Financially troubled carmaker Opel has just released details of its upcoming next-generation 2010 Astra before its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September.
The 2010 Astra’s design is inspired by the larger Opel Insignia, it shows off all-new sheet metal that takes cues from its big brother and packages it into a smaller, more fluid shape. The fascia, headlamps and back-end reflect Opel’s new design direction, along with the sculpted sides and raked-back windscreen.
The new Astra has a wheelbase that stretches 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing model. The “wing and blade” design language employed on the exterior carries through to the interior, and joins ergonomic seats and the new Opel Eye front camera system, which can apparently recognise road signs and warns drivers if they veer out of their lane.
There will be a total of eight different engines available, including four CDTI common-rail diesels with displacements ranging from 1.3- to 2.0-litres and outputs of between 95 and 160 hp. Another four gas-powered units, with displacements between 1.4- and 1.6-litres, dish out between 100 and 180 hp along with a new turbocharged 1.4-litre that replaces the outgoing naturally aspirated 1.8-litre and puts out 140 hp and 14% more torque, while lowering fuel consumption.
The wraps officially come off the five-door Astra later this year, while a four-door sedan, three-door hatch and a two-mode hybrid variant are expected to debut in 2010. Global sales should begin towards the end of 2009, and hopefully we will see the new 2010 Astra down here in NZ next year with a Holden badge whacked on the front.
With Pontiac’s death official, Holden could lose around $1 billion annually with the demise of the Pontiac G8. However, Holden has a never-say-die attitude that has it busy looking for other stateside options. The Aussie automaker has drawn up plans to offer the rear-wheel drive Commodore platform to Cadillac and GMC.
Although GM’s CEO, Fritz Henderson, has confirmed that the G8 won’t live on, there’s still a chance it could be used by law enforcement in the States (read news item), and with American brand Cadillac’s recent attempts to inject more RWD models into the mix, the Zeta architecture that underpins the Commodore could be used for a new line of Caddies.
With GMC safe — for now — from sharing a grave with Pontiac, Holden could easily make a case for importing the Commodore ute to the U.S. as a fuel-efficient alternative to GMC’s otherwise big and thirsty pick-ups. Where there’s a niche, GM normally likes to fill it, and the Zeta-based Cadillacs may look likely soon as GM seeks to downsize some larger vehicles to aid its survival.
Naturally, the death of the Pontiac brand in America has put the skids on global sales plans at Holden (click here for news item). The popular Pontiac G8 is essentially a lightly reworked version of the Holden’s own Commodore sedan. Now, according to an Aussie website car website, a new player may be preparing to make up for the sales short – a consortium led by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Currently, Ford in America sells about 60,000 Crown Vic police cars each year for fleet use, with the majority of those going to various units around the United States, but production of the ancient rear-drive Ford isn’t likely to continue past next year, and it’s thought that Dodge’s Charger probably won’t cover the fresh demand, so alternatives will be needed. With that in mind, Melbourne-based company the National Safety Agency has created a new prototype patrol vehicle based on the Pontiac G8/Commodore that could be rebadged as a Chevrolet and sold to law enforcement units in the United States and possibly other foreign markets.
There’s even rumour that the new model could be made available for American retail sale at Chevrolet dealerships. Holden has naturally expressed interest in the project, though it’s taking a cautious approach given the current state of the American automobile industry.
We were quite bullish on Holden’s future until this morning when we read GM’s press release. We were of the opinion that it would cost GM too much to ditch Holden, but it seems that by any measures necessary, GM will slash costs, even if that means ditching brands that could once again flourish.
The problem for Holden is that now Pontiac has gone, there’ll be no more orders for the G8, which is based on the Commodore. Holden was banking on selling 30,000 of these in the US and another 70,000 worldwide. US$77m was spent upgrading the Port Elizabeth factory in Australia to build left-hand drive vehicles.
Holden’s only hope is to rebadge the Commodore/G8 as a Chevy – something that’s already done in some markets.
The words fire sale come to mind as GM heads towards Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Here’s GM’s full press release, and a video of the press conference.
