.

    Expect the Coupe GTO to sell for about $70,000 and the Coupe GTS for somewhere around $100,000.

    HSV has already declared that its Monaro derivatives will be the best-handling HSVs ever.

    The basic shape of the first-ever HSV coupes will be identical to Holden’s Monaros, but you can bank on an appropriately radical body kit that screams HSV.


    Monaro may hit the road in America

    By Toby Hagon, Motoring Editor
    The Age
    Wednesday February 20 2002

    Holden's Monaro and Commodore utility could soon be sold in the US as part of an export plan being evaluated by General Motors executives.

    The move is being pushed by the company's vice-chairman of product development, Bob Lutz, who has breathed life back into GM's North American operations.

    "There are obviously export opportunities with Holden," Mr Lutz said.

    "Nothing is certain. We still have to analyse the business case and see if we can ... (justify) the considerable engineering effort that would be required for the Monaro to meet US federal regulations."

    What is certain, though, is the strong push from the US to make Australian exports work. Mr Lutz considers the Monaro a perfect replacement for America's Pontiac GTO and the Commodore ute as a modern-day version of the Chevrolet El Camino.

    GM is interested in the V8-powered versions only, with potential for up to 20,000 sales annually, beginning as early as 2004.

    "Assuming affordability, there isn't one guy in the US that wouldn't want it (the Monaro) sooner rather than later," Mr Lutz said. "GM has a history of getting things done when everyone wants them done."

    But the Commodore-based vehicles would require significant structural modifications to make them eligible for US consumption. The main issue is the stricter safety regulations in the US, especially the position of the fuel tank, which may rupture in a severe rear impact.

    GM also has to evaluate whether to commit to modifying the existing vehicles, which would take at least two years to make eligible, or to wait until 2005, when a Commodore will be built.


    Monaro is the new Pontiac GTO

    Holden's Monaro will be exported to the US with General Motors chiefs firming in their intention to buy the Aussie coupe and re-badge it for the North American market.

    Thursday March 28 2002

    The Holden Monaro will be exported to the United States with General Motors chiefs firming in their intention to buy the Aussie coupe.

    Holden and GM have been working on a plan to export up to 20,000 Monaros a year to the US, but as recently as last month it remained a feasibility study and a hopeful outcome rather than a done deal.

    But overnight, GM's North American chairman Bob Lutz has declared his intention to take the car, badging it in the US as the latest interpretation of the Pontiac GTO.

    Speaking at the New York Motor Show, Mr Lutz said he'd driven the car in a recent trip to Australia and loved it.

    He said GM is expected to debut the American Monaro at the Detroit motor show next January.

    Holden has confirmed it's working with GM on the business case for the Monaro and recently appointed planning executive Brett Vivian to lead the cross-company project.

    If Holden can secure 20,000 Monaro exports to the US each year the deal will triple current production levels for the new car.



    Monaro exports avoid US union collision

    Hyped as the jewel in Holden's crown and the successor to the Pontiac GTO muscle car in the US, the Monaro may not be such a big export deal after all.


    By John Lamm
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Friday April 19 2002

    Hyped as the jewel in Holden's crown and the successor to the Pontiac GTO muscle car in the US, the Monaro may not be such a big export deal after all.
    When the powerful United Auto Workers union in Detroit heard about the GTO replacement, it contemplated industrial action to protect jobs.

    But when the UAW found out that just 20,000 Monaros were headed for the US, it effectively said, "So what?"

    That number represents one-fifth of the annual capacity of Holden's Adelaide plant, but it barely troubles the tally clerks in the Big Three's mega-factories. US car sales last year, including imports, exceeded 17 million.

    GM spokesman Tom Kowaleski told Drive the Australian import "very clearly fills in an existing niche in our product lineup, but is not a replacement for any one of our mass-produced products.

    "The UAW is well aware of the situation and we don't foresee any problems."

    He said if GM were to import, for example, 150,000 Monaros from Australia instead of building a car in the US, "that would be a whole different situation".

    GM, he said, wanted to get the Monaro as soon as possible. The Monaro would make its debut as a Pontiac at the Detroit motor show in January and go on sale soon after.

    "It fits perfectly in terms of what we'd like to have for Pontiac as an image leader," he said.

    Given that the GTO was a classic US muscle car, how did GM expect Americans to react to it being built down under?

    "We don't think [it's an issue] because the piece of the whole product that's really going to stand out is the good old American-made 5.7-litre V8," Kowaleski said. "We're still working on exactly what we're going to do, in terms of what engine we're going to put in the car, but it will be a 5.7-litre V8."

    GM's worldwide product boss Bob Lutz, who visited Australia last month, was apparently so impressed by the Monaro he is understood to have fast-tracked the budget approval for US engineering changes.

    Beyond being left-hand-drive, the GTO will look different from the current Australian Monaro. It is likely to have front panels and interior borrowed from the updated VY Commodore due in August.

    Stop press:

    Holden's Monaro has been awarded two major Australian design awards.

    The Monaro has won the 2002 Australian Design Award in the Industrial Design Category and a special accolade from the Design Institute of Australia as its Industrial Design Selection.


    Getting our Goat – the war of words over America's 'new' GTO


    By Peter McKay
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Monday May 20 2002

    A war of words has erupted over whether Holden's Monaro can replace Pontiac's GTO.

    General Motors product tsar Bob Lutz waxed lyrical about the Holden Monaro when he announced it would be sold in North America as a revived Pontiac GTO, but he may have a battle winning over fans of the original muscle car of the '60s.

    The hot topic in West Coast burger joints and Midwest Walmart auto shops is whether an Australian-built two-door can ever replace the "Goat", as aficionados know it.

    Australians love the Monaro's swoopy, clean styling; Americans reckon it is, well, a bit bland and they're worried that its performance will not live up to the grand old name.

    Re-engineering for export will see the Monaro's fuel tank moved to meet tough US crash regulations, and the airbags must have a disable switch. GM is working on several styling options to satisfy the tastes of the Pontiac clan.

    But the hardest task likely will be overcoming the Archie Bunker mentality.

    The 1964 original inspired Ronnie and the Daytonas' Top 40 song, Little GTO, which turned the four-on-the-floor, 360-horsepower 389-cubic-inch coupe into the baby boomers' dream ride. (Pictured, a '65 model.)

    GTO clubs across the US are split on admitting the Holden version to their ranks, but with an aging membership, most are in need of some new blood.

