Missed Opportunities

Holden has consistently missed the boat through not offering light commercials in Australia

Vehicle manufacturers talk effusively these days about global opportunities. In Australia, the first hint of workforce layoffs prompted the Federal Government to throw money towards Fisherman’s Bend and Holden’s head office, desperate to hold off bad publicity of a growth in the dole queue, at least until after the next election.

Perhaps the big end of town, especially those with head offices based overseas, should manage their own affairs on the basis of their own ability. It’s a sad case scenario, but with the closure of local assembly and manufacturing looming for 2015, there’s little justification for these multi-nationals to be propped up with Australian taxpayer funding.

When you look at the bigger picture, General Motors, the Holden parent, is very efficient in other countries. It offers a broader spread of product in Europe and it doesn’t overlook the fact that light commercial vehicles are an important contributor of profit to their total operation.

That scenario applies to Europe, but, in Australia, Holden has never been able to grasp the nettle and deal with the supply of a light commercial range to its dealer group. Back in February 1982, it released the Shuttle van, a rebadged version of the Isuzu Fargo, it continued in our market until it was discontinued in 1990.

Currently, the Holden light commercial offering applies only to the Combo small van and the newly released Colorado ute.Holden-Combo_2

While the Colorado is all new and sourced from Thailand, the Combo we get here is all old product, already replaced by a new version with different engines and overall specifications.

If you were thinking at this point that Australian van buyers are a largely forgotten race for Holden, you’d be right.

In the UK, in March of this year, the Luton-based manufacturer sold an impressive 2,494 vans to small businesses. This put Vauxhall, the British version of Holden, into number one position.

The British-built Vivaro is also the best selling van in the medium van segment.

Vauxhall builds more commercial vehicles in the UK than any other manufacturer, hitting totals of 77,000 vans at its plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, last year.

The latest edition to the multi award-winning Vauxhall Commercial Vehicles range – the all-new Combo – made its UK show debut at the CV Show in Birmingham earlier this year. It hasn’t yet made it to Australia.

Another Vauxhall van that’s not made it to Australia is the Corsavan. In the What Van? awards of this year, the Corsavan won the Small Van of the Year honour and the ecoFLEX range picked up the Green Award.

Corsavan’s best-in-class CO2 emissions of just 95 g/km and its new Euro 5-compliant 1.3CDTi 16v (95PS) turbo diesel engine, matched with the latest Start/Stop technology was apparently a stand out performer. But, we don’t see it on our shores.

There’s even a further new engine for the Corsavan, a 1.2 petrol unit also with Start/Stop. The new Corsavan engine boasts CO2 of 119 g/km, a saving of 5 g/km over the standard 1.2 engine, and 55.4 mpg (4.25 litres/100 km) combined. But, as you guessed it, we don’t see it here.

Back in January, Vauxhall was the first commercial vehicle manufacturer to feature an eco-model for each van in its range, including Corsavan, Astravan, Combo, Vivaro and Movano. But, we don’t see them on our shores either.

Vauxhall has offered a Combo model line since 1996, and the previous generation has been on the market since 2001.

According to the current website, the Holden Combo with its 1.4-litre engine is still available on our market. Meanwhile, back in Old Blighty, the new Combo features four new engines, two wheelbases – 2,755mm or 3,105mm – giving an overall vehicle length of 4.39 metres and 4.74 metres respectively, as well as two roof heights – 1.85 metres or 2.10 metres.

For easy access to the cargo area, van variants can be ordered with one or two optional sliding doors.

Holden-Combo_1In certain panel van configurations, an additional rear roof hatch can be installed to transport ladders, for example.

The special load-carrying talents of the new Combo are immediately apparent: with up to 3,400 litres of cargo space in short-wheelbase form and 4,200 litres with the longer wheelbase, the Combo offers one of the largest load volumes in both classes. Its low 54.4 cm load height and variety of payloads up to one tonne are all best-in-class, while the aperture width of the sliding door is also the largest in segment. The short-wheelbase version also offers a cargo deck with the greatest length, height and width between wheel arches.

The new Combo is available with four diesel engines. The units include a 1.3 CDTi and a 1.6 CDTi, each with 90PS (66 kW), as well as a 1.6 CDTi variant with 105PS (77 kW) and a powerful 2.0 CDTi engine providing 135PS (99 kW).

The 1.3 CDTi engines are fitted with five-speed manual transmissions, while the more powerful CDTi units have a six-speed manual transmission.

The 1.6 CDTi is also offered with Vauxhall’s ‘Tecshift’ automated five-speed manual transmission. With the exception of the Tecshift units, all powertrains are available with Start/Stop functionality to deliver even lower fuel consumption and emissions.

Adding further appeal to the range, Vauxhall Commercial Vehicles has widened its New Combo spec to include models powered by a fuel-efficient 1.4 petrol engine.

The new 95PS (70 kW) Euro 5-compliant Combo unit will be available in L1H1 and L2H1 body types. The engine also features Start/Stop technology achieving CO2 emissions of 163 g/km and 40.3mpg (5.8 litres/ 100 km) combined on the short wheelbase model.

Even the entry-level Combo includes generous standard equipment, including remote deadlocking, power steering, a height and reach adjustable steering column, electric windows, and a four-way adjustable driver’s seat (also available with optional height adjustment). A driver’s airbag and ABS brakes complete the package.

The new Vauxhall Combo went on sale in the UK from February, is produced with Vauxhall/Opel’s cooperation partner, Fiat, and is manufactured in Turkey.Holden-Combo_3

If by now you are thinking that Holden supporters are a little hard done by when it comes to light commercials, you’d be right. You might also feel even more miffed once you realised that Vauxhall offers buyers four years zero percent APR, four years free servicing, four years warranty and four years breakdown assistance.

As you’ve already guessed, it’s not available here.

There is of course always hope that the Holden dealer group might be allowed access to this award-winning range of light commercial vehicles.

As well as helping to fill the forecourts with additional choice, the incremental sales volumes of actually having a light commercial vehicle range, could greatly benefit the task of staying profitable to perpetuate the iconic name of Holden for future generations of Australians.

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