FOR RELEASE: 2009-04-27
GM Accelerates its Reinvention as a Leaner, More Viable Company
Updated Viability Plan Speeds, Deepens Restructuring of U.S. Operations
DETROIT — General Motors (NYSE: GM) today presented an updated Viability Plan that will speed the reinvention of GM’s U.S. operations into a leaner, more customer-focused, and more cost-competitive automaker.
The Viability Plan is included in an exchange offer whereby GM is offering certain bondholders shares of GM common stock and accrued interest in exchange for certain outstanding notes.
Revised Viability Plan goes further and faster
The Viability Plan announced today builds on the February 17 Viability Plan submitted to the U.S. Treasury. The revised Plan accelerates the timeline for a number of important actions and makes deeper cuts in several key areas of GM’s operations, with the objective to make us a leaner, faster, and more customer-focused organization going forward.
Significant changes include:
* A focus on four core brands in the U.S. – Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC – with fewer nameplates and a more competitive level of marketing support per brand.
* A more aggressive restructuring of GM’s U.S. dealer organization to better focus dealer resources for improved sales and customer service.
* Improved U.S. capacity utilization through accelerated idling and closures of powertrain, stamping, and assembly plants.
* Lower structural costs, which GM North America (GMNA) projects will enable it to breakeven (on an adjusted EBIT basis) at a U.S. total industry volume of approximately 10 million vehicles, based on the pricing and share assumptions in the plan. This rate is substantially below the 15 to 17 million annual vehicle sales rates recorded from 1995 through 2007.
“We are taking tough but necessary actions that are critical to GM’s long-term viability,” said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO. “Our responsibility is clear – to secure GM’s future – and we intend to succeed. At the same time, we also understand the impact these actions will have on our employees, dealers, unions, suppliers, shareholders, bondholders, and communities, and we will do whatever we can to mitigate the effects on the extended GM team.”
Fewer U.S. brands, nameplates, and dealers
As part of the revised Viability Plan and the need to move faster and further, GM in the U.S. will focus its resources on four core brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. The Pontiac brand will be phased out by the end of 2010. GM will offer a total of 34 nameplates in 2010, a reduction of 29 percent from 48 nameplates in 2008, reflecting both the reduction in brands and continued emphasis on fewer and stronger entries. This four-brand strategy will enable GM to better focus its new product development programs and provide more competitive levels of market support.
The revised plan moves up the resolution of Saab, Saturn, and Hummer to the end of 2009, at the latest. Updates on these brands will be provided as these initiatives progress.
Working with its dealers, GM anticipates reducing its U.S. dealer count from 6,246 in 2008 to 3,605 by the end of 2010, a reduction of 42 percent. This is a further reduction of 500 dealers, and four years sooner, than in the February 17 Plan. The goal is to accomplish this reduction in an orderly, cost-effective, and customer-focused way. This reduction in U.S. dealers will allow for a more competitive dealer network and higher sales effectiveness in all markets. More details on these initiatives will be provided in May.
Sales volume and market share projections
The Viability Plan anticipates improved financial results despite more conservative U.S. sales volume expectations going forward. The lower volume expectations are the result of managing the business with fewer nameplates and dealers, leaner inventories, and reduced market share. To address the inventory issue, GM on April 23 announced U.S. production schedule reductions of approximately 190,000 vehicles during the second and early third quarters of 2009.
The Viability Plan also reduces GM’s market share projections to adjust for the impact of the brand and dealer consolidation, as well as for the short-term impact of speculation regarding a GM bankruptcy. The plan assumes a 19.5 percent share in 2009, with share stabilizing in the 18.4 to 18.9 percent range in subsequent years.
“We have strong new product coming for our four core brands: the Chevrolet Camaro, Equinox, Cruze and Volt; Buick LaCrosse; GMC Terrain; and Cadillac SRX and CTS Sport Wagon and Coupe,” said Henderson. “A tighter focus by GM and its dealers will help give these products the capital investment, marketing and advertising support they need to be truly successful.”
