Holden sells Chevys to the US: with the most technologically advanced Australian car ever created

HOLDEN's design expertise and engineering innovation has driven to new heights with the imminent VF Commodore series. Holden has even overcome the challenges of the high Australian dollar to develop a new export line to the US as the Chevrolet SS Sports Sedan.

New Holden Calais V


That's right, Holden is actually selling Chevys to Americans ... and these are Chevrolets Holden has designed and manufactured.

(Up until 1968, General Motors shipped Chevrolets and Pontiacs to Melbourne where they were partially re-assembled and sold in the local market as luxury vehicles, beside Holden's local range).

How the tide has turned - and it has reached this high water mark through General Motors Holden's international reputation for innovation and creative design excellence and in spite of current export barriers.

This is a resounding design and manufacturing triumph for Holden, which already has to its credit the re-guise of its Monaro as the Pontiac GTO sports coupe, and the foundation design, development and production of the highly popular modern incantation of the Chevrolet Camaro (which is not sold new here).

The new VF Series was unveiled at an exclusive event in Melbourne's Docklands last week, but will not emerge in showrooms until mid-year.

Holden Calais V is the most sophisticated car ever to be developed in Australia.


Holden's new VF Commodore range brings in a host of new technologies that make it not only the best Commodore ever, but also one that is safer, more user-friendly and more fuel efficient.

The message at the unveiling was that the VF Holden series also brings new levels of luxury and refinement to the large car segment, with a sumptuous new interior to match its upmarket exterior.

"The VF Commodore really is a class above," said Holden chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux. "No other car created in Australia is as technologically advanced, and we're very proud that not only was the VF designed and engineered here, but it will also be exported to the USA for GM's biggest global brand, Chevrolet."

The VF Commodore, which will be built at Holden Vehicle Operations in the Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth, South Australia, highlights Holden's advanced global design capability and promises a driving experience on a par with top-marque competitors.

It will also be more fuel efficient. That has happened, in part, due to the Federal Government's grant of $39.8 million through the Green Car Innovation Fund. As a result, the VF features lightweight aluminium panels along with other fuel saving features such as electric power steering. It is also more aerodynamic than the VE Commodore it will replace.

Among its many new technology features are some significant safety and driver friendly elements.

Key convenience features include Auto Park Assist on all models, where the driver operates the pedals but the car effectively parks itself.  Unlike many similar systems, it also allows drivers to choose between a parallel or 90 degree angle park.  It also gets the latest version of Holden's innovative MyLink infotainment system and keyless entry and start.

Safety features include Reverse Traffic Alert, which warns of vehicles passing when reversing out of spaces, Blind Spot Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and a Head-Up Display, which projects vital safety information such as the car's speed directly onto the windscreen.

The new Calais V-Series sedan, on which the show car is based, will headline an extensively upgraded VF Commodore model range that goes on sale mid-year.

"Our aim with the new VF Commodore was to create a car that challenged some of the broader perceptions people have about the traditional Australian-made large car," said Mr Devereux.

"We have created a car that not only serves the loyal buyers who continue to make Commodore one of the most popular cars in Australia, but also a new breed of discerning customer who wants higher levels of luxury and technology in their car.

"When it goes on sale, it will offer levels of quality and sophistication to rival some of the best cars in the world."


The VF Commodore was designed and engineered at Holden's headquarters in Port Melbourne, Victoria.

Holden's director of design, Andrew Smith, said the VF exterior design was a precise, contemporary execution that held true to the dynamic poise of its predecessor.

"We've taken a powerful existing form and brought it up to another level, with the feeling now about projecting a real sense of quality and technological aptitude," Mr Smith said.

"The styling is characterised by sculpted forms and richer detailing. There's more gleam and polish at every point and careful attention to detail everywhere you look, from the vibrant front fascias and projector headlamp treatments through to the all-new rear end graphics.

"And the key interior elements are entirely new: instrument panel, console, cockpit, seats, steering wheel, switches, shifters, textures, you name it, no detail has escaped attention.

"Our designers set out with deliberate intent to exceed expectations by creating a cabin with premium large car ambience - a wow factor, if you like - that's characterised by a fresh sense of luxury, comfort and convenience. 