    Joseph Genera, the president of the Connecticut chapter of the GTO Association of America, welcomes a new GTO – but only if it stays true to its original form. "It has to exude 'muscle car'," said Genera. "It has to look strong standing still, should be able to perform the way it looks, with power."

    One GTO enthusiasts' Web site thundered: "Hopefully, they will get a real big clue and listen to us GTO enthusiasts about what we want."

    Goat tragic Stephan Wright of Wichita, Kansas, said: "If they can't dazzle us old goats, don't insult us or even waste our time, right! She better have the looks to get us laid like my '69 did and the horsepower and performance to go with it!"

    Forbes magazine weighed in: "... the Monaro shares mechanical innards with GM Australia's Holden Commodore, a car the ... press has excoriated for failing engines, erratic transmissions and bad brake lights."

    Forbes and other US critics seem not to have twigged that the "failing" 5.7-litre engines and "erratic" gearboxes are imported from the US. They must be equally fault-prone in Corvettes et al sold in the US. It also might be a fact that the Monaro-cum-GTO may handle and stop a little too predictably for the average Pontiac owner.

    Among the Holden loyalists responding to the slights was Grant Whitehorn, who works at Holden's Elizabeth, SA, plant where Monaros are made.

    "We have had very few reports about engine and transmission malfunctions (if any) and there are no problems with failing brake lights," he said. US-bound GTOs were likely to go through three separate quality checks before they were shipped.

    In an email spray to a GTO Web site, Australian Dan Guralnek went into the Monaro's hero image, its rich racing heritage and its popularity as a muscle car in the '70s.

    "It is loaded with street cred," he said. "It's fast, very fast ... Lutz has said that Holden is going to become the new benchmark for GM.

    "Our cars have far superior build quality than yours and we can build 'em for less. I don't think the worry is whether the Monaro is good enough for the Pontiac GTO tag but rather, is the Pontiac GTO tag good enough for the Monaro?"

    A Holden spokesman took the diplomatic line: "It's great that Pontiac fans are expressing what they love about the old GTOs. But this is not about designing a new GTO – it's about providing a modern performance car.

    "The new GTO is the car that Bob Lutz drove and loved. The US version will be similar in appearance, taking into account the requirements to make it look like a Pontiac."

    Lutz is banking on plenty of hip performance car enthusiasts queuing up at US dealerships to buy a GTO. The price should be right – import tariffs range up to 25 percent on rivals for the staple US conveyance, the pick-up truck. On the Australian car, the tariff will be 2.5 percent.


    Raging thirst for success

    When the Holden Monaro hits the road in the US as the Pontiac GTO, it will arrive with a big, bad reputation.


    By Bob Jennings
    The Sun-Herald
    Tuesday June 25 2002

    General Motors product boss and Monaro enthusiast Bob Lutz, he's prepared to subject it to the government's "gas guzzler" tax to ensure it has the right performance image when it arrives there late next year.

    "For a car to be credible, accepted as a rebirth of the rear-drive American muscle car, it has got to have that rocket-sled acceleration off the line," Automotive News quoted Lutz as saying at a media event in Germany last week.

    "We'll offer American style off-the-line performance of squealing tyres," he said, indicating that the company would change long-standing practice and subject the car to the fuel consumption federal tax.

    It was confirmed on Friday that Holden would export 18,000 Monaros a year to the US, starting in September 2003.

    There will be a name change for North American consumption. The Monaro will revive the Pontiac GTO badge and some US performance enthusiasts are less than pleased about the appropriation of their jealously guarded nameplate to an Australian interloper.

    GM's decision to go with the gas guzzler classification is all about image. Only two US models are subjected to the tax – the Dodge Viper and the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. The fact that they are classified as wanton environmental offenders is practically an endorsement for traditional buyers of American muscle cars.

    The gas guzzler tax is a sliding scale which penalises cars with fuel consumption worse than 22.5mpg, or 10.46 litres/100km. (The American gallon being smaller than the old imperial gallon which was formerly used in Australia.) The US Internal Revenue Service tax is levied on top of the new price of the car. The lowest rate is $US1000 ($1790) and increases progressively in line with the tested average fuel consumption of the car.

    GM's Chevrolet Corvette avoids the tax with what it refers to as a "skip-shift feature" that locks out second and third gears under moderate acceleration, and which has the effect of improving the car's required economy to beat the 22.5mpg barrier.

    Lutz said that the Monaro's Chevrolet Camaro-adapted 5.7-litre V8 would be modified to give the GTO more power and higher torque at low speeds for faster acceleration.

    He said that 350 horsepower (260kW) V8 would be "in the right neighbourhood" for power output. The standard Monaro V8 develops 225kW (about 306bhp) at 5200rpm.

    However, there's no need for Lutz to send his Detroit engineers back to the drawing board; the Holden Special Vehicles versions of the Monaro give him the power he requires.

    The HSV GTO has 255kW of power, which definitely puts the car into the right neighbourhood, while the GTS, with its 300kW would give Lutz around 400bhp.

    Australian fuel consumption requirements don't align with the US average consumption combining, which combines city and country use but according to the Australian standard method of testing, the CV8 Monaro V8 uses 13 litres/100km (US18mpg) during the city driving cycle and 8 litres/100km in the country.


    Monaro designer says US style changes are no improvement

    By Toby Hagon
    The Age
    Thursday June 27 2002

    Holden's chief designer, Mike Simcoe, has distanced himself from the styling of the US-bound Monaro, which goes on sale in America next year badged as a Pontiac GTO.

    Despite overseeing the Pontiac's styling – Simcoe still prefers his original Holden design to the GTO with its bold twin-nostril nose or the wing-clad HSV variants.

    "We designed the car that we're producing right now and any iteration beyond that is, in my mind, not as good as the original," said Simcoe.

    Despite his preferences, Simcoe added that the GTO suited the Pontiac image and would fit in with future models from the marque. "The performance of the car will be the thing that sells it," he said last week at Holden's announcement that the export deal had finally been signed.

    Wearing the Pontiac badge, some 18,000 Monaros a year are to be sold in the US – almost triple the number expected to be sold in Australia.

    The two-door Commodore, which revived a 30-year-old classic and has been an image leader for Holden since going on sale last December, will be displayed at next year's Detroit Motor Show before rolling off the company's South Australian production line in September next year.

