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'Bland' Monaro stalls in US
By Neil McDonald (The Australian)
November 24, 2004

HOLDEN'S Monaro has bombed in the US, with American dealers complaining it is bland and too expensive.

General Motors' Pontiac, which sells a left-hand-drive version of the coupe badged as GTOs, has slashed orders for next year by 30 per cent from 18,000 models to 12,000.

To help shift cars, Pontiac is offering $US3500 ($4480) rebates for remaining 2004 stock. At the start of the month, dealers had 5900 GTOs stockpiled, amounting to 127 days' supply, having sold 9487 GTOs in a market that sells more than 16 million vehicles a year.

When it was launched in the US a year ago the GTO was heralded as a bold export initiative that could pave the way for other Holden-built vehicles to North America.

Holden yesterday played down suggestions the downturn was a blow to its US export aspirations, with company spokesman Jason Laird saying it had to be realistic about exports.

"If the forecasts need to be revised, we need to be flexible," he said.

"The agreement was always around a notional number that GM could sell and that was acceptable to everyone who had a stake in it."

But US dealers, who describe the Monaro's Euro-styling as bland, have been grumbling about the GTO's price being too high at $US33,000, particularly when compared with Ford's new Mustang, which costs less than $US25,000.

Holden responded by introducing prominent dual exhausts, bonnet scoops and a more aggressive grille treatment for its export model.

Pontiac's marketing manager for the company's premium mid-size cars, Larry Pryg, admitted to US media that it did not conduct enough research on the GTO. Despite the slowing US demand, Holden's third shift at its Elizabeth factory in Adelaide would not be affected, as it was stretched to capacity building 835 cars a day, Mr Laird said.

"From a production perspective we are running at absolute capacity at the moment, so if the program moves downwards in '05 there are certainly any one of a number of ways to meaningfully use that capacity somewhere else."

The GTO sales ceiling of 18,000 cars a year was negotiated between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union. The Monaro was launched in Australia in December 2001 after debuting as a concept car at the 1998 Sydney motor show. It cost $60 million to develop.

The Australian
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