When Holden’s next-generation VF Commodore series launches in Australian in 2014, it will be the first locally-produced automobile to incorporate mass produced aluminium panels in its construction. In addition, the new large car, which will also spawn a long-wheelbase Caprice model, will get improved aerodynamics and electric power steering in place of the current-gen’s hydraulic unit. It’s all part of an effort by Holden to lighten up its flagship model and thereby make it more fuel efficient in an effort to remain competitive with the likes of the locally-produced Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Fuel savings are expected to be around the 7% mark, bringing the 9.1lt /100 km (26 mpg) combined rating of the 3.0 L V6 SIDI down to a more politically-correct 8.4 lt/ 100 km (28 mpg). Similar savings will be experienced with the older 3.6 L Alloytec V6: 9.1 lt / 100 km (26 mpg) down from 9.8 lt / 100 km (24 mpg). The program is part-funded by the Australian federal government, which poured AU$39.8 million in from the now defunct Green Car Innovation Fund.
The entire VF project has been pegged at AU$189 million; significantly less than the rumoured one billion spent on its VE predecessor. The aluminium-pressing alone is expected to generate some 250 engineering jobs at Holden’s Elizabeth Plant where the Cruze small car is built. GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux discusses the VF project:
“We will be using [the Green Car Innovation Fund] money to bring a number of innovations that are going to drive pretty significant fuel savings and carbon emission reductions. We are talking about aluminium panels on the car and some significant aero work on the vehicle as well. We are not actually announcing for competitive reasons much beyond that, but it is a pretty exciting day because it keeps the story going on Commodore’s future and its relevance to Australia.”
Aluminium is up to 50% lighter than steel, though its prohibitive cost has limited its use in Australian-built vehicles. Rumours of a hybrid model continue to circulate in the Australian motoring press, and in my opinion it’s only a matter of time before the Commodore jumps that particular bandwagon. For the time being at least, the big Aussie sedan’s future would seem assured.
By Tristan Hankins