    Speaking from GM's head office in Detroit last week, Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger said: "We all win from having an industry promoted overseas. Holden has been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with this contract and we will look at it as a platform for further growth."

    The Pontiac GTO will be sold with the Chevrolet-sourced 5.7-litre V8 engine and a four-speed auto or six-speed manual transmission.


    Do I really want you? Uncle Sam to Australia's export Monaro

    Holden's two-door export showpiece, due in the US next year, faces a fickle market and premium prices. But, says Bob Jennings, it has fans in high places at General Motors

    Friday July 19 2002

    The Monaro won't have an easy ride when it arrives in the US next year -- already there are concerns that it might not live up to expectations.

    "By the time it gets here, the platform will be 10 years old, and for the money it doesn't look like an attractive deal," says Don Sherman of US Automobile magazine, who has tested the Monaro. "The only similar things to the original are the name GTO, a V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and two doors."

    The Monaro's acclaimed local design also appears to be too subtle for American tastes.

    "I think it is a good car with lots of potential," Sherman says, "but how well it will go in the US will depend on how much Pontiac pumps it up for US consumption, in terms of performance and appearance.

    "At the moment, the Monaro looks attractive, though a bit understated; people are going to expect spoilers and hood scoops."

    Sherman believes that at about $US30,000 ($53,000) to $US35,000 the car will be too expensive. "Because of the price, it will only appeal to wealthy, older enthusiasts." Certainly it will be compared to the venerable Ford Mustang, whose latest Cobra version is priced at $US34,750. power from the 4.6-litre V8 is lifted from 239kW (already in excess of the Monaro's output) to 290kW with the use of an Eaton supercharger.

    At least the Monaro has a fan in the chairman of North American operations for General Motors, Bob Lutz.

    His enthusiasm percolates through the Pontiac organisation, which is in desperate need of resuscitation, with sales down 16 percent last year on the previous year, and a further 4 percent to May this year.

    Holden's success in reworking the Monaro to meet US regulations and reflect GTO styling cues within half the customary development time will be crucial to Pontiac's revival strategy.

    "It will be a 'halo' vehicle for us. We won't have a problem with this car," says confident Pontiac general manager Lynn Myers. She says it will be an "icon" for Pontiac, whose future models will have more contemporary designs with "character" cues.

    Vitally, these cues include performance, the hallmark of the original GTO, and that's where the first reservations appear.

    Lutz and Myers vow that the new GTO's performance will maintain the badge's high-performance tradition -- but they admit 225kW, the output of the Monaro's standard 5.7-litre LS1 V8, isn't enough.

    Engineers in Australia and the US are working on lifting the power, especially at the low end of the rev-range, in an attempt to give the car the obligatory off-the-line acceleration. Lowering the overall gearing would help, especially with the six-speed manual.

    But they don't want to go to the expense of fitting the HSV versions with high-performance engines developed by US specialist Reeves Callaway.

    Pontiac's design director for international programs and prestige vehicles, John Mack, admits GTO fans in the US are "very fickle". In styling adaptations, he would prefer to "err on the side of classic simplicity".

    The clay modelling for the GTO's twin-nostril grille, integrated front fog lights and new bonnet incorporating twin air scoops is reaching the final stages -- not in Detroit but in the Holden design studios in Port Melbourne.

    Mack says Lutz's enthusiasm for the Monaro is reflected by those insiders who have seen it and driven it. "I haven't seen excitement like this around a car for a long time," he says.

    "We have a black one here and it looks very sinister; the body has a very liquid shape. Graphically, it is a little mild but its gesture and stance are right."

    Sherman is right about the pricing; the GTO will be a premium model in the Pontiac range and will be priced to rival the Audi 3.0-litre A6 quattro and BMW 330i.

    The GTO will have a dual introduction in the US for maximum impact. It will make its first official appearance at the Los Angeles motor show, which will open early in January, and a few days later it will be at Detroit's North American International Auto Show, one of the world's major shows.

    The Monaro with the new suit will be the first Australian-built General Motors car to sell in the US since General Motors-Holden's was established in 1931. It will go on sale in the second half of next year as a 2004 model.


    XXX-rated Monaro movie debut

    By Alexander Corne
    The Age
    Tuesday November 19 2002

    Holden is cock-a-hoop about its first export to the United States making a highly public Hollywood debut just months after going on sale. Vin Diesel will drive the 2004 Pontiac GTO (nee Monaro) in the sequel to his latest film, XXX.

    US buyers will get their first chance to view the new Pontiac GTO in the metal at the LA and Detroit motor shows early next year. Two cars have been shipped to America, with full US specifications, including exterior and interior changes, many of which will be seen in the Monaro V2 Series II update due here in 2003.

    The Pontiac GTO's bulbous nose, as hinted at in official pre-release sketches, has been toned down, insiders claim.

    The "sleeker" show cars have special paint schemes. One is believed to be a ruby red similar to that used on previous Pontiac concepts, while both cars have the Federal 260kW 5.7-litre V8 engine.

    Now showing around Australia, XXX stars Vin Diesel as Xander XXX Cage, a new breed of secret agent who drives a highly modified 1967 Pontiac GTO. In the sequel he will update to the 21st-century Monaro-based car.

    Pontiac hopes the XXX films will help resurrect its muscle-car image. Its last significant on-screen presence was in 1977 when Burt Reynolds steered a black Trans Am to immortality (and near-destruction) in Smokie and the Bandit. Smokie delivered a phenomenal sales and image boost to the brand.

    The intensity of car placement in movies is reaching new levels. Mercedes-Benz used Men in Black II to introduce the new E Class (it was scooped during filming a year before release, much to the company's anguish) and the latest James Bond movie, Die Another Day, which opens later this month, is a rolling billboard for Ford's Aston Martin, Jaguar and Thunderbird.

    Agent 007's 1964 Aston Martin DB5 complete with ejector seat is probably the best expression of product placement, catapulting the company to worldwide fame in the 1960s and 1970s.

    The sequel to X-Men is being shot with the heroes driving prototypes of Mazda's rotary-powered RX-8 sports car, while one of the most famous "car films", The Italian Job, is set for a modern-day remake in the US using the new BMW-built Mini Cooper S.


    Coupe coup as Holden goes to Hollywood

    Actors are not alone in feeling the need for plastic surgery to make it big in Hollywood. It happens with cars, too.


    By Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor, in Los Angeles
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Monday January 6 2003

    The Holden Monaro's much awaited nose job for the United States has been unveiled at the Los Angeles Motor Show.