"It's a carefully cohesive design which echoes the detailed aesthetic of the exterior and places emphasis on rich, tactile materials and technical refinement. The ergonomic integration is excellent yet it retains a completely intuitive Holden feel".

"These vehicles reflect the truly international nature of our business and they can certainly hold their own anywhere in the world".

Holden's range-topping V-Series Calais spearheads a strategy aimed at extending its upmarket luxury car appeal to a broader band of buyers.

VF's polished good looks owe much to great bone structure. The brilliant silhouette and  athletic, wide track stance that made the award-winning 2006 VE Commodore an automotive style icon now reinforce a street-smart new look that's fresher, more sophisticated and aerodynamically advanced.

The Calais V's streamlined exterior is also more aerodynamically efficient than the model it replaces. Given improved fuel economy as a major VF program target, Holden designers and engineers made extensive use of virtual modelling and wind tunnel technology to create a slippery new shape. 

The cabin design was driven by the requirement to integrate a raft of advanced driver assistance and infotainment technologies and to meet demanding GM global benchmarks.

Given the opportunity to make extensive changes, the Holden interior design team went for it full-on. Their aim was to define new targets for perception of quality and interior harmony, using ‘best of the best' benchmarking data.

The result is a significant step forward in terms of craftsmanship, custom-tailored materials, fit and finish, ergonomic layout and all-round driving comfort. 


  • All-new instrument panel with integrated centre stack and cowled instrument dials combines infotainment, climate and other controls into a contemporary piece of modern electronics
  • Stylish new seat designs feature new structures and luxury comfort profiles
  • Quality, layered trim finishes in smooth soft-feel leather and suede with perforated leather inserts are accented by twin-needle stitching
  • Strokes of bright and galvano silver chrome and metallic embellishments gleam against jet black and light titanium background hues
  • Ice blue ambient lighting illuminates a re-designed centre console with versatile small item storage solutions and maxi cup holders   
  • Ergonomic improvements include a new steering wheel design and a console-mounted electric park brake button (goodbye handbrake lever).
  • Power window switches are relocated to the armrests, the boot release control to the driver's door

VF's evolutionary exterior design is a dynamic, mature execution - more sculptural and highly refined, with exceptional finishes, richer detailing, bright and jewelled accents.


  • Up front: the higher, wider front end features complex hood surfacing with a subtle central power bulge; raking spears point focus at prominent signature trapezoidal grilles
  • Jewelled halogen projector headlamps incorporate a ‘curved blade' park lamp effect
  • Lower air intakes are flanked by LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps
  • New front fenders complement the flared, aero-sculpted wheel arches
  • In profile: all potency and forward movement with an upper decklid line that kicks into a slim integrated spoiler; chrome fender vents, larger, multi-spoke, machine-faced wheels
  • At the rear: a wider, more planted stance. Streamlined, uncluttered graphics are dominated by intricately jewelled new tail lamps that extend into the decklid


Holden's automotive design facility at company HQ in Port Melbourne, Victoria, is one of nine GM global design studios and the largest of its kind in Australia.

Holden Design is an innovative and creative contributor to major General Motors vehicle programs and its expertise in advanced and production design is tapped by GM affiliates worldwide. 

It employs a multi-talented and multi-national team of more than 130 people, among them exterior and interior creative designers, colour and trim designers, advanced designers, clay modellers, fabricators, digital sculptors, visualisation and design quality specialists.

The creative team is led by executive director, GMIO design, Michael Simcoe, and GM Holden design director, Andrew Smith

Holden Design leverages leading edge technology - including Holden's multi-million dollar 3D visualisation studio - to deliver advanced automotive design solutions and drive future strategic opportunities for GM globally.



Calais accelerates Holden's sporting luxury design mandate

HOLDEN’s new Calais luxury sports model concept, on the new VF platform, is winning friends even before it has been rolled out in the taut and muscular steel, aluminium and composite materials flesh.

New Hodlen Calais V sports unprecedented Australian motoring luxury.


