CHEVROLET is locked and loaded for a major push into Australia next year, starting in April with the Silverado pick-up, which promises heavyweight hauling and towing ability.
The V8 Camaro coupe will land in July to resume its longstanding muscle car rivalry with the Ford Mustang.
The Chevrolet program is a Holden Special Vehicles project, backed by Holden, to do right-hand drive conversions and production work at a bigger new headquarters at Clayton, Victoria.
The two newcomers will retain Chevrolet badges but will be sold through HSV Holden dealers. The Camaro SS, with more speed and power than the Mustang, should start at about $85,000.
HSV and Holden are developing a closer partnership after past headbutting over the placement and pricing of hot rod Commodores.
"We're talking products that are iconic Chevrolet products. It's exciting. It brings new people," says Holden marketing director Mark Harland.
HSV boss Tim Jackson says, "It's really about making exciting products. You will continue to see us enhance products but also engineer products from left-hand drive to right-hand drive.
"The Camaro keeps us grounded a little bit in what we've traditionally been. The job is to get the steering wheel from the left-hand side to the right in a way you don't notice."
He admits the company had been slow to investigate programs beyond the longstanding Holden Commodore heartland but is now working hard on expanding the HSV footprint.
"We had a business that got a hard stop in 2017. We had to reinvent ourselves and reshape ourselves to do new things. We asked two questions: where will we play and how will we compete?"
The initial sales target for the Camaro is about 1000 cars and, for the Silverado, slightly fewer. The pick-up's diesel engines endow massive towing and hauling capacity, the larger of the two producing 1234Nm.
Harland says he sees no conflict of interest between HSV's Chevrolet work and the similar conversion and production carried out by another division of the Walkinshaw empire on the RAM truck.
He also rules out any chance of the Chevrolet name becoming more prominent than Holden, or perhaps a complete change in the future to the global Chevrolet branding.
"Holden is here to stay. Holden has a place and there are no plans to change that branding whatsoever. (But) I think Chevrolet plays a role," he says.
"These will be Chevrolet products. You couldn't put a Holden badge on these, people wouldn't believe it."
According to Jackson, the Chevrolet program is the start of a new chapter for HSV. "There will be more product coming. This is the beginning, not the end," he says. "It gives us permission to go exploring other vehicles."
A NEW MAP FOR HSV
Holden Special Vehicles has a new long-term agreement with Holden, an updated logo and a new headquarters as it moves into the post-Commodore era.
It is also aiming to take its annual production to about 5000 cars in the medium term, far more than it ever made as a Holden hot shop, spread over Colorado, Chevrolet and other nameplates.
After 22 years at its base in Clayton, Victoria, the company moves on December 16 to a neighbouring facility with four production lines, a new design studio, a new engineering workshop and office space spread over 28,000 square metres.
"It's a very nice new pivot for us," says HSV's Jackson. "I'm mapped out to 2021 but it's not a complete map. There are other opportunities I think we can pursue."
Jackson says HSV has hired an additional 20 engineers over the past 18 months and will have a workforce of 150-160 when it reaches full production of its new line-up.
He will not discuss costs or the duration of the new Holden contract but says the latest developments provide a firm base for the future.
"We don't want to be reinventing ourselves every three years. The broader structure allows us to develop more projects."