    In a move likened to selling coals to Newcastle, the Australian icon will replace a US icon, the Pontiac GTO, in the US from the end of the year. It is the first vehicle Holden has exported to the US in significant numbers since a handful of sedans were sent to Hawaii in the early 1950s.

    The car already has a movie contract. Thanks to product placement, the Pontiac GTO will feature prominently in the sequel to the action film XXX, starring Vin Diesel.

    The sports coupe is visually identical to the Monaro except for the bold front bumper. General Motors executives took the glory at the unveiling while the Australians who made the vehicle a reality watched from the sidelines.

    Holden's intensely proud designer, Mike Simcoe -- who first sketched the Commodore coupe on his lounge-room wall to create what was intended to only be a display car for the 1998 Sydney Motor Show -- said the export program was "beyond our wildest dreams".

    But the father of the reborn Monaro has mixed feelings about the US nose job and said the coupe would remain unchanged in Australia. "I have always said from the beginning that I prefer the original design, because that's what we designed in the first place," Mr Simcoe said.

    "We didn't set out to design a Pontiac. That said, we understand that to sell it as a Pontiac, the US fans wanted a different look, with cues that remind buyers of the original Pontiac GTO."

    When it was revealed that the new Pontiac GTO would come from Australia, US enthusiasts flooded internet chat sites with protests -- and suggestions.

    "We read what enthusiasts were saying on the internet and looked at the pictures they created, but the reality is, that didn't have any input on the result," Mr Simcoe said.

    Rock legend and car collector Chubby Checker prefers the Monaro, and ordered one during his recent visit to Australia.

    The export program effectively secures the future of the coupe in Australia and marks a significant turning point for Holden.

    The firm's chairman and managing director, Peter Hanenberger, said he wanted to transform the company from a big player in a relatively small market to a niche player in the global market.

    Holden sold fewer than 5000 Monaros in Australia last year but expects to export 18,000 as Pontiacs annually. In the US, where 16 million vehicles are sold each year, it is not economically viable for car factories to build cars in such small numbers.

    The Monaro will also be exported to the Middle East later this year, and Holden has plans to export the Commodore and Statesman to China by 2005. The company is already testing vehicles there.


    Commodore in race for US market

    By Joshua Dowling, Los Angeles
    The Sun-Herald
    Monday January 6 2003

    The home-grown Holden Commodore could follow the Monaro to the US as part of the push by the car maker to become a major global force.

    Just hours after the Monaro was unveiled as a Pontiac GTO at the Los Angeles Motor Show, General Motors vice-chairman of product development Bob Lutz said the next generation Commodore range, due in 2006, could join the Monaro -- but only if it was built in the US.

    He said General Motors was looking into the feasibility of duplicating the tools required to build the next Commodore -- and assembling various models, including the ute and the luxury Statesman, in America.

    "The whole line of Holdens could be produced in the United States," Mr Lutz said.

    "We are at an early stage of investigating working with Holden to let them engineer the successor to the current Holden rear-wheel-drive architecture and then work with us to ensure all US safety and all US requirements are taken into account."

    Building the Commodore in America would allow General Motors to overcome the 25 percent tariff on imported vehicles.
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderador® Super Moderator

    Jul 6, 2001
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    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."

    ... as Holden grasps the heartland - The Monaro has broken cover as a Pontiac GTO. Joshua Dowling canvassed the pundits at the past week's motor shows.

    Will enthusiasts embrace the Pontiac GTO or dismiss the import as unpatriotic? Observers in the United States are divided.

    Does the car look European or American? They are evenly split on that question, too.

    But they agree on one thing: General Motors will sell every example of the Australian-built car it imports.

    John O'Dell from the Los Angeles Times, who saw the coupe for the first time at the city's annual motor show, didn't mince words: "I've long hated Pontiac and its ruffles-and-frills styling - this is a good, clean one. It's going to have a nice presence on American roads. It's very European-looking."

    Will its country of origin matter? "Not at all. American buyers aren't that sophisticated."

    Daniel Manes, from Automobile magazine, thought it wasn't European enough:
    "To me it looks very American, but Pontiac is saying that it's designed to appeal to buyers of European imports. But I'm an import buyer and I don't think this would draw me."

    John Pearley Huffmann of Car and Driver, who drove the Monaro in Australia late last year, said: "It does a lot of things right. The styling is clean, it's got the right engine. It's got a great transmission. But there are a few things that are disappointing. GTOs before this one always had a bonnet scoop, dual exhaust and a tachometer on the bonnet.

    "You're not going to attract the hardcore loyalists because it's made in Australia and it's a lot smaller than previous GTOs.

    "But people who are looking for something that's not a BMW will probably like it. And no matter what anyone says, it's got one of the greatest engines in America."

    The president of Pontiac Enthusiast magazine, Pete McCarthy, asked whether fans would deem the Pontiac GTO the genuine article, said: "You bet they will."

    He said it didn't matter that it was made in Australia. "Half the cars here are made in Mexico or Canada; people should give it a break. It's a GM car - let's just thank our lucky stars that the guys down under got it for us."

    He drove a Monaro on an airstrip in the US and said it was "just awesome ... I was shocked at how well it handled. I did a 100-foot burnout, I thought I was going to get arrested. It's going to be a big hit. I can't wait to get mine."

    Jim Wangers, who is regarded as the godfather of the GTO because his marketing genius helped make the original a success, said: "I think they've done a sensational job, it's a real winner. The decision not to go retro was a good move. This car is understated and tasteful - yet very capable. It has all the heart and soul of a GTO."

    How does he think Pontiac fans will measure its credentials?

    "The true Pontiac enthusiasts - who are in their 60s and 70s today and who grew up with the GTO - won't like it because it doesn't have a hood scoop ... but they'll get over it. These guys are still living in a different world. That was then, this is now."


    Multi-million muscle makeover


    America could be quick to thank Australia for reviving its Pontiac muscle-car heritage, with the Monaro poised to benefit from some of the $60 million investment in tweaking the sleek two-door for the US.

    While exports of Holden's Monaro - badged in the US as a Pontiac GTO (pictured, above) - have prolonged the life of the locally made hero coupe, there could also be a flow-on effect to the Monaro. As well as a new nose in line with the Pontiac family, US-bound Monaros get a more powerful version of the 5.7-litre V8 engine.

