General Motors might have already come to a final decision about the future of its vehicle manufacturing operation in Australia.
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28 of Australia’s V8 Supercars will be competing in the first-ever U.S. V8 Supercars race on May 17-19 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and they have just begun arriving in the States.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Formula 1 race car compete against a V8 Supercar race car and a street car, but to make things more fair this time around, each vehicle was given a handicap.
10.Honda Civic Hatchback
We might have some fancy cars over here in the USA, but there are quite a few vehicles overseas that we can’t help but think are desperately missing from our shores. More than a few are niche market models perfect for auto-enthusiasts, while others are more stylish or practical than what’s currently available in the US. And some are both.
A Holden-sourced hotrod for the U.S. has all but been confirmed by GM after an OnStar slipup and the resulting media storm, but official details are still just out of reach. Even without that information, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that the rear-drive Chevrolet SS will be less than prolific.
Not long ago, we reported that General Motors was possibly looking to move Commodore production out of Australia, which would have resulted in the loss of some 12,000 jobs at Holden and affected numerous other positions in directly.
In order to provide GM with an incentive, Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, recently announced that the country’s government will grant the auto giant a government subsidy of $275 million Australian dollars ($288 million) to engineer and manufacture cars in the country for at least another decade.
A strong Australian dollar driven by high demand for minerals and energy, particularly in China, is rendering Australian manufactured goods increasingly uncompetitive in export markets. For GM this presents an issue because the full-size Holden VE Commodore and it’s long wheelbase variant, the WM Caprice, are in relatively high demand in certain export markets, notably the Middle East (where they’re sold as the Chevy Lumina and Caprice) and in North America, where the WM is sold as the 9C1 Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle.
With the strong dollar eating into profit margins and GM already engaged in a global consolidation and cutting exercise, it must be sorely tempting to seriously consider relocating production of these vehicles elsewhere if not dropping them entirely.
Although the Australian Government subsidy will go a substantial way to easing fears regarding Holden’s future, at least in the short term, Gillard is making it quite clear this isn’t a handout. “It is a strategic investment that will boost our economy, foster innovation, build new business opportunities and promote adoption of new fuel-saving and safety technologies,” she said during a press conference to reporters in the Australian capital, Canberra.
The money, which will come from federal coffers as well as the Victoria and South Australia state governments, is designed to ensure that GM will continue to commit to vehicle production at its Melbourne and Adelaide plants for the foreseeable future. As part of the deal, GM announced that it will be investing more than $1 billion at both these facilities between now and 2022.
With a refreshed Commodore due out soon, that has already been announced to run entirely on a GM platform, it raises the question: will more Holden products make it to the U.S. in the coming years? GM already tried, albeit with little success, to port the Commodore as the Pontiac G8, but a refreshed model might do the trick.
[Source: Detroit News]
An old nemesis is making a return to Australia’s V8 Supercar series. From 1990 through 1992, the Nissan Skyline GT-R dominated the Australian Touring Car Championship series, running rings around Holden and Ford V8′s. During the 1991 Bathurst 1000, the GT-R even set a top-speed record that could not be matched for nine years. Finally, in 1992, Australia’s racing body charged a weight penalty and a boost pressure reduction in an attempt to level the playing field. However, that failed to slow the GT-R down as it continued to dominate its last season before new rules that required V8 powerplants banned the GT-R’s entry.
After a decade, the Nissan GT-R once again returns to the stage under the the Supercar V8′s Car of the Future program, a new project encouraging a wider variety of automakers to join the series. What’s more, Mark Skaife, the man behind the Car of the Future program, was a former GT-R racer that won many of Nissan’s victories in Australia during the early ’90s.
In order to meet the current V8 Supercar regulations, Nissan’s race car will be forced to use a generic rear-wheel-drive, V8 drivetrain. Despite the fact that it will not be an authentic GT-R racing alongside the fire breathing Aussie V8s, we do look forward to seeing more and more automakers following Nissan’s example to freshen up the Bathurst grid. So far, four GT-R’s under Kelly Racing will be participating in the 2013 season.
Watch video of the announcement below:
With only about three weeks until 2012, the Australian car market could end 2011 with a new best-selling sedan for the first time in 15 years. Although the Holden Commodore has been Australia’s favorite and a sales leader since 1997, Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries revealed that the Mazda3 has currently sold 301 more units than the Holden. What’s more, the Commodore faces a threat from another Japanese sedan, the Toyota Corolla, which has managed to gain “top-seller” honors for four months out of 2011.
The Holden Commodore has been steadily losing its market share for the past couple of years as consumers have begun selecting smaller cars or crossovers instead, marking the end of the sales dominance of Australian automakers. However, while discounts might just be the thing to give the Commodore a last minute boost in sales, Holden has no plans to enter into a price war with Mazda in order to take back their top spot.
[Source: Sydney Morning Herald]
If the decision becomes final, it means a big change considering the company has designed, engineered and built the Commodore on Australian shores for 64 years.
In an interview with OptusZoo News, the chief engineers behind the Commodore confirmed that 2014 may be the last year the line is made in Australia. The decision likely came from owner General Motors in an effort to increase cost efficiency.
Australian Senator Kim Carr couldn’t confirm to Left Lane News what will happen to the jobs that will dissolve as a result of the change, but said the Australian government is discussing possible investment by GM in the country.
