Holden, a subsidiary of General Motors is an Australian car company that has been building some of the neatest musclecars during the past twenty years. Because of their willingness to push the edge of power, and combined with some of the coolest foundries in the world, GM continually looks to the car builder for models that they can bring to the world market. Often the question becomes, what Holden vehicle can be built for the U.S. market?
A few of the Holden models have done well when exported, as evidenced by the VF Commodore’s transport to the U.S. as the Chevrolet SS sedan. One of the most prominent vehicles to resurface annually as a potential for the U.S. market is the very popular Holden Ute, which always brings up the question: Should Chevy build the Australian Commodore Ute in the U.S.?
As for manufacturing a new utility vehicle based on the Commodore Ute, we are going to say no, but not for the reasons that you think. The Ute has a long history in Australia, reaching back to 1934 when Ford built the first “Coupe Ute” at their Victoria plant in Melbourne. Holden entered the utility market in 1951 with their production of the FX. Holden continued to make the Ute throughout the 50s with the FJ model.
Meanwhile in the U.S., Ford got the jump on Chevrolet again when the Ranchero was released in 1957. As a response, Chevy began producing the El Camino in 1959 for a limited two-year production run, ending with the 1960 model year.
When the Chevelle was released in 1964, the El Camino was reintroduced to the marketplace on that new platform. The nameplate continued on that platform through the 1977 model year, before switching to the G-body platform in 1978.
The El Camino was manufactured until 1987, when it was quietly discontinued, with no explanation. The Holden Commodore Ute however, continued to soldier away down under, leaving the American utility fans to dream “what if.”
Like all things that have ceased while popularity was still at a high, annual rumors of a new El Camino continue to surface, hoping that GM actually begins design work on a new utility vehicle. In 2008, the Pontiac G8 ST was shown at the New York International Auto Show, and while based on the Holden Ute, it was actually built on the Holden G8 platform.
Plans to manufacture the new G8 ST were set in place for a release as a 2010 model, which would have been GM’s first utility coupe in the U.S. since the El Camino stopped production in 1987. The automotive press cheered and rallied support for the new Ute, when GM unexpectedly announced to their dealers that the G8 ST was cancelled due to budget cuts and restructuring.
Granted, the market collapse and subsequent economic problems in the U.S. put pressure on GM to minimize their product lines. However, the company floated rumors in 2011 that the El Camino could return to the Chevrolet product lineup as early as 2015.
Given that GM has planned on bringing back the El Camino nameplate as a utility coupe, manufacturing the Holden VF Ute in the U.S. would kill off the utility market with substandard sales. The El Camino’s name recognition should still count for thousands of sales that the Holden Ute would miss.
In sheer economic terms, we believe that anything less than a new El Camino based on an existing Chevrolet platform would be a disaster, leading to a short production run and eventual discontinuing of the model. Our answer to the question of building the Holden Ute on American soil is a resounding “no.”