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VU Series Ute Makes Its New Zealand Debut

Tuesday, March 27, 2001


Available for immediate use

Holden’s Stylish New VU Series Ute Makes Its New Zealand Debut

The first completely new Holden Ute in ten years - dubbed the VU Series, combines passenger car attributes with the flexibility of a smart workhorse. The Ute’s striking good looks demonstrate a clear sports cum recreational design theme highlighted by flowing, rounded lines, a unique flush-fitting tonneau cover and strong front-end styling.

In a world-first move, Holden has equipped the new VU Ute with independent rear suspension (IRS), endowing it with sedan-like ride and handling qualities. These are complemented by passenger car levels of performance, comfort, safety and refinement. Stronger-bodied and more generously proportioned inside and out, the VU Series Holden Ute also offers greater load carrying capacity than before.

Holden invested close to A$80 (NZ$96) million on tooling and purpose-built plant facilities as well as an extensive design and engineering programme for the VU Ute. The company has every expectation that this latest evolution of a legendary model line - regarded by many as an Australian icon - will not just uphold a great tradition but enhance it.

In VU Series guise, the versatile range is extended to include a well-equipped SS model with powerful sports styling. All three models - the Ute, S and SS - offer high levels of comfort, convenience and safety.

Cabin space is significantly larger and the heavy-duty load tray is longer, wider and deeper than before, catering for greater cargo volume. Maximum payload capacity on the “entry level’ Holden Ute with automatic transmission rises to 830 kgs, an increase of 18 per cent on its equivalent VS Series predecessor. Fuel tank capacity has expanded from 63 to 70 litres and a dual fuel petrol/LPG firm order option is available on automatic V6 models.

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Holden’s proven 152 kW, 3.8 litre ECOTEC V6 engine is standard on the Ute and S Ute models, while the SS Ute is powered by a 225 kW 5.7 litre GEN III V8. This engine is available as an option on the S Ute model.

Sports Utility Styling:

The VU Series Holden Ute is a true passenger car derivative, reflecting its Commodore car heritage in the curve of its flanks, its smooth, sculptural surfaces and bold front-end styling. Its purposeful stance and strong proportions are accentuated by an extended wheelbase.

Holden designers placed the emphasis on a fully integrated, sports utility appearance achieving it with careful attention to detail as evidenced by the unique, tailored tonneau cover. The tonneau cover features “snap lock’ flush fitment rather than the traditional hook system.

Cabin space is more roomy, providing more leg, shoulder and headroom, extra space for storage and longer seat travel. VU shares the plush, soft-feel seat trim fabrics and door inserts of VX Commodore models. Like its sedan counterpart, the well-appointed SS Ute reflects a strong sports performance character, with the inclusion of individual features such as a leather-covered steering wheel and handbrake, colour-coded instrument panel and cluster.

World-Leading Driving Dynamics:

To further Holden’s reputation for leadership in driving dynamics, the VU Ute is the first of its kind to be fitted with independent rear suspension (IRS). No other light commercial utility vehicle offers the driveability and safety benefits of IRS - until now the exclusive domain of passenger cars.

Without compromising load-carrying ability, reliability or durability, Holden engineers have ensured that the IRS-equipped VU Ute delivers sedan-smooth ride quality and safer handling via improved steering control and better traction, particularly when cornering on rough surfaces.

With its improved ride and handling attributes, VU is very much a driver’s car. Its superior ride and roadholding abilities are assisted by a wide track and long wheelbase, strong body structure, refined body aerodynamics and a suspension system which delivers excellent lateral grip and high directional stability.

The VU braking system features an all-new load sensing brake-proportioning valve specifically designed and calibrated to suit IRS, giving the VU optimum front-to-rear braking balance under all load conditions.

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Strength and Refinement:

The VU Ute’s all-new body structure shares the VX Commodore wagon wheelbase to provide maximum load space and is substantially stronger and more rigid than before. The benefits of this body construction flow through into greater driving refinement and improved crash performance.

The reinforced and practically proportioned load tray - large enough to cater for standard pallets and building sheets measuring 1.2 x 2.4 metres - features heavy duty, fully galvanised panels.

An intensive, long-term research and development programme has ensured that the VU is the quietest and smoothest Holden Ute ever. Holden’s engineers achieved a 5dB(A) noise improvement through structural and powertrain enhancements, aerodynamics and full-scale wind tunnel testing.

The flush-fitting and practical VU tonneau cover also assists in noise minimisation. Its three-bow system incorporates an isolation bar and is specifically designed to combat the cabin “boom’ that can be caused by a tonneau cover.

Safety Technology:

The Holden VU Ute incorporates higher standards of safety technology than any other commercial vehicle. Holden has benchmarked passenger car standards and equipped the VU Ute with the advanced occupant protection features that are offered by the current VX Series Commodore - from launch, New Zealand’s best selling car last year, and year to date 2001.