Lower structural costs, lower breakeven point
The Viability Plan also lowers GMNA’s breakeven volume to a U.S. annual industry volume of 10 million total vehicles, based on the pricing and share assumptions in the plan. This lower breakeven point (at an adjusted EBIT level) better positions GM to generate positive cash flow and earn an adequate return on capital over the course of a normal business cycle, a requirement set forth by the U.S. Treasury in its March 30 viability plan assessment.
GM will lower its breakeven point by cutting its structural costs faster and deeper than had previously been planned:
* Manufacturing: Consistent with the mandate to accelerate restructuring, we plan to reduce the total number of assembly, powertrain, and stamping plants in the U.S. from 47 in 2008 to 34 by the end of 2010, a reduction of 28 percent, and to 31 by 2012. This would reflect the acceleration of six plant idling/closures from the February 17 plan, and one additional plant idling. Throughout this transition, GM will continue to implement its flexible global manufacturing strategy (GMS), which allows multiple body styles and architectures to be built in one plant. This enables GM to use its capital more efficiently, increase capacity utilization, and respond more quickly to market shifts.
* Employment: U.S. hourly employment levels are projected to be reduced from about 61,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2010, a 34 percent reduction, and level off at about 38,000 starting in 2011. This further planned reduction of an additional 7,000 to 8,000 employees from the February 17 Plan is primarily the result of the previously discussed operational efficiencies, nameplate reductions, and plant closings. GM also anticipates a further decline in salaried and executive employment as it continues to assess its structure and execute the Viability Plan. More details will be announced as soon as they are finalized with the various stakeholders.
* Labor costs: The Viability Plan assumes a reduction of U.S. hourly labor costs from $7.6 billion in 2008 to $5 billion in 2010, a 34 percent reduction. GM will continue to work with its UAW partners to accomplish this through a reduction in total U.S. hourly employment as well as through modifications in the collective bargaining agreement.
As a result of these and other actions, GMNA’s structural costs are projected to decline 25 percent, from $30.8 billion in 2008 to $23.2 billion in 2010, a further decline of $1.8 billion by 2010 versus the February 17 Plan.
Strengthening GM’s balance sheet
Another key element of GM’s restructuring will be taking the necessary actions to strengthen its balance sheet. GM today took an important step in improving its balance sheet by launching a bond exchange offer for approximately $27 billion of its unsecured public debt. If successful, the bond exchange would result in the conversion of a large majority of this debt to equity.
“A stronger balance sheet would free the company to invest in the products and technologies of the future,” Henderson said. “It will also help provide stability and security to our customers, our dealers, our employees, and our suppliers.”
Another important part of improving the balance sheet will be the ongoing discussions with the UAW to modify the terms of the Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA), and with the U.S. Treasury regarding possible conversion of its debt to equity. The current bond exchange offer is conditioned on the converting to equity of at least 50 percent of GM’s outstanding U.S. Treasury debt at June 1, 2009, and at least 50 percent of GM’s future financial obligations to the new VEBA. GM expects a debt reduction of at least $20 billion between the two actions.
In total, the U.S. Treasury debt conversion, VEBA modification and bond exchange could result in at least $44 billion in debt reduction.
Throughout the Plan, GM will continue to make significant investment in future products and new technologies, with an investment of $5.4 billion in 2009, and investments ranging from $5.3 to $6.7 billion from 2010 to 2014. Very importantly, development and testing of the Chevy Volt extended-range electric car remains on track for start of production by the end of 2010 and arrival in Chevrolet dealer showrooms soon thereafter.
“The Viability Plan reflects the direction of President Obama and the U.S. Treasury that GM should go further and faster on our restructuring,” Henderson said. “We appreciate their support and direction. This stronger, leaner business model will enable GM to keep doing what it does best – provide great new cars, trucks and crossovers to our customers, and continue to develop new advanced propulsion technologies that are vital for our country’s economy and environment.”
