Next gen. 2007 Pontiac GTO to be designed in Australia. Sydney Morning Herald 02/20/04 author: Joshua Dowling Copyright of John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd 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. 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. Michael Simcoe, recently promoted from Holden to Executive Director of GM Asia Pacific Design. He oversaw the visual design of the Holden Monaro and Pontiac GTO.