Bob Lutz, General Motors Corp.'s vice-chairman of product development, is taking some of his inspiration from one of GM's most-successful overseas operations — Holden Ltd. of Australia, which dominated the vehicle market there last year, selling 165,579 cars and grabbing 25.6% share of the passenger-car segment.

Lutz says he plans to visit the Holden subsidiary in February to study operations, but sources say he also plans to take part in Holden's product strategy meeting in Melbourne to discuss possible plans to export the Commodore — along with its Monaro and Statesman derivatives — to the U.S., where they would be rebadged as Chevrolets.

Such shipments would be unlikely to start until 2005 with debut of the all-new Commodore because the current car does not meet U.S. crash regulations. There also are questions about its rust resistance on salted U.S. winter roads.

While Lutz would like to bring Holden cars to the U.S., he says, realistically, it does not appear possible. “Given the weak Australian dollar, you can make a business case, but we have to ask, how large is the federalization issue? Holdens aren't built to U.S. standards; the plastics are certified for warm climates only, the engines aren't calibrated for extreme cold climates.”