To be launched mid-year, Holden is aiming for its stylish and sophisticated new VF range is set to change perceptions of Australian-made cars.

For example, the new-look flagship Calais V-Series sedan matches hi-tech instrument electronics and screen display options with precision stitching and perforated inserts on the soft leather seat trim. There is a careful attention to detail apparent throughout the Calais and it headlines Holden’s VF design strategy.

Designed to capture the attention of Australian car buyers in an increasingly competitive marketplace, the Calais V signals a major evolutionary change to Commodore, with international levels of interior design, premium fit and finish and the application of advanced technologies.  

Calais V presents a range of technology firsts for a local vehicle, including Auto Park Assist, Head-up Display and Reverse Traffic Alert.  The new features make VF Commodore the most advanced vehicle to be designed, engineered and built in Australia.

In addition, the Calais V-Series luxury sports concept reveals fresh exterior design treatments and a sculpted, muscular form that boosts aerodynamic efficiency.

While a new, detailed and luxurious approach to the interior design has resulted in a tailored, refined and harmonious blend of quality materials, integrated themes and thoughtful ergonomics.


Holden Design director Andrew Smith said the design team’s vision was to create a new interior environment with a richer, more cohesive feel.

“We set out to over-deliver. Consequently, there’s a level of refinement you’d expect of a high-end European product,” Mr Smith said.

“There’s a sense of being invited in, of well executed and custom-tailored detail wherever you look.

“The VF will introduce cutting edge driver technologies and we’ve ramped up every facet of the interior layout to match.

“The big new infotainment touch-screen is a prime example. It’s a great graphic interface to functions that drivers will find simple to operate, minimising distraction and maximising connection to the rest of their lives.

‘We’ve re-designed everything from the instrument panel, instrument cluster graphics, binnacle hood, centre stack and flow-on console layouts to the steering wheel, seats, storage and lighting. Controls are in better places, functions are clearly defined.

“The design team selected premium quality materials in light titanium and jet black tonings to create a layered, textured surface feel that the Calais V-Series shows off to great effect.

“Accents such as precision stitching and perforated inserts on the soft leather seat trim are reflected elsewhere in the cabin – there’s a careful attention to detail apparent everywhere you look”. 

The VF Calais V’s symmetrical, ergonomically advanced interior design was driven by high-level global research into consumer expectations and preferences.

It delivers systems that are easy to use and understand and which minimise the steps required to perform a particular task. There are fewer buttons to navigate, many controls are relocated to more convenient positions and all switches have chrome identifiers.

Power window and mirror controls are now situated on the door armrests, door locks have moved to the front door and the boot release is on the driver’s door. Cruise control joins other fingertip functions on the steering wheel.

On the new centre stack, infotainment system and climate controls (now with illuminated dual temperature readouts), are entirely separated and clearly designated.

The reconfigured centre console features a covered compartment, versatile new cup holders, more small item storage, recessed electric park brake control and an easily accessible mobile phone rest and power outlet located forward of the new auto shifter. In night mode, this area and door pull recesses are illuminated by ice-blue ambient lighting.

The VF Calais V-Series also offers class-leading new seat structures with curved comfort profiles developed by GM to ensure global best practice integration, detail execution and quality standards. Driver and front passenger seats combine snug sports back and bolster support with superior cushioning.

The show car is upholstered in a modern combination of fine-grained light titanium leather with suede and perforated leather inserts, accent stitching and a central jet black strip detail.

A neutral timber-grained finish follows the full-width curvilinear form of the instrument panel.  High chrome finishes on the tactile new steering wheel and elsewhere are complemented by subtle galvano silver chrome elements.

The overall result is harmonious, first-class and refined in every aspect.


Holden chief designer for creative design, Richard Ferlazzo, said the VF’s handsome new silhouette holds true to traditional concepts.

“However, this time we’ve raised the bar.  We’ve taken a great existing form and brought it up to another level,” Mr Ferlazzo said.

“The surfacing is more flamboyant and contemporary, way more sophisticated. We’ve succeeded in putting in more action and detail.