    Holden executive director of sales and marketing Ross McKenzie said the company was considering giving the Monaro a bit more muscle, with more aggressive styling modifications and possibly the adoption of an engine with more grunt. It seems General Motor's worldwide product guru, Bob Lutz, agrees. Speaking shortly after the GTO was unveiled in the US, Lutz said it was up to Holden in Australia to make the next move on Monaro, although he did admit "I know what I'd do".


    Monaro gets a roar deal

    The Holden Monaro will have aural surgery to give the right 'sensory cue' for the US, where it goes on sale in September as the Pontiac GTO.

    By Bob Jennings
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Friday June 13 2003

    American marketing gurus are making every effort to ensure that the Monaro carries as much of the jealously guarded GTO heritage as possible -- and the Australian exhaust note just wasn't the full burble.

    Australian limits on exhaust noise are more stringent than those in the US. The mandated Australian noise limit is 77 decibels and, a Holden spokesman said this week, in the US it's 80.

    In tweaking the exhaust for export, the Australian engineers "effectively doubled" the exhaust loudness, he said.

    With a less restrictive exhaust and camshaft modifications, the 5.7-litre GTO boosts power to 254kW -- some 19kW more than the Monaro sold here.

    One Holden engineer, proudly claiming that most of the work was done in Australia, told Drive: "The cars sound really good!"

    What the marketers describe as the "rumbling, throaty exhaust note reminiscent of the original" is obtained by running two completely independent exhaust paths from the manifolds to the outlet pipes, ensuring there is no mixture of the exhaust gases.

    The exhaust flow paths differ in length -- and the resulting harmonic imbalance gives the desired tonal effect.

    "The Holden Monaro ... didn't have the 'sound' Pontiac needed," said Robert Kraut, the GTO's marketing director in the US.

    "The Monaro is a great performance car, but it's sold as more of a luxury vehicle in Australia so the exhaust note was fairly quiet.

    "From the beginning, everyone knew that the exhaust would have to be dialled-up to give us that special sensory cue that says 'This is a Pontiac'."


    Monaro a nice reminder of time at the top


    By Cameron McGavin
    The Age
    Thursday July 31 2003

    Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger may have announced his retirement but the company won't be far from his heart after he finishes up at the end of the year.

    When Hanenberger (pictured) returns to his native Germany next year, he will take a not-so-small piece of Holden back home with him as reminder -- a one-of-a-kind, left-hand-drive black Monaro.

    "It is still my plan," says Hanenberger. "There are still some legal requirements (to work out) but I might get a one-off thing."

    Hanenberger has presided over some of the biggest successes in Holden's history during his four-year reign, but says he considers the new-generation Monaro -- which is already on sale in the Middle East and will be exported to the US wearing Pontiac GTO badges later this year -- the biggest achievement of his 45-year career with General Motors.

    "We had this tremendous opportunity to create this icon vehicle, which was a dream which came true," says Hanenberger.

    "Then we found people who loved (it) ... and finally we got the approval from GM as the first Australian car company with an Australian-designed vehicle to go to the US. I still believe this is my biggest achievement in my whole business career."

    Hanenberger's special car won't just be any old Monaro, either, as you would expect of a man who was nicknamed "Handlingberger" by the Australian motoring press for his chassis-development expertise.

    Rather than the regular 235kW 5.7-litre V8 found in base Monaros, Hanenberger's car will be powered by the 300kW Callaway-enhanced version found in HSV's range-topping GTS sedan and coupe. Other modifications will include a meaty wheel-tyre combo, powerful cross-drilled brakes and a unique beige leather interior.

    Most significantly, perhaps, Hanenberger's car will go without the wild HSV bodykit that some people -- including many Holden employees -- think clutters up the beautifully clean Monaro shape.


    Yanking the reins -- Holden's new boss


    By Peter McKay
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Monday October 13 2003

    A new boss of Holden arrived just as Falcon overtook Commodore in the sales race. Peter McKay profiles the American about to take over Australia's car brand.

    The timing could have been better. Holden's new chief had been in the country less than a week when the news came through that the Commodore's record 72-month winning streak had ended.

    Indeed, the sales stats were revealed just hours before American Denny Mooney had his first meeting with the Australian motoring media last week at a swish restaurant overlooking Circular Quay.

    The media seized on the monthly industry sales figures as a sign of a chink in Holden's routinely impenetrable armour -- the Falcon had overtaken the Commodore by a meagre 48 sales -- but Mooney seemed unfazed, brushing aside suggestions that the golden era of success was under threat.

    German Peter Hanenberger, who has been the head of Holden for the past four-and-a-half years, is going to be a hard act to follow. Hanenberger has transformed Holden from an easily overlooked outpost into an important cog in the GM machine, leading it into an era of remarkable expansion and record sales.

    Hanenberger was a champion of the Australian car industry and was a key part of the industry team that secured the long-term road map for the car industry policy to 2015. At political and industry levels, he constantly urged the lowering of barriers to Australian vehicle exports.

    The much travelled Hanenberger, a passionate man and a true Holden believer, was always prepared to stomp on toes and argue strongly with his Detroit masters to get his way. Under Hanenberger's leadership, Holden emerged as a case study to GM operations around the world of how to succeed with intelligence and creativity.

    Some pundits - and even some people within the company -- have expressed fears that Mooney, an ambitious young American, may have brought an American mind-set to Melbourne, and that he could also be less inclined to put his job on line for the good of Holden. There is also a feeling, previously expressed on this page, that Mooney is a caretaker boss.

    The former college gridiron first receiver played well in his first scrum with the local press. As if following a Hollywood script, Mooney said the right things at the right time and, perhaps more importantly, didn't say something he may later regret.

    So why Mooney and not one of the many Australians in senior postings in the giant General Motors world? Hanenberger is on record as saying it would be his greatest dream to have an Australian in the top job. The reality, though, is that Holden didn't have a choice.

    "I would love nothing more [than an Australian to run Holden] but, for now, the company has chosen me," says Mooney.

    Hanenberger and Mooney first met in 1996 when they worked together on the vehicle platform that would lead to such cars as the Holden Vectra and Saab 9-3. Mooney has also been instrumental in handling the US side of the Monaro's export to the US as a GTO. But that's not necessarily how he got the job, either.

    Mooney was reportedly hand-picked by GM chief Rick Wagoner, who takes a personal interest in the placement of his senior executives. GM's global product tsar, Bob Lutz, says Holden is one of the few places in GM's empire where bright young potential corporate stars can be dispatched to learn all sides of the car business.