[Source: Left Lane News]
In Australia, few concept cars are as revered as the Holden Hurricane, which originally debuted at the 1969 Melbourne Motor Show.
Created in almost total secret by a small staff of engineers, in conjunction with Holden’s Advanced Design group, not only was the Hurricane a futuristic styling exercise (the lift up canopy was very Buck Rogers), it also incorporated a number of technological advancements which can be considered the forerunners of many features found on modern cars and trucks.
These include automatic air conditioning, a rearview camera and the ‘Pathfinder;’ an early guidance or navigation system, that relied on a series of embeded magnets along the route which the car traveled, plus a dash mounted indicator which signaled the driver when to turn. It can rightly be considered as a precursor to today’s GPS units.
Power for this fiberglass wonder came courtesy of an experimental 253 cubic inch (4.3-liter) V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor, which cranked out a respectable (for the time) 263 hp. Like other aspects of the car, this engine was an innovation for its time, and the 253 was later introduced to production Holdens.
Other neat aspects of the Hurricane (internally coded RD 001) included digital instrumentation, flip up headlights, station-seeking radio, foam lined gas tank, safety locks, even an onboard fire warning system.
“There are some genuinely remarkable ideas and technology in the Hurricane,” said Rick Martin, former Holden Chief Studio Engineer. “From the automatic air-conditioning and magnet-based guidance system, to the inertia-reel seat belts and metallic paint, this was a car that was genuinely ahead of its time.
Given that RD 001 was such a groundbreaking vehicle, it deserved better than languishing in a back room, gathering dust once its show days were over.
In 2006 a decision was taken to restore the Hurricane to it’s former glory, though in order to achieve the desired result, much time was needed researching the car and its innovative systems, plus using original parts wherever possible. Paul Clarke, Holden’s manager for Creative Hard Modelling, has been largely responsible for managing the restoration, what original components weren’t salvageable were remade using modern techniques to achieve 1969 specs.
Now completed and as fresh as the day it made it’s original debut, the Holden Hurricane is due to make another debut, this time the Motorclassica car show at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building, which runs from October 21-23.
The Hurricane was not only years ahead of its time, it also set the stage for future milestone concept cars from Holden, including the GTR-X, Torana TT36, Coupe 60, the GMC Denali XT (requested specifically by GM for the North American market) and the award-winning EFIJY.
It also helped foister the brand’s reputation as a builder of world class show and concept vehicles (currently it operates one of the three GM design centers capable of making such vehicles).
“The entire team has done a fantastic job in bringing [the Hurricane] back to life,” Clarke said. “This beautiful concept plays a crucial role in Holden’s story and the company has such a great sense of history and heritage that it was very important to bring RD 001 back to life. It’s been a challenging but incredibly rewarding process.”
For more information on the amazing Hurricane, click here
Gallery: Holden Hurricane
The long-awaited rumors are true: Australia’s breathlessly-exciting V8 Supercars series is coming to America. But that’s not, the series has signed a five-year deal with Texas’s Circuit of The Americas, signaling a serious investment in the U.S. market.
Beginning in 2013, Americans in Austin, Texas and watching on the Speed Channel can get a glimpse of the rear-drive, V8 Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores that enthusiasts have pined for, for years.
“We’re thrilled the racing world is so excited about our facility,” said Steve Sexton, the track’s president. “Austin is poised to become the premiere North American destination for international motorsports. In addition to hosting the 4 wheel and 2 wheel world championships, the United States will now enjoy the world’s best touring car series here in Austin.”
The FIA recently sanctioned V8 Supercars as an international series, and its popularity—while always strong and booze-filled in Australia—is growing around the world. Circuit of The Americas will be a place to watch out for in the next few years as well; the triumphant return of F1 to these shores will take place there in 2012, and the MotoGP World Championship will be in 2013.
Now if you excuse me, I’ve got some plane tickets to book.
Over the last decade, this Aussie racing series has expanded beyond its island home, having staged races in China, New Zealand and the Middle-East. Now it is looking at the United States to stage a race, and it will probably be at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. This circuit is being built especially to host Formula-One races in the coming years, and since the Australian V8 Supercars are an FIA sanctioned race series, it makes sense to race at this new circuit.
V8 Supercars boss Tony Cochrane has said that the series is looking to expand to six new overseas venues, while retaining all the currents stops in Australia. This could include some European and Asian destinations, plus the ever attractive American market.
You’ll have to wait some time before watching these V8 Supercars race in the flesh. The FIA has approved new races for this series for 2013. By then the new circuit in Austin should be complete. We can’t wait to see Holden (GM) and Ford racing head-to-head on our shores.
[Source: The Age]
The famous Australian V8 Supercars series may be making the Trans-Pacific voyage to North America. Many world-renowned racing drivers like Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Jacques Villenueve and Sebatian Bourdais have moved to compete in the V8 racing. Furthermore, the international coverage of the series has grown immensely, prompting many international companies to invest in the series.
Organizers of the series have previously rejected the notion of coming to North America however, with all these factors aligned, the series would benefit from a new market. General Motors is also interested in the idea, which would hopefully begin as early as the 2013 season. In the meantime, organizers could hold a race as part of a stand-alone three-day weekend event like the Formula1 or Indy which have both had tremendous success in North America.