GM Holden Ltd.’s Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) unit notches up five straight months of record sales and can’t keep up with local demand for its cars after widening its sales campaign to lure “brand snobs” away from expensive European models.

HSV modifies GM Holden’s Commodore and Statesman models to increase performance and handling and add sports styling.

HSV Managing Director Phil Harding says with a strong order bank for its all new WM Grange; big sales numbers across the Clubsport R8, GTS and Senator Signature; and a new export push, 2007 is set to be a stellar year for the company.

He says the HSV plant is pushed to the limit building 33 cars per day to meet demand.

“We have been getting a lot of interest from people who are basically brand snobs and who are now reviewing whether they should buy one of our cars,” Harding tells The Melbourne Age newspaper.

“The basis of (our) campaign is to load the HSV cars with a lot of features and advanced specifications and push the value angle. Why would you run a BMW 325 or an Audi A4, small-engined cars, when you could drive…a proper car?”

Harding says car buyers are trading in their high-end expensive cars for an HSV vehicle and finding the Holden cars have everything they want in a car at a better price.

“The first year of depreciation on their Euro car is often equivalent to the full ownership cost of the HSV,” he says, describing how HSV’s customer base is changing.

A lot of newer customers are just looking to buy a safe, high-speed form of transport because they have come from something else, such as a European product, and their interests are not the same as our traditional owner.”

HSV is about to release its latest model, the all-new WM Grange, equipped with a 412-hp V-8 engine, semi-active Magnetic Ride Control suspension, 19-in. wheels and a range of luxury appointments. The starting price is A$82,990 ($67,234).

“We expect the WM Grange to be available to the public from late April and to set a new benchmark for the Australian auto industry in a long-wheelbase, high-performance marque,” Harding says.

HSV’s five consecutive record-sales months included 515 deliveries in December. “That was the best month in our 20-year history,” Harding says. “Domestically, February proved to be another individual record sales month, with 357 retail deliveries across Australia and New Zealand.”

Meanwhile, HSV has begun exporting a version of its Clubsport R8 to the U.K., where it is called the VXR8.

“This is the first of what we hope will be a number of export deals around the world for our exciting new E Series range,” Harding says. “We’re delighted that Vauxhall (Motors Ltd.) is importing around 300 VXR8s.

“While we continue to set new records domestically, we are also working closely with Holden Export on developing new markets for the E Series and Grange around the globe.”

Harding tells The Age that while HSV is aware of the economic and environmental issues, there are some hard realities associated with performance cars.

“We make a fast sedan, and the laws of physics demand you use a bit of fuel to launch that car at the performance values we are trying to achieve,” he says. “If you want that performance, you are not going to get it at 7 L/100 km (33 mpg). If you want fuel economy, buy yourself a Fiat 500.”