“One of our main goals was to improve aerodynamic performance and as a result many visual elements are much bolder.  There’s also more embellishment in terms of chrome highlights. Headlamp and tail lamp treatments are layered, complex and intricately detailed.  

“You’ll notice that the hood is more prominent, with a centre crease that emphasises performance potential and two raking spears sweeping in from the A-pillars. They point focus at the elegant new Calais V front fascia with its slim LED daylight running lamps and signature trapezoidal grille.  

“The new vertical fender vents highlight the long dash-to-axle proportion that’s very much part of the design DNA. 

“The flowing side detailing, the upper line that incorporates the decklid into the C-pillar, the upswept ducktail aero effect – they exemplify the sculpted approach we’ve taken to exterior surfacing.

“Of course the twenty-inch, double ten-spoke show car alloys make their own statement.

“The rear graphic is distinctively different, more streamlined. With the brilliant new integrated tail lamps and the license plate moved to the lower fascia, it’s a wider, cleaner look.

“Aerodynamically, this vehicle has been tuned to the nth degree. Even the fine vertical style crease that runs through the tail lamps has a purpose beyond good looks”.


The opulence of the newly designed VF interior is reflected through Holden Design’s modern and luxurious colour and trim strategy. 

The 2013 Calais V interior environment has been enhanced with a strong focus on custom-tailored detail, with finishes like perforated materials, suedes and chrome carefully selected to reflect the luxury sport design theme. Additional accents of wood and chrome also give the interior an air of modern sophistication.

Two interior images were created – a dark image with light titanium accents and more technical decoration strategy – and a lighter interior environment, which points to the ultimate in luxury styling.

Both images place a strong emphasis on decoration, with a carefully considered layering of materials, more jewelled decoration and stitching detail.  Materials are repeated across different elements in the interior such as the seats and instrument panel, to augment the sense of luxury.

Bright décor also helps to emphasise the luxuriousness of the interior space.

Chief designer for colour and trim design, Sharon Gauci said designing VF gave the team the opportunity to decorate more elements in the car, with the aim of achieving a sense of richness through all of the materials.

“The new VF interior environment is designed to go above and beyond traditional customer expectations,” Ms Gauci said.

“With VF, we aimed to create the ultimate interior for the price point with a harmonious and cohesive approach to our colour and trim strategy. 

“The VF Calais V show car presents a very connected interior environment and we’re satisfied we have met the brief for a technical, modern and luxurious interior.”


The Calais V lower front fascia features black honeycomb mesh insert detail on a chrome-laced central air intake.  Outboard ports sport chrome over-riders and an LED daylight running lamp/park lamp combination, integrated by a stand-out chrome ribbon.

The deep, trapezoidal grille has a bright chrome surround, header and horizontal bars; prominent Holden branding against a gloss black textured mesh background.

Fluid, sculptural halogen projector headlamps are strikingly shaped and jewelled, with intricate internal layers, a light guide ‘eyebrow’, a hooded flash detail that runs down and over the projector and black bezel detailing.

The fascia is flanked by prominent front fenders and flared, aero-modified wheel arches.

The Calais V show car’s deep-dished 20-inch double 10-spoke machine-faced alloy wheels feature radial triangular elements.

Slim vertical fender vents with a chrome surround incorporate repeater lamps.

Door handle surrounds, belt line and door frame mouldings are finished in bright chrome, while the Prussian Steel Concept exterior colour echoes the luxury styling of the bright chrome exterior finishes.

Replicating the fluid headlamp design, the integrated tail lamps extend into the decklid. They incorporate complex jewellery detailing and chrome rings surround instantly identifiable red-lit ‘hotspots’.

Further features include a V-Series decklid badge, new reflectors in the lower valance and dual circular chrome exhaust outlets.

Watch out Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Jaguar, Audi …




New Jaguar XJ debuted at its Australian technological birthplace

NOT A LOT of people know this. The new all-aluminium Jaguar XJ actually made its Australian public debut as part of the Australian Innovation Exhibition 2010, staged in Brisbane.

Jaguar's new XJ debuts in Brisbane CBD.