    Mooney only discovered he and his family were coming here in May. (Mooney is one of 11 children -- each one year apart. His own family is closer to the Australian average: he has three children, aged 16, 13 and 9. They've accompanied him to Melbourne for his first overseas assignment.)

    He says his job for the foreseeable future - his tenure has no timeline here and he has a five-year visa - is to continue to ensure Holden moves forward along the path blazed by Hanenberger. "I'm here first and foremost to represent, protect and develop Holden," said Mooney. "That is my priority."

    "I don't have a problem pushing hard and I think Bob Lutz expects me to," Mooney said, adding that Lutz sent him a note just before he left for Australia saying that he (Mooney) can either "become a paper shuffler" or he can "make things happen".

    "Give me time to get my feet on the ground here but there are always opportunities to do a better job."

    Mooney is adamant that the next-generation Commodore, due in 2006, should retain its strong local flavour, even though it will be an important export product.

    Mooney has already been surprised by Holden's broad and complicated model line-up. "There are so many models -- that blew me away," he said. "But Holden is known in GM for getting a lot out of a little."

    Mooney notes with some surprise that Holden has a total workforce of 9500. The Detroit building he worked in had 10,000 engineers.

    Mooney says he loves sports. He may be in for a shock when he goes to Bathurst this weekend for the annual Ford-versus-Holden stoush -- he's already been warned that the top of the mountain is probably not for him.

    Mooney will officially succeed Hanenberger on January 1. Meanwhile, he has a two-and-a-half month transitional period sitting at Hanenberger's elbow to learn the ropes and absorb as much as possible before the outgoing MD departs to enjoy an early retirement.

    Hanenberger dismissed the Falcon's sales victory in September as "irrelevant". However, it may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

    Hanenberger was always worried that Holden's success may lead to complacency among his senior executives. They have two very good reasons not to be complacent: a new boss and a revived rival.


    Tinseltown tourer

    The homegrown Holden Monaro is the biggest export to the United States since Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin and The Wiggles. From Los Angeles, Joshua Dowling reports on our latest Hollywood star.

    Though branded as bland by US critics, the GTO found no shortage of onlookers in Los Angeles

    By Joshua Dowling
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Friday November 14 2003

    The homegrown Holden Monaro is the biggest export to the United States since Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin and The Wiggles. From Los Angeles, Joshua Dowling reports on our latest Hollywood star.

    Not since Crocodile Dundee has an Aussie made it this big in Hollywood. The bright red Pontiac GTO -- the US stage name of the car we call the Holden Monaro -- attracted stares wherever it went.

    Parked alongside the star-studded footpath on Hollywood Boulevard, the coupe from Adelaide caught the imagination of the curious and invited praise from passers-by. If the car were able, I reckon they would have asked it for an autograph.

    The GTO has already become the darling among some of Hollywood's elite. In the land where money can buy anything, the $US33,000 "two-door Commodore" has become the car that can't be bought.

    The first shipment of Pontiac GTOs, due to dock on the west coast of America this week, is sold out. Pontiac dealers have placed orders with General Motors for 20,000 cars; only 18,000 will be shipped each year.

    Whether the Hollywood hierarchy is in love with the GTO -- or simply want something they can't have because of the limited supply -- is not yet clear. But they are forming an orderly queue.

    TV talk-show host and car fanatic Jay Leno was so keen for a closer look that he waived his fee to unveil the GTO to dealers on the eve of this year's Los Angeles motor show. Ashton Kutcher, Vin Diesel and Kid Rock are among other stars on the list to buy a GTO.

    The parents of one young Hollywood actor asked for a GTO in time for his 18th birthday. We can't tell you his name (it's a surprise) but suffice to say Pontiac is moving heaven and earth to try to accommodate the request by early December.

    And, a Pontiac representative beamed, the star's family is paying retail. At a time when most US makers are giving $US3000 ($4200) rebates on new cars, it is almost unthinkable that anyone, let alone a movie star, would pay full price.

    Despite the initial mixed American press previews of the Monaro, there is excitement among enthusiasts.

    When Drive stopped at the Hollywood LAPD station for directions, one of the police mechanics took centre stage with a magazine with the GTO on the cover and recited the car's impressive performance figures to a gathered throng of curious cops. I stood back as he told me about the car.

    Back on Hollywood Boulevard, local Christopher Lee asked "What is it?" as he peered in the window. "What sort of engine does it have? Is it four-cylinder?"

    He was incredulous when I told him it was powered by the same V8 that's in the Chevrolet Corvette. "No-o-o-o! How do they fit such a big engine in such a small car?"

    The Monaro's slippery, bulged flanks fill out a traffic lane quite well in Australia but the car is dwarfed on US roads.

    Even in Hollywood, four-wheel-drives and pick-ups dominate the scenery and the sedans in the supporting cast all appear to have exaggerated styling to compete with their overbearing cousins.

    Americans seem to like their cars the way they prefer their cosmetic enhancements -- in your face. Getting them to appreciate the Monaro's subtle curves is akin to developing their taste for Vegemite.

    Even though almost a year has passed since the GTO was unveiled, the debate about its appearance continues. The most polite analysis last week came from Motor Trend magazine.

    "This may not be the most memorable shape behind today's showroom glass," wrote the magazine's Arthur St Antoine, "but we applaud Pontiac's decision to skip the bolt-on cladding and the shaving-mirror chrome wheels.

    "The muscle is there for those who appreciate subtlety. Check out the ride height, for instance. When have you seen a factory General Motors product so rakishly low to the ground -- or sporting such narrow tyre-to-body gaps?"

    Car and Driver magazine published strong views: The styling was "a snooze", said Aaron Robinson; Barry Winfield said the GTO was "anonymous looking"; Brock Yates described his silver test car as "dishwater-dull, battleship grey ... I thought perhaps a Navy recruiter had stopped by in an attempt to snare a couple of our office interns."

    Editor in chief Csaba Csere said: "[The lines] are simple and clean to the point of boredom. Other than the beefy wheels and tyres, the visuals do nothing to suggest performance and speed. A proper GTO should look butch, this one doesn't."

    Not all Pontiac purists are opposed to the new GTO. An owner of a tidy original 1964 model, Bruce Hayes of Detroit, had a careful look at the Holden-built version at a General Motors technical presentation months ago and, surprisingly, said: "I like it. If the GTO had continued as a model series and had evolved, it probably would have been something like this."

