Exchange rate jitters adding to Acadia challenge

Donald Trump’s aggressive protectionist policies hang over a big Yank looking to settle in New Zealand.


AN increasingly dire exchange rate condition has not dissuaded Holden from releasing a crucial sports utility with sector-advantaged prices, however the brand is already indicating it could have to fight hard to maintain those tags should our dollar keep falling against the US.

That suggestion - along with comment that if any battle ahead to maintain launch stickers the entry model, price-aligned with Commodore in its four-cylinder and cheapest V6 formats, will be meted highest-priority protection - comes with release of the Acadia, a vital American seven chair wagon capable of off-roading but primarily designed to deliver a swish sealed road experience.

The car comes in three two-wheel-drive formats - a $49,990 LT, $55,990 LTZ and $67,990 LTZ (the latter special order only) – and three all-wheel-drive editions in the same trim levels, at $53,990, $59,990 and $71,990. All have a common 3.6-litre V6.

That pricing allows the model to compete directly with other three-row seven-seater crossovers in the sector, notably the new Hyundai Santa Fe which seems set to emerge as a particularly close threat, though Mazda’s CX- and CX-9 cannot be under-rated nor the Toyota Highlander.

Holden is also vying for attention against more off-road dedicated fare, such as the Ranger-related Ford Everest and Toyota Prado.

This model and a smaller sister, the Equinox, are expected to be the big hitters for Holden as it turns attention away from orthodox cars – notably the Commodore, which has fallen from being a core performer in its previous, Aussie-made rear-drive format to becoming so out of favour with consumers in its front and four-wheel-drive forms that the factory in Germany has been ordered to cease production to clear a disconcerting backlog.

The SUV sector, which is booming, is expected to provide sales salvation.

However, this ‘best chance’ new addition to a crossover line that now fulfils aspiration to provide every kind of light-duties mud-slugger from extra small to substantial comes at a bad time in respect to currency condition - in the past month the dollar has gone from 67 cents against the US to as low as 63c, though in the past week it has come back to 65c.

When Holden began talks about Acadia, more than two years ago, the rate was far healthier for this strategy.


In announcing the line’s arrival, Holden NZ has also conceded it is keeping a weather eye on an uncertain currency condition, ironically largely caused by America’s more aggressive protectionist economic attitude that aims to look after home-grown product such as this.

Sourced from a GMC plant in Tennessee, is the first model built in the United States for Holden.

The Australian outfit does, of course, have other GM North America product, such as the now defunct Cruze and the Equinox crossover that has been on sale since January. But these have sourced from plans outside of the US. The Equinox, for instance, is built in Mexico.

In Donald Trump’s eyes, Acadia should conceivably benefit from his brash ‘America-first’ business logic – but it probably won’t, because the end effect of that approach has been to throw the world economy into a spin, with currencies such as ours being particularly hurt.

The NZ dollar’s diminishing value is far from hitting rock bottom, but neither is the rate anything as healthy as it was when Holden signed up.

Holden NZ’s reaction when asked if its pricing is a launch special strategy to establish its car into a fiercely-contested yet clearly lucrative sector that might have to be reviewed soon seems to reflect this.

In response to that question, HNZ general manager of corporate affairs Ed Finn suggested the Auckland office is working hard to maintain the start out stickers for what is believes will be an aspirational and “highly-desirable” car.

“We have strived to launch the … Acadia with an attainable price point.

“This isn’t a short-term play, rather our position going forward. The LT will debut at sub-$50k and we certainly intend to maintain this RRP,” he said.

“We will manage currency fluctuations as best we can, especially during volatile periods such as we’re experiencing now.

“To maintain this entry price for the LT two-wheel-drive is certainly our intention.”

Acadia is the pride of GMC, initially a commercial GM brand but now reincarnated as a sports utility and crossover specialist.

The car doesn’t have diesel in its future and GMC has never talked about any electric-assisted variations.

The drivetrain is the same used by Commodore, but rejigged for a bigger, heavier application.

With 231kW and 367Nm, the V6 has reasonable heft – though braked towing capacity is a modest 2000kg - engine marries to a nine-speed automatic. The all-wheel-drive disengages drive to the rear wheel set for normal road use to save on fuel. Holden has yet to cite an official fuel economy, but with this model weighing at least two tonnes, it might be sobering.

You get Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, Traffic Sign Recognition with intelligent speed assist (a first for any GM vehicle outside Europe), haptic seat alerts, keyless entry/start, sat-nav, triple-zone air conditioning, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, lateral impact avoidance and a drive-mode selector. The Bluetooth system can accept two devices simultaneously and every Acadia has five USB ports spread across the three rows, including 2.1-amp outlets for charging iPads.

The LTZ adds leather upholstery, power adjustable/heated front seats, wireless phone charging, power tailgate and automated parking.

The flagship LTZ-V brings FlexRide adaptive suspension with 20-inch alloys (18in on the LT/LTZ), extra power adjustment for the front passenger seat (up from eight-way to 10-way), memory for the driver's chair, ventilation for both front seats, dual-panel sunroof, gas-discharge headlights, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera and Bose audio.

Not all Acadia variants are here yet and stocks of the initial versions – all high-end editions – seem so limited that, rather than citing this as a launch, Holden prefers to put it that the model will be available for public evaluation in November.

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