LIFE WITHOUT A HOLDEN V8

GET READY FOR HOLDEN WITHOUT A V8. YES, I KNOW, IT’S ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU CHOKE ON A SAUSAGE ROLL. THE THOUGHT OF HOLDEN BEING ANYTHING BUT A POWERHOUSE IN AUSSIE MOTORING IS UNHEARD OF. THE THOUGHT OF IT NOT OFFERING A V8 IS EVEN LESS PALATABLE.

Toby Hagon

Both outcomes could soon be reality. By the end of this year, the brand that once commanded half of all sales – and, more recently, almost one in four – is in danger of slipping to number four in the sales ranks, outsold by former upstarts Mazda and Hyundai. And by the time it winds up local manufacturing in 2017, it’s likely Holden will not offer a V8.

That’s not to say there won’t be a V8 in Holden showrooms. As Wheels reported last month, there will soon be two V8s lurking in Holden showrooms, probably spinning dizzyingly on a turntable with flashing lights to refocus people on the red brand that has been bleeding market share. But one will wear a Cadillac badge and the

Cadillacs and Corvettes are not the type of cars Holden dealers are used to selling y g

other a Corvette badge. Neither will be remotely aligned to the humble Holden brand image that has proved so appealing to so many. They're not Holden V8s. And they're not the sorts of cars the vast majority of Holden V8 buyers are likely to slap down a deposit on, no matter how desirable.

While there will no doubt be a pent-up surge early in the life of each car, the long-term prospects are less glamorous. The idea of levering or 911, known desir su le a would-be Porsche buyer out of a Boxster o or convincing an AMG owner to try a lesser American brand is difficult to fathom.

More pertinently, Cadillacs and Corvettes are not the type of cars Holden dealers are used to selling. The closest a select few have had to sixfigure metal is the $150K HSV W427, which never hit its sales targets.

And they're in no way representative of the Holden brand – the very brand General Motors is holding on to because it is Australian and means so much to Australians.

The big unknown in all of this is the next Commodore. The rebadged version of the Opel Insignia will be smaller than the Aussie Commodore it replaces (the first Commodore to downsize) and offered with a four-cylinder for the first time since the unloved VH of 1983.

It will also be the first Commodore not to have a V8 option. Not that Holden has to go without a performance hero wearing a Holden badge.

The V8 that makes most sense to Aussie buyers is the Camaro. Sure, it wears a Chevrolet badge (we know they’re easy to change) and is far from dinky-di, but the sales pitch is more familiar to the 700 or 800 Australians who each month still fork out upwards of $50,000 for a V8 Holden: Big V8, space for friends or family, ability to customise and upgrade. Oh, and a price tag that's vaguely within reach of the average Holden buyer.

Eight is great

DOWNSIZING may be the modern buzzword, but there’s still a healthy appetite for big performance.

Holden V8s are almost as popular as ever. Holden last year sold 12,871 V8-powered Commodores, Caprices and Utes, almost 40 percent of its large-car sales.

The record for Holden V8 sales was in 2004 when 25,577 were sold – but that was across a much broader model mix that included the Monaro, Adventra SUV and dual-cab Utes. In that year Holden sold 95,815 Commodore-based models, with V8s accounting for 27 percent.

While sales of V8s have been trending down since, there are plenty of Aussies prepared to sacrifi ce some fossil fuel for good old-fashioned power.