A plan hatched in Europe to save the existing Australian-built Holden Commodore from extinction is expected to pick up pace early in the New Year.
Belgian billionaire Guido Dumarey has said his so-called ‘Project Erich’ must be signed off in 2016, more than a year before GM-Holden is to shut down its Commodore assembly plant in Adelaide.
The motoring industry entrepreneur believes he can inject new life into the Commodore’s rear-drive Zeta architecture by developing a premium range of renamed models for Australia, New Zealand and export markets beyond.
“The auto industry in Australia is in fact a premium auto industry, a rear-wheel drive industry,” Dumarey told Australian motoring writer Bruce Newton in an exclusive interview.
“To me rear-wheel drive is premium. When you see today what Alfa Romeo is doing with Giorgio platform with Giulia. They go back to where they were and it was big mistake to stop rear-wheel drive vehicles.”
Dumarey, an automotive engineer, has umbilical links to Holden – his company in Strasbourg, France, already produces the 6L45 six-speed automatic transmission for the current Commodore V6 engine.
He bought the transmission plant from General Motors in 2012, after GM announced plans to close it at a cost of 1000 jobs. The plant is now expanding and building an automatic transmission for German giant ZF. BMW is now Dumarey’s biggest customer.
He said he intentionally hasn’t approached Holden management in Melbourne. He said the five years it took him to buy the Strasbourg plant from GM had taught him that he had to get government onside to successfully complete deals like this.
Dumarey said he already has the support of prominent Adelaide politicians and has had three meetings with federal parliamentarians in Canberra.
He said he was seeking a fair deal to take over the Adelaide plant, a license to develop Zeta and access to funding from Australia’s Automotive Transformation Scheme to aid model development.
“Everything is planned,” 56-year-old Dumarey told Newton. “The next step is to inform all the parties with the right plan.”
“I think we must find a solution that is good for all parties,” he said. “It must be fair for the country, for the brand loyalty. It must be fair for everything and that is important.”
The Commodore name of course is off-limits – Holden has said it will continue the name on rebadged models from its parent GM’s Opel line-up.
But Dumarey said rebadging was an issue that could be resolved and believes a dealer network can quickly be sourced locally and internationally.
- Project Erich is named after Erich Bitter, the German engineer who has used the Commodore as the basis for a series of bespoke, high-performance models.