It’s been almost three months since we discovered that the awesome RWD Holden Commodore (HC) will no longer be making its way to the United States – not in the form of the late Pontiac G8, nor in the guise of a Chevy Caprice. Now is as good time as any to look back and figure out exactly why GM made this decision.
One of the biggest reasons cited by General Motors for not continuing to import the Holden Commodore to the US under any brand is the company’s newly-founded dislike of badge engineering. GM’s chief executive officer is quoted as saying that he’s “not a believer in re-branding and re-badging.” That statement is – simply put – pure baloney. GM has been doing the badge engineering thing for decades, with such stupendous re-badge jobs as the Chevy Cobalt/Pontiac G5, Chevy Aveo/Pontiac G3, and Chevy Suburban/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade trio, among many others. But wait, the New GM is different! They’ve woken up and changed their ways! Right? Well, to a certain extent, maybe. Canceling the Buick-badged Saturn Vue was a start. However, the real question is whether or not importing a Holden Commodore under a Chevrolet badge would have constituted “re-branding” or “re-badging.” It wouldn’t have, and here’s the reason.
Re-branding and re-badging is frowned upon when performed in the same market. For example, the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon – all those vehicle pairs are the same exact vehicle with a different badge! The problem is these vehicles compete for the same buyer, in the same price range, in the same geographic location, and have absolutely no differentiation apart from the badge on the grille, the trunk, and on the steering wheel. In the end, the buyer will end up purchasing one of these models. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to have multiple identical models under different brands competing for the same buyer many times over.
No, the time and place to re-badge and re-brand is when a product is not available in the destination country, as is the case with the Holden Commodore. One can not purchase a Holden Commodore in the US and Canada since the brand simply does not exist here. Because Holden originates in Australia, importing the Commodore to North America under the Chevrolet brand (or any other GM-owned US brand, for that matter) would be considered a good use of badge-engineering, as there is absolutely no other vehicle like the Commodore in GM’s US line-up (non-premium full-size RWD sedan that’s priced near $28,000).
Therefore, Mr. Henderson’s stance of not being “… a believer in re-branding and re-badging” is irrelevant and should be discarded as a reason for not bringing the HC state-side.
Since it turns out the re-badging excuse is not valid at face value, let’s continue down the path of exploring the reasons the HC will cease to be imported to North American shores.
It’s no secret that GM hasn’t been performing well financially over the last several years. As we all know, the company filed for bankruptcy protection during the summer and has emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings in record time. So it would only make sense the top priority for GM is be to become profitable, and to do so as quickly as possible.
Quick, what’s the formula for profitability? It’s when revenues are greater than expenses! And in the case of a full-size non-premium sedan for the North American market, it made pure financial sense to discontinue importing the Holden Commodore from Australia and instead use an already-existing platform – the Epsilon II – as a basis for developing a product for this segment. We can safely assume that if imported, the HC would have taken the place of a full-size Chevy sedan in GM’s line-up. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this future vehicle the next-gen Chevy Caprice/Impala.
The Epsilon II is The General’s next-generation front-wheel drive platform that will be available in short wheel-base (Buick Regal), long wheel-base (Buick LaCrosse, next-gen Malibu), and Super configurations (see roadmap below). The Super variant of the Epsilon II platform is the largest of the three platform versions and is planned to underpin the next-generation Chevy Impala (or Caprice?) as well as the recently-announced Cadillac XTS full-size luxury sedan.
Epsilon 2 RoadmapRoadmap of GM's Epsilon 2 platform and its products
|BRAND||SHORT WHEEL BASE - SWB SWB||LONG WHEEL BASE - LWB||SUPER|
|CHEVROLET||MALIBU (US)||IMPALA (US - UNCONFIRMED)|
|EPICA/TOSCA (EU - UNCONFIRMED)|
|BUICK||REGAL/INSIGNIA||LACROSSE (US)||LUCERNE REPLACEMENT (US - UNCONFIRMED)|
By using the Epsilon II Super platform for the next-gen Impala/Caprice, GM will be able to take advantage of great cost savings – since most components will be shared across all three versions of the platform.
For starters, the Epsilon II platform will underpin as many as seven sedans in GM’s product range in the next few years. And that’s not counting unannounced variants such as coupes and wagons/hatches. Having so many vehicles share the common Epsilon II architecture will give GM the ability to achieve huge economies of scale!
And so there we have it: the decision to discontinue importing the Holden Commodore to US shores was one of pure business, plain and simple. GM will use the Epsilon II architecture to underpin the vehicle in its product portfolio that otherwise would have been occupied by the imported Commodore and save money in the process – something that gets the company that much closer to achieving its goal of becoming profitable.
Of course, one could argue that the HC, along with its twin, the recently-discontinued Pontiac G8, is an existing product that would need no further development (something that the Epsilon Super products need). In other words, all that would need to be done to bring the Commodore over to North America is for it to be put on a ship in Australia and brought over to the US! That would be completely true. Unfortunately, it looks like it would be more expensive for GM to do so.
What do you think? Talk to me in the comments!
PS: for those like myself, who are disappointed in not being able to have a high-performance rear-wheel-drive sedan from GM such as the HC, don’t lose hope! From what we’ve been hearing about products based on the Epsilon II Super architecture, it’s possible to make them AWD and very good performers!