The Colorado Xtreme coming to Fieldays next week is more than just a beaut ute – Holden is calling it the most valuable vehicle it has ever brought to NZ.
THAT the most valuable Holden ever seen in New Zealand has been flown in to take pride of place on the brand’s stand at Feildays is down to the strength of our rural scene – and the doggedness of a Holden employee who only joined the company a few months ago.
The thousands of visitors who tour the ag-fest opening at Mystery Creek on June 15 should not take the Colorado Xtreme at face value.
They’re not wrong in thinking that this is an especially hardened edition of Holden’s one-tonner or recognising that the chassis, basic bodyshell and drivetrain of the country’s third most popular traydeck underpin this project.
Yet Xtreme is a Colorado like no other, being a one-off study that previews the production truck’s mid-life update that come on sale here in September.
The showroom vehicles will deliver the look, and up to 70 percent of the accessories, seen on the Xtreme – but, fortunately, not the breath-taking pricetag.
Whereas the mainstream editions of this truck currently retail from just under $40,000 to $64,000, the Xtreme is thought to be worth at least one million dollars, if not more.
That’s a bit of a ballpark figure, suggests Holden NZ managing director Kristian Aquilina (pictured). When presenting the Xtreme to media today, he noted that it is not unusual for concepts to be valued at up to $3 million in replacement terms.
He hastens to add that this doesn't mean he has any strong belief the Xtreme is actually worth than much - a point subsequently missed by one newspaper journalist who has promptly tagged it the "$3m ute" - though its value is very likely in a seven figure territory.
“Show vehicles often have eye-watering price tags and whilst I’m not going to put a number on this particular model, I can confidently say it’s likely to be the most expensive Holden model to ever land in New Zealand.” He later amended this to "most valuable Holden."
What justifies the value? Only in small part the special ingredients, such as the big wheels and the matt fizzy orange paintjob, commissioned for this project. Or all the accessories, many of which Holden does not directly offer with the current truck but seems set to provision for the new.
A lot of it also comes down to this vehicle having been hand-built over several months within Holden’s secretive Design Centre in Melbourne, just one of two in the GM world that can construct complete design studies.
It’s mainly because this commission, which the world first got to see at the Bangkok motor show – one of Asia’s biggest - just two months ago, is of global importance within the GM world, being a Holden made for Chevrolet.
Having once being special to just our part of the world, Colorado is now a fully global vehicle and, in fact, will sell in far greater volumes and in more key markets – North and South America included – bearing the bowtie badge.
The concept has been kept on a tight leash. After Bangkok, it was flown to Spain for the GM Grand Masters, an in-house thank you event the brand lays on for its top-performing dealers, some from New Zealand.
Afterward it should have been sent straight back to Melbourne, for readiness for another display next month. Thereafter it would have joined Holden’s other concepts on display at the brand’s Fisherman’s Bend headquarters.
However, those travel plans changed to include a New Zealand stopover when Ina Economopoulos heard about it and recognised that Colorado’s Kiwi supporters could do with seeing the most expensive ute ever landed locally.
Economopoulos, who only joined Holden NZ last September as the Auckland’s outfit’s national product planning manager, had gone to Melbourne for an introductory to Holden HQ when she heard about the Xtreme, then still a secret project even within the company.
Having come to NZ from GM Europe, she knew the massive pulling power concepts have at the world-renowned motor shows staged in Geneva, Frankfurt and Paris.
NZ’s closest thing to a motor show, she reasoned, has to be Fieldays, which attracts 120,000 visitors over its four-day duration and has been renowned as the single biggest generator of new vehicle, especially new ute, sales during the year.
“It is a really important occasion – it is our equivalent of those big cars shows,” she says.
So she made it her mission to get the truck to NZ for just its second public showing, a massive red tape-cutting effort that has hugely impressed Aquilina.
“She did an amazing job. I’d unkindly describe Ina as a dog with a bone when she gets an idea because she just won’t let go and, when it came to getting hold of this truck, Ina put in a lot of effort to get this outcome.”
The truck travels in its own bespoke box designed to fit into an wide-bodied airliner; it was flown from Barcelona to Singapore, then on the Auckland, where it arrived two weeks ago.
There is was met not just by an anxious Economopoulos but also a Holden design studio employee, who jetted over from Melbourne to check that the study was in good order and also provide it with a persona more in keeping with this market.
For the first time in its life, this Chevy has officially assumed its birthright: As a Holden.
Removing the Chevrolet insignia was a painstaking task as it turned out.
The biggest job was swapping off the huge Chevrolet inscription from the tailgate and implementing an equally bold Colorado transfer. The steering wheel boss was also replaced and, on the nose, the centre strake of the grille was changed over.
The Z71 designation, though very much associated with performance Chevy trucks, gets to stay because last year Holden added a Z71 version of the Colorado here.
Whereas Fieldays guests will get to look but not touch, we were even allowed to open the doors – carefully, because they are fragile – to peek at an interior that, we’re told, will be very similar to what comes on sale. Highlights are softer-touch materials and a bigger centre touch screen for a new infotainment system.
It was also briefly driven out of a giant marquee garage, carefully and at low speed - a 40kmh top speed is among the most expressed of the numerous GM-ordained rules involving its use and demonstration - by a Holden person, to position outside for photos.
Until, that is, light rain began to fall. Then it was promptly put back under cover, the main concern about what even a few raindrops could do to a paint finish that requires special cleaning products and CANNOT be polished. Those few metres of movement were a big trip for Xtreme, Generally it is trucked everywhere.
“They have some very big, clear instructions about everything … including the cleaning products, even the cleaning cloth, because of the special paint,” says Economopoulos.
For Fieldays Xtreme will kept out of reach of farmers’ fingers. Intent is to display it on an elevated, revolving plinth surrounded by rocks and plants.
“This will make it look all the more rugged, but also ensure that people cannot get too close.”
Even when out of touch, it should also make a big impact, Aquilina reasons. Until last month, when it hit 400 units, Colorado has been averaging 300 sales per month. Fieldays might pump that up to 500 units for June; not bad considering the fest also signals the start of the current generation’s runout.
Holden likely has another impetus for drawing a crowd: Its display area is right next door to that for arch-rival Ford, whose Ranger was the 2015 sector leader and has continued to be dominant for much of this year.
Economopoulos plans to be with the Xtreme for the duration. When asked if she has considered staying with it night and day, she laughs … then agrees, yes, if that’s what it takes, then no problem.
What makes this duty of care all the more personal is that Holden NZ has opted not to insure the Xtreme, having determined that the cost of doing so was … well, just too extreme.