GM Holden Ltd.’s Holden Special Vehicles division confirms it will sell liquefied-petroleum-gas versions of its performance cars beginning in 2010 and is considering a high-powered variant of the upcoming Australian-made Cruze small car.
HSV Managing Director Phil Harding says dealers have openly opposed the LPG plan, but the division is going to do it anyway.
“I’ve done a survey with my dealers and they’ve told me they don’t want it,” The Age newspaper quotes him as saying at the first drive program for HSV's E-Series 2 range.
“I’m doing this program without a solid customer demand for it. But I know we started this program when (gasoline) was A$1.60 (a liter) and heading north, and does anyone want to speculate that won’t come back?
“My philosophy is that I’ve got to have that (LPG) in the cupboard,” Harding says. “If we start off and people don’t option it, that’s fine, but there will come a point where they will.”
After 18 months of evaluating a range of alternative-fuel options, Harding says HSV opted for an LPG system called liquid petroleum injection, which maximizes the fuel’s power and economy benefits.
“We have been looking at a range of alternative-powertrain solutions to complement our existing range, including LPG, diesel, E85 – indeed there hasn’t been much we haven’t studied in detail,” he says.
“We have sent three mule vehicles for cold-weather testing in recent weeks, and the reports back from the engineering team are encouraging. If all goes well, we should be able to launch LPI in early 2010. That’s a little later than I planned, but it’s still an exciting program.”
Harding notes at this stage, a diesel-product program will not proceed.
“We looked at it seriously, and the business case does not stack up,” he says. “We are very excited about the potential for high-performance, LPG-powered (vehicles).”
The system is to be offered as a cost option across all models in the HSV range except for its station wagon. The LPG tank will be installed in the trunk in sedans and in the bed in pickup trucks.
“Because it’s dual fuel, when you floor the throttle it goes back to (gasoline),” Harding says. “Those who have driven it can’t tell which mode it’s in because it’s seamless.”
Meantime, HSV is looking at the midsized Holden Cruze to fill a gap in its performance line-up created by the end of the Astra-based VXR hatchback.
“We have looked at the (Opel) Insignia and Corsa VXR,” Harding says. “We have been patient, watching the ownership issues for Europe. But the basic issue is we can’t launch these cars here and place them in a competitive price point. So, HSV will not proceed with importing either of these two cars into Australia.”
But HSV is seriously looking at a business case for the Cruze.
“We are very excited about (GM) Holden’s decision to make a locally built Cruze,” Harding says. “We are looking at what to do as a business on this model.”
The 4-cyl. Cruze will be assembled in both sedan and hatchback versions from 2010 at GM Holden’s Adelaide plant.
“To get a HSV badge on the car it’s got to have the grunt; it’s got to have driving performance in terms of ride and handling and it’s got to have the look,” Harding says. “If it gets a tick in all of those three boxes, then it becomes a HSV.”
Responding to media reports the W427 sedan program failed, Harding says as far as he is concerned it was a success, pointing to the fact HSV built 137 units of the A$155,500 ($134,300), 503-hp vehicle.
When the fastest and most-expensive road-legal car ever produced in Australia was announced, HSV said it would limit production of the heavily modified version of the Commodore sedan with its U.S.-sourced 7.0L V-8 engine to 427 units.
Harding says the business case for the program always focused on three possible build numbers – 100, 150 and 200.
“Even if we had 105, the program would still have been a financial success, leaving aside the brand benefits and engineering know-how the W427 program has brought to HSV,” he says.
“We regard building and selling – to order – 137 W427s as a major achievement, particularly given that we launched the car into the market in July 2008, just weeks before the entire world financial system almost ground to a halt.
“We are very proud of the car and it was a fitting way for HSV to celebrate its 20th anniversary.”