Its computer-optimised front structure is designed for “soft pulse’ crash energy management. Additional structure has been added behind the front wheels to manage severe, narrow offset crashes. A reinforced side structure gives enhanced side impact protection. The VU safety design also incorporates three levels of crash sensing and protection - ranging from seat belt webbing clamps and seat belt buckle pre-tensioners through to airbags - to help reduce injury risks in collisions of differing severity.

Primary safety characteristics are also enhanced - with IRS providing superior handling and steering response, and advances like new headlamp technology that increase spread and penetration on low beam.

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Added Features:

The three Utes that make up the VU range are equipped with a comprehensive array of features to complement their sports cum recreational lifestyle character.

The “entry level’ Ute includes creature comforts such as air conditioning, a CD player, six-function trip computer, centre console cupholders, storage box, luggage net and rear window demister. A driver’s airbag, seat belt pre-tensioners, limited slip differential, tachometer and load area tie-down hooks also come as standard.

Distinguished by its tailored soft tonneau cover, 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome highlights, the S Ute features power windows, cruise control, body colour exterior mirrors, steering wheel audio controls and electric driver’s seat height and tilt adjust.

At the top of the range, the sporty SS model is distinguished by 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 235/45 R17 93V tyres, front fog lamps and the SS sedan’s sculptured front fascia and side skirts. The strong performance feel extends to the interior, through the inclusion of the sedan’s sports seats and unique interior treatments. Air conditioning, passenger airbag, power antenna, anti-lock brakes (ABS), sports suspension and Holden’s advanced 225 kW 5.7 litre GEN III V8 are also included as standard.

Warranty and Customer Care:

Like all Holden passenger cars, recreational/sport utility four-wheel drivers and light commercial vehicles, the new Ute is covered by a three-year, 100,000 kilometres warranty - whichever occurs first. Normal service intervals (following the first at 1500 kms) are at every six months or 10,000 kilometres while the vehicle’s braked towing capacity - with Holden approved equipment - is 1600 kilograms.

The VU Ute also comes with “Holden Advantage,’ a motoring assurance package delivered through the collective resources of Holden Dealers and the New Zealand Automobile Association and which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Benefits - which apply to the vehicle rather than driver and are thus transferred on resale, are a breakdown and recovery service and where applicable, an overnight accommodation and/or alternative transport plan - all in accordance with the formal document that accompanies the vehicle. The service is accessed through the toll free number 0800 HOLDEN.

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Available Exterior Paint Colours:

- Heron Solid white

- Red Hot Brilliant highly chromatic solid red

- Genesis (not available on S or SS) Traditional dark navy blue mica

- Phantom Neutral black mica

- Tiger Chromatic orange-gold mica

Basic Dimensions:

- Overall length 5049 mm

- Overall width 1845 mm

- Wheelbase 2939 mm

- Front Track 1569 mm

- Rear Track 1587 mm

Maximum Payload Capacity:

- Holden Ute 830 kilograms

- Holden Ute S 735 kilograms

- Holden Ute SS 665 kilograms

Load Area Dimensions:

- Load length at floor 2193 mm (takes a 2.4 m sheet with tailgate down)

- Load length at belt level 1820 mm

- Load width 1477 mm

- Cargo width between wheelhouses 1226 mm

- Rear opening width at floor level 1273 mm

- Cargo depth 486 mm

Eight tie-downs are provided in the load tray to anchor heavy objects

On Sale Date:

The new VU Series Ute will roll out of Holden showrooms in New Zealand during April 2001.

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Recommended Retail Prices for accessories and models in the VU Series range (inclusive of GST but exclusive of on-road costs, any applicable fitting costs and subject to change without notice):

Model Engine and Transmission R.R.P.

Holden Ute

3.8 litre V6 152 kW 5-speed manual $35,000

3.8 litre V6 152 kW 4-speed automatic $35,000

Options: Passenger Side Airbag $500

Cassette Player $200

LPG (firm order option available on V6 automatic) $1,800

Holden Ute S

3.8 litre V6 152 kW 5-speed manual $38,000

3.8 litre V6 152 kW 4-speed automatic $38,000

5.7 litre V8 225 kW 6-speed manual $42,500

5.7 litre V8 225 kW 4-speed automatic $42,500

Options: Passenger Side Airbag $500

Cassette Player $200

LPG (firm order option available on V6 automatic) $1,800

Holden Ute SS

5.7 litre 225 kW 6-speed manual $47,000

5.7 litre 225 kW 4-speed automatic $47,000

Option: Cassette Player $200

Accessories All Models

Hard Tonneau Cover (pre-painted and lockable) $3,061.80

Soft Tonneau Cover (standard on S and SS) $398.61

Tailgate and Tray Liner - Polyurethane $808.16

Tailgate and Tray Mat - Rubber $323.42

Sports Bar - Polished Alloy $1039.40

Nudge Bar $539.99

Carpet Floor Mats - Pewter colour $85.38

Tow Bar Package (includes ball, wiring harness) $826.87

Mobile Phone Mounting Platform $106.32

Front and Rear Mudflaps (moulded) $115.61

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Contact: Aalbert van Ham (09) 526 6619 (direct telephone line)


Editors’ footnote:

- Additional Holden VU Series images are available - via email - on request.

