Holden’s secret plan to build a Zeta-based SUV

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Last Holden Commodore to be built in Australia - October 2017

Last Holden Commodore to be built in Australia - October 2017

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Before there was the Alpha and Omega, General Motors had a platform for rear-wheel-drive large cars called Zeta. Developed in Australia by GM’s local subsidiary Holden, the platform was economical enough to use in non-premium cars but it was also a bit on the heavy side. (It featured in the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro which was often criticized for being too portly.)

The platform made its debut in 2006 in the VE-series Holden Commodore. GM wanted to use the platform in a handful of models to be sold globally, including in some Cadillacs, but the twin effects of the global financial crisis and tougher fuel economy standards put an end to those plans. Remember the Pontiac G8 ST and GMC Denali concepts?

With Holden ending production last week—and with it the last of the Zeta-based cars, the VF-series Commodore—details of another envisioned Zeta-based model has emerged.

Motoring has learned from former Holden designer Mark Sheridan that an SUV to be sold in Australia and elsewhere had been penned. In Australia, it would have targeted the Ford Territory, a mid-size SUV also based on a rear-wheel-drive platform.

According to Sheridan, there were as many as 15 vehicles, including all derivatives, envisioned on Zeta. Another was a small sport sedan previewed by Holden’s Torana concept unveiled in 2004.

When contacted, a Holden spokesperson replied with “no comment.”

If Holden had received approval last decade to build the SUV at its plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, the brand might have been better positioned to capitalize on the imminent boom in demand for SUVs. The added volume might have also saved the plant from last week’s shutdown. Sadly, we’ll never know.

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