# # #
About GM – General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), one of the world’s largest automakers, was founded in 1908, and today manufactures cars and trucks in 34 countries. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 243,000 people in every major region of the world, and sells and services vehicles in some 140 countries. In 2008, GM sold 8.35 million cars and trucks globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM’s largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia and Germany. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at www.gm.com.
Forward-Looking Statements – In this press release and in related comments by our management, our use of the words “plan,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “ensure,” “promote,” “believe,” “improve,” “intend,” “enable,” “continue,” “will,” “may,” “would,” “could,” “should,” “project,” “positioned” or similar expressions is intended to identify forward-looking statements that represent our current judgment about possible future events. We believe these judgments are reasonable, but these statements are not guarantees of any events or financial results, and our actual results may differ materially due to a variety of important factors. Among other items, such factors might include: our ability to comply with the requirements of our credit agreement with the U.S. Treasury; our ability to execute the restructuring plans that we have disclosed, our ability to maintain adequate liquidity and financing sources and an appropriate level of debt; the ability of our foreign subsidiaries to restructure and receive financial support from their local governments or other sources; our ability to restore consumers’ confidence in our viability and to continue to attract customers, particularly for our new products; our ability to sell, spin-off or phase out some of our brands, to manage the distribution channels for our products, and to complete other planned asset sales; and the overall strength and stability of general economic conditions and of the automotive industry, both in the U.S. and globally.
Our most recent reports on SEC Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K provide information about these and other factors, which may be revised or supplemented in future reports to the SEC on those forms.
When any team is missing a specialist player a ringer quickly needs to be found from any location. In 1985 when Holden wanted an entry into the subcompact market it had to look toward the greater General Motors stable for an eligible transfer. For the first two generations of Barina Suzuki provided the donor vehicle with its Cultus. Generation three and four were rebadged Opel Corsas. The Spanish built cars were quality but weren’t profitable for Holden, and worked only to maintain a presence in the entry level new car market. Since 2005 the generation five Barina has been sourced from Korean budget-brand Daewoo ready to wear Holden’s Lion crest. For 2009 the 5th gen Barina has been refreshed with cosmetic enhancements and safety upgrades to take its position as Holden’s specialist hatchback.
A low price point has always been a strength for the Barina, and with the current model being Korean—made, savings are passed on to the budget conscious. At $18,490 for the base model, the Barina is competitively priced and comes with the peace-of-mind of a three-year warranty. With the exception of the Suzuki Swift the Barina is cheaper than its other direct rivals; approximately $1500 cheaper than the Toyota Yaris, $3,000 cheaper than the Mazda 2 and a hefty $6000 less than the new Ford Fiesta. But what exactly do you get for your money?
The Barina boasts a competitive equipment list featuring the usual tricks like air con, power steering and electric windows and some more special moves like an MP3-compatible CD stereo with auxiliary port, height adjustable driver’s seat and handy steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
Safety credentials were an area of criticism for the Barina on its release in 2005, after only achieving 2 out of 5 stars in ANCAP safety testing. The 2009 facelift has rectified this and now the Barina scores a very respectable 4 stars. Four airbags are now standard with the addition of side-impact airbags and higher density steel now reinforces the B-pillar structure. So the 2009 Barina is stronger and has a few new tricks in the repertoire, but how does it look in the Holden strip?
Upgraded front and rear styling is highlighted by large curved and jewelled headlights and new clear rounded tail lamps. Prominent character lines flow from the bonnet into the A-pillar, side air vents feature on the front guards and a roof-spoiler sits out back. Finished off with 15-inch alloys the Barina has a clean, likeable Euro-aesthetic. That said, the overall exterior look is quite generic and understandably reflects little of the Holden design language seen on its larger vehicles.
Step inside and the Barina offers very good interior space for it’s diminutive size, legroom in the back seats is ample and there is minimal capacity for knocking your head even for tall occupants. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced in no small way by generous use of glass giving the cabin an airy feel and making for excellent visibility out the front and sides. The chrome-detailed instruments are easy to read and dark dash plastics are broken up with silver touches. Fit and finish is varied with some materials feeling quality to the touch, but many of the moving knobs and buttons appear light and flimsy. There are touches of character in the high-mounted clock and round air-vents that work to maintain a general circular theme. The seating fabric feels durable and the front seats are soft and comfortable but could benefit from more bolstering for lateral support.
