Can U.S. buyers find a good Ute for an Australian pickup?
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Lighter, less capable pickups -- perhaps car-based -- are a real possibility for the United States.
If proposed tougher CAFE regulations become law and fuel prices remain high, automakers likely will be forced to rethink their pickup lineups. The new federal CAFE standards will be decided late next year and enacted beginning in 2017.
In fact, stiffer regulations could open the door for Holden’s Commodore Ute, a car-based pickup assembled in Australia, says Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America. Aussies refer to a pickup as a “ute,” as in utility vehicle. Reuss is former managing director of GM Holden.
The Ute is to the Commodore what the El Camino once was to Chevrolet. The El Camino is a collectable car-based pickup that was sold here in 1959, and then in the ’60s into the ’80s.
Speaking of the need to possibly offer lighter, less capable pickups, Reuss said ''the bandwidth we have on pickup trucks in the U.S. is huge. When you look at fuel prices today, I think there's going to be a segmentation of that bandwidth.''
Reuss was interviewed last week at the New York auto show. His comments appear in a story posted on an automotive Web site based in Australia, drive.com.au.
''I've lived in Australia and I've seen where fuel prices are $5 a gallon,” he said. “Lots of tradesmen will use a ute with a tray on the back to do lots of different things. They don't need the bandwidth of a big pickup truck.”
Reuss didn’t say whether a decision has been made to import the Commodore Ute.
The Commodore Ute is expected to be re-engineered around 2014, according to drive.com.au.
Holden also assembles the rear-drive Chevrolet Caprice police cars that are just entering the U.S. market.
This is not the first time the Commodore Ute has been talked about for the United States. The Ute had been penciled in for the Pontiac brand a few years ago but it was never imported.