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A Belgian entrepreneur wants to salvage GM’s Australian division by taking it global

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A Belgian entrepreneur named Guido Dumarey has outlined a plan to save Australia’s ailing car industry from completely collapsing before the end of the decade.

Ford, General Motors’ Holden division, and Toyota will stop building cars in Australia by 2018. The decision affects dozens of nameplates, but Dumarey’s team has its sights set on the Holden Commodore sedan — which is sold in the United States as the Chevrolet SS –, the rear-wheel drive platform that it rides on, and the factory that it’s built in.

Called Project Erich internally, Dumarey’s business plan aims to turn the Commodore into a full-fledged brand that sells up to 16 cars. Existing models like the Commodore and the Ute (pictured) will be updated with more modern drivetrains and new sheet metal, and the lineup will be expanded with new derivatives including a rugged station wagon similar to Audi’s allroad, a flagship coupe, and a four-seater version of the Ute inspired by the stillborn GMC Denali XT concept that was presented to the public at the 2008 Chicago Motor Show.

Every car will be moved up a notch and positioned in the premium segment. To fight head to head against the Germans, Dumarey explains his company will need to develop potent turbodiesel engines, fuel-sipping hybrid drivetrains, and a weather-beating all-wheel drive system.

“In two years time you can get the ride out of a Zeta platform that you have the same feeling as BMW,” he told Australian website Motoring.

That’s easier said than done, but the entrepreneur is familiar with the auto industry because he owns and operates a factory located in Strasbourg, France, that provides transmissions to BMW and Holden, among other car makers. Notably, Dumarey purchased the plant from General Motors in late 2012.

Dumarey is well aware that his company won’t be able to recoup the massive investment it needs to make if it only sells cars on the Australian market, so the new Commodore-based lineup will be exported to countries all around the globe. Precisely what this means for the United States remains to be seen, but at the very least it suggests that American motorists won’t be left without a big, V8-powered rear-wheel drive sedan after Chevrolet deep-sixes the SS.

General Motors hasn’t commented on the report, and it hasn’t publicly expressed an interest in selling its Elizabeth, South Australia, factory. As for the Commodore, the nameplate will live on but the platform that underpins it is scheduled to be phased out completely in 2017, which gives Dumarey hope that GM executives will give him the license to build and develop it for free.

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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