Why the Australian Innovation Exhibition (AIE 2010) in Brisbane? The reason was an astonishing and little-known fact: the self piercing riveting system used to build Jaguar's XJ and XK aluminium bodied models was invented and patented by Brisbane engineers Ralph Fuhrmeister and Stuart Blacket and today it is marketed globally by the Henrob group of companies

The Jaguar XJ is a platform for automotive innovation in its own right. Apart from its muscular external styling - and, its design director Ian Callum happily admits, an interior ambience reminiscent of the classic American wooden launches - the XJ has won global engineering and design acclaim for its sustainability innovations as much as its automotive prowess.

Jaguar won the Luxury Car category in the 2010 What Car? Green Awards in the UK with its XJ 3.0 Diesel V6 Luxury.

Jaguar says its new XJ benefits from the most advanced, powerful and efficient Jaguar powertrains ever built and is constructed using Jaguar's aerospace-inspired aluminium body technology, which makes the XJ lighter than its rivals by at least 150kg.

The XJ is a big car, but lightweight and agile.


These technologies combine to improve performance, handling and economy, while delivering increased strength, refinement and safety.

What Car? editor-in-chief Steve Fowler said, "British designed and built, the Jaguar is equipped with an efficient, high-tech diesel engine which in a comparatively light car makes for some spectacular emissions figures: CO2 is just 184g/km, while NOx is an equally impressive 0.142g/km. 

"Look no further if you want a luxury car that's as good for the driver as it is for the environment."

Design makes a strong statement in all aspects, with a unique panoramic glass roof, standard on all models, dramatically enhancing the sense of light and space inside the new XJ, even though it has a low swooping roofline.

The XJ also introduces a new generation of interior technologies, pioneering the use of display and infotainment systems such as the innovative Virtual Instrument dials (they mimic chrome-surround analogue types of Jaguar's heritage, but are entirely projected on the LCD screen) and an optional 1200W Bowers & Wilkins premium surround sound system.

An option is Jaguar's no-compromise diesel alternative to petrol V6 and V8 engines, provided by the formidable 275PS 3.0-litre AJ-V6D Gen III. With twin sequential turbochargers, this is an engine that delivers on every aspect of the Jaguar driving experience, marrying tremendous drive (UK figures: 0-60mph in 6.0 secs, 0-100kmh in 6.4 secs) with impressive fuel economy and CO2 emissions (UK: 40.1mpg and 184g/km of CO2).

The XJ is guided by a new approach by Jaguar to sustainable motoring, with its lightweight aluminium body structure and advanced powertrains. Jaguar has developed its approach to sustainability by focusing on the ‘lifecycle' of a vehicle, which Jaguar asserts to be a "more stringent approach to sustainability than standalone measures like fuel consumption or CO2 emissions".

"Environmental considerations are increasingly important to car buyers," said Geoff Cousins, the managing director of Jaguar UK at the launch. "By taking a lifecycle approach to the new XJ we have minimised the amount of materials used, we use recycled material and low-energy manufacturing processes, as well as making the vehicle easy to recycle at the end of its life."

Jaguar's aluminium architecture is a significant contributor to the green credentials of the new XJ. It uses around 50 percent recycled material in the body, and plans are in place to increase that figure to 75 percent. This alone creates a saving of three tonnes of CO2 per vehicle, compared to a bodyshell made from new aluminium.

"This accolade from What Car? demonstrates that we have successfully created a green car without compromising the quality, luxury and sports car-like drive that our customers want to enjoy in their Jaguar," Mr Cousins said.

"This all helps make the Jaguar XJ more desirable which boosts residual values - industry experts already predict that the new Jaguar XJ will have class-leading residual values; better than Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz over the next three years (in the UK)."

In the first month on sale in the UK, the XJ took the market lead, outselling the rival Mercedes S Class and BMW 7-Series.

  • The Australian Innovation Exhibition was presented by Business Acumen Magazine and Venture Capital Corporation. Its foundation sponsors were the Australian Institute for Commercialisation, the Angel Investors Association of Australia and the Australian Venture Capital Association Limited.
  • AIE 2010 was also an event of Enable 2010, an initiative of Brisbane Marketing and Brisbane: Australia's New World City.


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