Under the Barina bonnet sits an inline 1.6l 4-cylinder motor with 16 valves. This unit puts out 76kW of power and 145Nm of torque. It’s a peppy powerplant that offers more torque than its competitors and when mated to the 5-speed manual transmission it advances well and offers usable power for city driving. At motorway speeds the motor feels comfortable, but like most smaller engines requires decent space for overtaking manoeuvres. It returns a 7l/100km fuel economy which is frugal but still thirstier than the Toyota Yaris and Suzuki Swift which can both achieve 6.7l/100km.
Shift the Barina on to twisty roads and it’s a capable machine offering a reasonable degree of grip when turning in and exiting corners. However, at only 1.68m wide it’s quite a narrow car, which is handy in constricted city streets, but does result in body roll when changing direction at speed.
Ride quality is generally sound with an acceptable level of road bumps and dips being transferred through to the cabin. Road and wheel noise can be heard in the cabin but remains generally unobtrusive, engine noise is prevalent under acceleration but is relegated to a low hum while cruising.
On city duty Holden’s import hatch does the business, its no frills, no nonsense approach will suit entry-level buyers. The Barina is easy to drive and has an engine capable of keeping up with general traffic. Fit and finish are ok but can’t compete with others in the segment and although the driving dynamics are good they can’t match the Mazda2 or Toyota Yaris. Overall, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Barina and it generally functions well, but it’s still sitting inside the boundaries some of its direct competitors are beginning to push outward.
Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications.
Price: from $18,490 as tested $20,490
What we like:
Good equipment list
What we don’t like:
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Holden Barina (2009) – Specifications
1.6 litre engine. Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder. Aluminium head. Multipoint fuel injection. Variable intake manifold. Adaptive knock control system
Bore x stroke (mm) 79 x 81.5
Capacity (cc) 1598
Compression ratio (:1) 9.5
Power (ECE, kW)# 76kW @ 5800rpm
Torque (ECE, Nm)# 145Nm @ 3600rpm
Recommended petrol ULP Alternative PULP for slightly higher performance
Fuel economy* (L/100km) 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 7.0 7.6
Petrol tank capacity (L) 45
Front ventilated disc brakes. Rear drum
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) 4-channel, 4-sensor
Front: MacPherson strut with offset coil springs, gas pressure dampers and stabiliser bar
Rear: Torsion beam with trailing arms, coil springs and gas pressure dampers
Power assisted rack and pinion
Track (mm) Front Rear
3 dr and 5 dr hatch 1450 1410
Turn circle (m) 10.06
Wheelbase (mm) 2480
Exterior dimensions (mm) Length Width (inc. mirrors) Height 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 3920 1680 1505
Interior dimensions (mm) Leg Shoulder Head 3 dr and 5 dr hatch front 1048 1362 998 3 dr and 5 dr hatch rear 898 1340 955
Cargo volume (L) Rear seat up Rear seat folded 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 220 980
Kerb weight (est. kg) Includes A/C and all fluids Manual Auto 3 dr hatch 1135 1140 5 dr hatch 1145 1150
Service The complimentary inspection is due at 3,000km or 3 months (whichever occurs first). The first service is due at 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) and then every 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) since the last service. Additional services may be required under certain driving conditions
Is the Australian car manufacturing industry going to the dingoes? An industry analyst has predicted Holden will be the first to go, and that no amount of Australian government intervention will reverse the steep decline in new car sales coupled with the fact that Australian manufacturers lose money on every car they produce.
Holden has recently halved production at its South Australian plant from 600 to around 310. If Holden goes, so could Ford (another big victim of the credit crunch), and ultimately Toyota. But is it a correct assumption?