    As with most GTO fans Drive spoke to, Hayes reckoned that for it to be a true GTO it needs bonnet scoops. "Nevertheless," Hayes said, "I am just thankful there is now something in the General Motors line-up that is rear-wheel-drive."

    Pontiac says designing and building its own GTO would have cost $US2 billion over three years. The Monaro version cost a fraction of that amount and took just 18 months.

    The Monaro came to the attention of General Motors' charismatic worldwide product chief Bob Lutz after two US engineers on assignment in Australia sent him an email in September 2001. Just days before the Monaro was due to be unveiled at the Sydney Motor Show, the pair wrote to Lutz and invited him to visit Australia.

    A few months later, he did, immediately falling in love with the Monaro and fast-tracking its approval to become the reborn Pontiac GTO.

    There was much tension between the Australian and US engineers on the project as the latter tried to make more changes than were originally intended.

    And the car would not have been ready if not for the time difference between Melbourne and Detroit. At the end of each day, Australian engineers sent updates to the US, where their counterparts spent their working day on plans to return to Australia, and so on. The program ran 24 hours a day for 18 months.

    "We are proud that, at the heart of this car, is Holden engineering," said Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson. "But, just as Holden wouldn't take a Pontiac and simply put a Holden badge on it, we had to make sure we got a car that lives up to the GTO legend." Translation: more power and a louder exhaust. Pontiac even dusted off and fired up an original 1964 GTO so that engineers could match the exhaust note.

    Having driven the car in LA last week, I can declare their mission a success. The GTO sounds absolutely fabulous. It has a deep burble at low revs and a loud bark at high revs. Sadly, the GTO exhaust is not a bolt-on option for Monaros: the fuel tank on the Australian version would block the Pontiac exhaust's path and it exceeds local noise limits.

    The Americans also get more power thanks to a new cam and inlet manifold, while US cars get the "slingshot" differential ratio that Holden reserves for its fast-car division, Holden Special Vehicles. The resulting fire-breathing performance, it is hoped, will make its way into the Monaro.

    The GTO also soaks up bumps a little better than the Monaro because it is on 17-inch wheels and tyres (the Monaro has firmer-riding 18-inchers). As one US magazine put it, "it's more Deutscheland than Detroit".

    The Monaro is on a mission: to resurrect Pontiac's ailing image. Years of underwhelming cars and contrived design have hurt the once-proud badge. A contraption called the Aztec, a soft-roader that appeared to be made of pieces of several different jigsaw puzzles, also put a serious dent on the brand's credibility. The Monaro aims to repair some of that damage and create a "halo" for the rest of the brand.

    So, is the GTO a Pontiac or a Holden? This is the source of much debate. There appears to be no objection to the GTO's substance, only its heritage -- and its styling.

    The US press appears to love how the GTO sounds and drives. Indeed, the consensus seemed to be that the car was too good for the Pontiac badge.

    Car and Driver's Csere praised the performance and the price: "Full marks to GM for conjuring up a thoroughly modern Pontiac GTO."

    Matt DeLorenzo of Road and Track, having driven both the Monaro and the GTO, said: "The car is great. I love the throatier exhaust and the extra power. They did a nice job of not messing with the chassis much. It's still spot on, like the Monaro."

    The coupe was big news at Motor Trend, which bumped its annual 4WD of the Year award off the cover to accommodate the GTO. The magazine wrote that the Blaupunkt stereo was "like finding a Lowenbrau in your McDonald's Happy Meal."

    "The GTO will lose locker room debates based on spec-chart bravado. But it shines where it counts: the driver's seat," St Antoine wrote.

    "The GTO runs not like a shuddering, rackety muscle car, but like a sophisticated executive's express. That such a suave machine wears the Pontiac badge may be the biggest -- and most pleasant -- surprise of all."

    Motor Trend, describing the car's Porsche-like 0-60mph acceleration time of 5.3 seconds, waxed excited: "The [tyres] are mere shrimps on the barbie of the V8. The GTO charges, headlights ablaze, out of a toxic cloud of tyre smoke."

    "We're struggling," wrote Car and Driver road tester Robinson, "to invent reasons not to put both hands together for this supremely comfortable, rear-drive, Corvette-powered, husky-sounding, highway-inhaling coupe.

    "The Monaro fits the template of what the GTO should be better than any other vehicle in GM's current line-up. The GTO is God-bless-America performance wrapped in a sleek and refined package at a price the rest of us can afford."

    Coupe scoop
    The Pontiac GTO's export has secured the future of the Monaro, soon-to-retire Holden chief Peter Hanenberger told The Age this week. The man who helped "sell" the Monaro to the US has confirmed there will be a two-door version of the all-new 2006 Commodore.

    Rates, mate
    The $US32,495 price of the GTO converts to roughly $47,000, siginificantly less than the $59,350 we pay for a Monaro here. The anomaly, Holden says, comes from differing tax regimes and the big swing in the exchange rate in recent months.

    Yanks' tanks
    Transforming the Monaro into a Pontiac was not as simple as moving the steering wheel to the left side and adding badges. There are major changes under the skin, the most significant being the relocation of the fuel tank to behind the rear seat to meet US rear-impact regulations. The tank's reinforcement adds 50kg and halves boot space.

    Sly guys
    The Monaro and GTO are from similar moulds. As with the modern Monaro, the original GTO was developed in secret and without approval of senior management. Pontiac sold almost 500,000 GT0s between 1964 and 1974; the Monaro reigned from 1968 to 1978, and fewer than 50,000 were built. Both were axed as the energy crisis loomed and buyers craved cars with four doors.


    Holden revs up for US market

    The Age
    Monday November 24 2003

    Holden's rear-wheel, six- and eight-cylinder engine vehicles could be used as a platform to launch into the United States and Europe, retiring chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger says.

    Mr Hanenberger, who retires at the end of the year after more than 45 years in the motor industry, said a decision on such a strategy could be just weeks away.

    A division of US automotive giant General Motors, Holden this month opened a new $400 million engine plant in Melbourne -- its largest single investment in Australia for 20 years. The plant will produce 240,000 V6 engines a year, generating annual export earnings of up to $450 million.

    With a capacity to expand to 300,000 engines a year, the factory is only the second GM plant in the world to produce the new global V6 engine, creating a bright future for Holden.

