Holden set for SUV onslaught?

Holden is updating its sports utility range but is still cagey about revealing its full game plan.

The revised Captiva

The revised Captiva

EXPECTATION that Holden will reach around the world to strengthen its sports utility stock appears on the money.

The brand is bringing in 24 new models, with 36 fresh drivetrains, before 2020, many of them arriving after the Commodore departs production on October 2017, thus drawing a close to its car-making activity in Australia.

Holden will not say how many of the new models will target the sports utility sector, however it has acknowledged that it is starting to address gaps in this key market zone – New Zealand’s single biggest.

Today Holden Australia managing director and chairman Mark Bernhard said that the product push will effectively result in an "all-new SUV portfolio ... filling out the portfolio more than has been in the past.

"We have a strong SUV product push coming, which is great."

The revised Captiva (right) that has just entered the showroom is just the start; later in the year we will see a radically revised edition of the Colorado Seven large off-roader wagon (plus a big refit for the Colorado utility) and, in January of 2017, Holden will deliver the updated edition of its Trax crossover, introduced in 2013.

But there are more gaps to fill and speculation is rife about how Holden will engage. Recently media in Australia voiced opinion that either the Buick Enclave – a medium-large offer for the United States – or the slightly smaller Envision, off the same platform, could be on the radar.

There is also conjecture that a high-end Opel crossover set to be production before the end of the decade is a candidate.For its part, Holden is only offering that a third of its future lineup could be sourced out of Opel’s homeland, Germany.

Whatever occurs, Holden New Zealand boss Kristian Aquilina agrees that the sports utility sector is too important to ignore.

Whether Holden can elevate its SUV count to match, or better, market leader Toyota New Zealand’s category-dominating eight offerings is not being answered, however he agrees there are gaps. “We have just exited the market with our Captiva Five, so we don’t have a compact SUV for a little while.

“We will be asking the Trax and the seven seater Captiva to cover that area and we also have the Colorado Seven topping it out in the largest sector.”

He agrees that’s not enough to cover all customer desires; the Colorado Seven will remain as a heavy-duty off road vehicle. Does that open opportunity for a plusher model?

“What we have said there is that the next few years will see us basically re-invigorate our SUV lineup from top to bottom. The SUV market has fragmented significantly since we first introduced the models that we have in our portfolio today so we can probably anticipate a very different looking SUV lineup in the future.”

The small SUV sub-sector has shown biggest growth over the past two years and that has been good for Trax; which elevated from 808 registrations in 2014 to 908 last year. Aquilina is not too concerned that the update model will not be here for the best part of a year: He still anticipates the current car will continue to be a strong performer.

“We’ve seen improvement with Trax. Last year was our best volume in the fastest-growing segment in the market ands we’re planning to deliver more growth.”

GM Holden has already said the car will share the United States market facelift, the blue car seen here, and not the European-sourced Opel Mokka look that debuted at the Geneva motor show last week. The car is a Chevrolet Stateside.

The Mokka received drivetrain work at Holden's local development centre, however Holden has confirmed that the Chevrolet also benefited from input from its Melbourne design centre.

The Chevrolet carries over the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission, whereas the European-spec Opel Mokka gains a new 1.4-litre turbo delivering 112kW.

Chevrolet's edition has a revised front and rear end as well as an updated interior. It will also update to the Apple Carplay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity system now in the Captiva and Insignia, as well as the new Spark city hatchback that New Zealand journalists were driving in Australia today. It is also in the Astra that is due to arrive later this year.

The Chevrolet has a 7.0-inch touchscreen and has 4G internet connectivity with the option of acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning are all included depending on the variant, while reversing camera and 10 airbags.