Saturday, January 07, 2012

It's the product, stupid.

After fifteen years as Australia's best selling new car, the Holden Commodore (rebadged as Chevrolet Lumina in the Gulf) has been knocked off its perch by Mazda3.

The reports are all about the trend to smaller cars being the reason. None of them mention what I'm convinced is a major factor. 

The product has steadily got worse over the last few years.

I've had a number of Commodores, the last one before we moved back to Dubai was a VS. A great car, 3.8 V6 but fuel efficient, excellent handling, roomy but sporty (0 to 100kph in 7.2 seconds).

I sold it to a friend when we moved and it's still performing as well as ever.

When we decided to move back I made the mistake of ordering the new Commodore Series II SV6 (the same sporty model as the last one) so that it was ready for me when we arrived.

I should have been less impatient and arranged a test drive. Had I done that I wouldn't have bought one.

The only improvement is the interior, which to be fair is very good.

As for the rest, it's the opposite of an improved model.

There's a new 3.6 V6 engine with claimed improved fuel consumption. In reality it's far worse than the old Commodore.

Response to stamping on the accelerator is far from instant. There's a very noticeable delay in the command being answered.

It's impossible to keep the car at a constant speed, you're on and off the accelerator trying to adjust it all the time, and the delay in response makes it even more frustrating.

The wing mirrors are as good as useless. Designed for look rather than functionality - surely the reason you have them - they're far too narrow. They can be positioned to either show vehicles behind but no road or road but no rear vision.

You need them positioned to show vehicles approaching or overtaking, so you can't use them for parking unless you fiddle around changing them all the time, which is impractical.

The rear window is at an angle that distorts the rear view, so reversing is difficult. The wing mirrors give you no help.

Visibility is very bad, with overly thick pillars on all four corners and between front and rear windows.

Then there's the unnecessary use of digital technology when it's not as useful or user friendly as the old mechanical system it replaces.

To see your mileage you can no longer glance at the mileometer reading. You have to click through a menu using the steering wheel-mounted controls and look at it on the little screen. Your eyes are off the road all the time you're scrolling through the menu trying to find the right information.

Companies here are endlessly complaining about business being bad. It's all the fault of the internet, of our changing spending habits, of the strong Aussie dollar, of government actions, of concerns about the Euro and the US economy.

Anything but their own actions, in fact.

The Commodore is a good example of a vital underlying problem that they all suffer from. But don't see, or won't admit.

 They haven't got the bloody product right.


Duffy said...

Funny. The Holden has something of a cult following in the US as it's a Chevy with a performance package we can't get here. Likewise there's a following for the Ford FPV stuff here also. Any idea how the FPV's stack up against the Holdens?

Seabee said...

Duffy, the whole Ford and Holden range are very similar in performance, including the two performance divisions, FPV and HSV. It really comes down to personal preference.

Do you see any of the V8Supercar races on TV in the US? If you do you'll see it's hard to tell the two brands apart and the honours are usually pretty evenly spread.

Duffy said...

Yes we do get the V8 supercar races here and yes, they're not easy to tell apart.

My point was that while the Lumina is available here and can be tweaked to match the Holden's performance, the entire Ford FPV platform is unavailable here.

Seabee said...

I hadn't thought about it, but now you mention it I haven't seen the Aussie Fords anywhere but here.

The GM Holdens on the other hand, what here is the Holden Commodore range, is exported (rebadged as Chevrolet).

Holden's equivalent of Ford's FPV is Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) but again I don't remember seeing of them overseas, just the basic Commodore range (V6 and V8).