    "I think (the future) will be very positive because we just lately had our chairman (and GM chief executive Rick Wagoner) down here and he made it very clear that Holden has a place in General Motors," Mr Hanenberger told Channel Nine's Business Sunday program.

    "We have now a six-cylinder high-tech engine which we are providing for GM throughout the world . . . (and) we have large cars, rear-wheel driven, with six- and eight-cylinder engines and vehicles which could create . . . a fantastic platform."

    He said this strategy could be used in the Asia-Pacific region, the US and even in Europe. Such a decision was "closer than we all think".

    "We still hope that within the next month we get some kind of a feeling. Hey, it's all going to happen, and I think we are very positive on this idea, so you will see that, hopefully very soon," he said.

    Mr Hanenberger, who will be replaced by Denny Mooney, GM North America's executive director of vehicle integration, said the highlight of his career had been negotiating a deal to export the Monaro model to the US.

    "Whoever would have thought that we would bring cars to the United States?" he said.

    "Some people said it's like (selling) ice to the Eskimos."

    The first of those vehicles, badged as the Pontiac GTO, left Australia last month, capping a good year for Mr Hanenberger and Holden, with exports at record levels, strong domestic sales and expanding vehicle production. He said tariff reductions in recent years had helped local manufacturers.

    He thought pending free trade agreements with the US and other countries would be of benefit in the long term.

    -- AAP


    Free Trade win for German marques

    By Joshua Dowling, Motoring editor
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Tuesday February 10 2004

    BMW and Mercedes car sales will be unlikely beneficiaries if the trade agreement with the United States is ratified.

    The German luxury brands are responsible for the majority of the 8000 to 10,000 US-made four-wheel-drives sold in Australia each year.

    Their prices are set to come down under the trade deal, making them more competitive in the local market.

    The BMW X5 is made in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the Mercedes M Class in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

    In return for the US eliminating its customs duties on almost all automotive products and s****ping its 25 percent tariff on pick-ups -- what Australians call utes -- under the agreement, Australia will lift the import tariff on US-made four-wheel-drives from next year and phase out the import tariff on US-made passenger cars by 2010.

    At present, all 4WDs imported into Australia attract a 5 percent tariff while passenger vehicles have a 15 percent tariff.

    The latter is due to reduce to 10 percent on all imported cars in 2005 but, under the new agreement, US-made passenger cars would drop 2 percent a year until they reach zero in 2010.

    Don't expect a flood of US-made passenger cars, however. Just 500 to 700 are sold in Australia each year as few American cars are built in right-hand-drive.

    The local industry welcomed the draft agreement but, of Australia's four car manufacturers, only Holden appears poised to take advantage of the trade deal.

    Toyota exports left-hand-drive cars mainly to the Middle East.

    Mitsubishi, which exported 5000 Magnas to the US last year, gains little with the elimination of America's 2.5 percent import tariff on passenger cars. Ford Australia does not yet build cars in left-hand drive and publicly has no plans to do so.

    Holden, meanwhile, has been developing left-hand-drive vehicles with the US market in mind over the past few years.

    Last year Holden began exporting the Monaro to the US as the Pontiac GTO, and an American has just been appointed as head of the company.

    The Holden ute is seen as a possible replacement for the Chevrolet El Camino, a vehicle which became an icon between 1959 and 1987.

    American General Motors officials also believe there is a market in the US for Holden's V8-powered off-road wagon, the Adventra, and its four-door, all-wheel-drive ute, the Cross8.

    Holden says it has not yet developed left-hand-drive versions of such vehicles but, given it already has the know-how with other models, it should be relatively easy to adapt a left-hand-drive system.

    But there is a twist. General Motors is considering assembling in the US a range of cars based on the 2006 Commodore.

    The agreement that opens the doors for Holden to sell cars to the US could mean that, one day, we could be driving Commodores made in America.


    All quiet on the Commodore front


    By Joshua Dowling
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Tuesday February 24 2004

    He came, he saw, he didn't announce global plans for Holden's mainstream model. But GM's product chief, Bob Lutz, did speak to Joshua Dowling.

    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 exported or 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 sold 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 GM affiliates -- 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."

    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 were exported to Europe: "It's a two-way street."

    Lutz, 72, who has worked for BMW, Ford and Chrysler during his illustrious career and who flies fighter planes 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."

    Living in a time warp


    Feel like you're living in the past? Try being a car designer. "I've written a cheque at a store and dated it 2008," said Ed Welburn, the global design chief of General Motors, "and the sales clerk looked at me kind of funny and said, 'Ah, sir'. "I spend all my time at the moment living and thinking 2006, 2007, 2008 -- just trying to remember what year it is can be a problem."

    After being locked up in a studio all day designing cars for the future, the world can suddenly look pretty old when you get outside, said Welburn, the first African American to head General Motors' styling division.

    Welburn says he has wanted to design cars since he was 11, when he wrote to the company and asked how he could become a designer. "I asked them what kind of courses I needed to take, what schools I needed to attend, and they wrote me back and gave me guidance," he said.

    Welburn completed a summer internship at the end of his junior college year and was invited back after he completed his senior year. He started work with GM when he was 20 and has been there since. Welburn, 53, sits at the same desk as his idols, former GM design chiefs Harvey Earl and Bill Mitchell. On his desk is a framed photograph of himself as a young summer intern shaking hands with Mitchell. "It's a great photo -- I had a big afro -- you know, it was 1971 -- and I just treasure that photograph."

    Welburn, whose recent credits include the retro-themed Chevrolet SSR, Hummer H2 and Cadillac Escalade, has mixed emotions about being the first senior African-American designer at GM.

    "For a lot of people, it's a difficult question to ask but I don't mind talking about it. It does feel good, but I don't dwell on it. It sends a message to people from any background that they can achieve anything. The other day, I was a Black History Fact on [TV show] Rap City," he laughed. "My children's friends called and said, 'Hey, your dad's on TV'.

    "Being the first means that GM didn't have one before. So you've got to look at it both ways. It would have been nice for it to happen earlier, whether it be me or someone else.

    "I've had some very well known African Americans, people who are legends, who have come up to me complimenting me on what I'm doing, and when that happens it's pretty humbling.

    "People in government, people in the movie industry. When Jesse Jackson congratulated me, he almost had tears in his eyes. That's when I kind of went, 'Wow' and realised it was a pretty big deal."
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