It certainly isn’t anything new – Car and SUV reported months ago that the bailouts from the US government would force Ford and GM to look at consolidating operations. But, Holden has a weapon: the Commodore. It is very successful in the Middle East, and America has adopted it in the form of the Pontiac G8. Ford America has not adopted the Falcon (which, arguably, is a slightly better car).
While we think that Holden and Ford (and perhaps Toyota) will be around for quite some time in Australia, here are some of the influencing factors so you can decide for yourself:
GM is too broke to develop a new rear-wheel-drive platform, so the Zeta platform that underpins the Camaro and Commodore could see active service for 10 years.
The global exposure to V8 Supercars will surely keep at least FPV and HSV in business, even if they become niche manufacturers.
Australians thrive on the competition between Ford and Holden. GM may retrench, but it would still need to badge its cars Holden to have credibility, or it will lose sales to other manufacturers
And therefore, branding: Ford has the advantage as there’s no difference in name between Ford overseas and Ford in Australia; Holden has a lot of brand equity in Oz – is would be expensive (and potentially damaging to its value) to just ditch Holden. And who would want to buy it?
Exchange rates will make European cars relatively more expensive than domestically produced cars
Car sales have hit an 8-year low and there’s a glut of new cars and near-new cars on the market at knock-down prices.
Australian car manufacturers are losing money on cars they produce
China could pose a threat in terms of manufacturing capability – it pays its workers pitifully
US government bailouts may come with conditions to remove unprofitable centres – this might be especially true of GM which is teetering on declaring bankruptcy so it can restructure
General Motors is too broke to develop any new rear-drive platforms, but recent reports from our mates in Australia suggest that the existing Zeta platform that underpins such models as the Holden Commodore and now the new Chevrolet Camaro could carry on for at least another decade.
Holden only finished development of the current Zeta platform a couple of years back, and is still admiring its handiwork. However, the next generation Commodore, currently sold in the North American market as the Pontiac G8, is looking likely to downsize when it’s expected to debut in 2013 and carry on through to 2020. This is a common strategy among most car-makers presently to increase economy and reduce emissions. Along with the reduced size and weight, GM could for the domestic American market use more efficient, though still powerful engines, employing direct injection and/or turbocharging like the Cadillac and Saab variants of the V6 already used by Holden.
General Motors will continue to look closely at Holden’s progress in the Australian market as a testing ground for what may save it in North America, so fans of rear-drive American muscle still have some hope to hold on to.
Holden New Zealand announced yesterday the official launch of its fuel saving Active Fuel Management (AFM) technology on all of its V8 automatic models.
AFM is now standard on all automatic V8 models in the Commodore, Ute, Sportwagon and Caprice ranges at no additional cost. AFM, or cylinder deactivation, enables an eight cylinder vehicle to automatically operate on four cylinders in certain driving conditions, before restoring full power when engine demands increase. The vehicles include an AFM visual display which indicates when AFM is active. In a combination of town and highway driving, the technology can deliver fuel savings of up to one litre per 100 kilometres, with potential for even better results at constant cruising speeds.
Holden New Zealand Managing Director, Simon Carr says AFM provides drivers with cost savings without sacrificing performance. “AFM is a great example of the improvements that Holden is delivering to improve fuel efficiency for those who require the power and performance of a V8 engine.” The AFM V8s are the first vehicles in New Zealand to come under Holden’s new EcoLine badge which highlights vehicles that use alternative fuel or fuel saving technologies. The Holden EcoLine range offers consumers affordable solutions to tackle rising fuel costs.
AFM Technology Holden’s AFM system is designed to improve fuel efficiency when high output is not required. In certain conditions such as highway driving, AFM automatically closes the intake and exhaust valves in four of the engine’s eight cylinders while ensuring the engine maintains vehicle speed, effectively operating as a four cylinder. The engine’s electronic throttle control is used to increase cylinder pressure in V4 mode so that the engine can preserve the torque which drivers expect from a V8 powertrain. The fuel supply to the deactivated cylinders will resume seamlessly providing all-cylinder operation when the driver needs it for quick acceleration, or for hauling heavy loads.