- The first Holden “coupe utility’ - abbreviated to the laconic, no-nonsense “Ute,’ was launched in 1951 and was based on the very first Holden, the 48-215 sedan (popularly known as the FX). Its official model code was 50-2106.

Buyer demand for the tough, economical, go-anywhere performer was so strong that the waiting list “blew out’ to an amazing 70,000 by the end of 1951. Although Holden couldn’t produce enough Utes to satisfy that kind of demand, its booming sales combined with those of “Australia’s Own Car’ (the 48-215) took Holden to the top of the market that year for the first time.

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The year 2001 marks the Holden Ute’s 50th anniversary - the Commodore based VU Series being the 23rd model. The first Commodore passenger car-derived Ute (dubbed the VG Series and launched in September 1990) was based on the VN Series that made its debut in August 1988.

- Holden Limited’s (Australia) manufacturing facility - incorporating vehicle assembly, body tool design, stamping, plastic moulding, paint and body hardware - is located at Elizabeth, South Australia. The plant produces the Holden Ute, Commodore, Calais, Statesman and Caprice.

The company’s automotive proving ground - located at Lang Lang, Victoria - is responsible for engineering development testing and vehicle validation and verification. Facilities include a safety crash barrier, Hyge sled and vehicle emissions laboratory. The facility also includes 40 kilometres of varying road surfaces for performance testing, high speed testing on a circular track and vehicle durability testing.

- Holden Engine Operations - located in Port Melbourne, Victoria - combines engine assembly and testing, foundry casting facilities and manufacture of key components. A range of four and six cylinder engines is produced. The ECOTEC V6 and Supercharged V6 engines assembled power the VX Series Commodore and Calais, and WH Series Statesman and Caprice long wheelbase models; the VU Series Ute (not Supercharged V6); while a 2.2 litre twin camshaft 16 valve ECOTEC 4 powers Vectra sedans, hatches and wagons.

On December 13, 2000 Holden announced its decision to establish a new V6 engine plant in Victoria. With a base investment of A$400 million growing to A$700 million by mid decade, the Holden engine plant and supporting infrastructure is designed to position Australia as a technology leader in the Asia Pacific region.

The all-aluminum high technology V6 engine that will be produced will power future generations of Holden Commodores and Ute derivatives. The engines will also be exported in high volume to a variety of world markets and respected automotive brands.

Holden’s current V6 engine production outlook scheduled for this year is 100,000 units and four-cylinder units a little below 200,000. The outlook becomes a little more dramatic with volume from the new V6 engine plant scheduled to be 200,000 units in the first year.

Holden also has the intention of producing the 5.7 litre GEN III V8 engine - standard in the VU Series Holden Ute SS - in Australia. The company’s annual V8 volume has increased from 12,000 of the old 5.0 litre to nearly 40,000 units of the GEN III V8 - split evenly between domestic Australia and export vehicles.

- ECOTEC stands for Emissions and Consumption Optimisation through Technology.

- Holden New Zealand Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America. Established as General Motors New Zealand Limited on January 4, 1926, the company changed its name to Holden New Zealand Limited on July 15, 1994.

Following the sale of its long established Trentham site (in Wellington’s Hutt Valley area) the company relocated to Auckland on July 1, 1999 and is now - essentially, a sales, marketing and distribution organisation.

The company markets the Holden Barina, Astra, Vectra, Commodore, Calais, Statesman and Caprice and Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) passenger cars; Holden Ute, Rodeo and Combo light commercial vehicles; Holden Frontera and Holden Monterey sport-utility/recreational four-wheel drive vehicles and Isuzu light, medium and heavy-duty trucks.

- Website address for Holden New Zealand Limited is: „p


Product Information

The VU Series Ute is the first completely new Holden Ute in 10 years.

An improved payload capability and load floor dimensions large enough for a standard pallet and building sheet (1,220 mm x 2,400 mm) dictated the use of the Commodore wagon wheelbase. VU development began in 1997 and in common with all Holden engineering programmes, it was executed entirely in Computer Aided Design (CAD) - enabling extensive use of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technologies.


The fully independent rear suspension is based on the proven semi-trailing arm design used on VX Series Commodore models. Significant rear suspension changes have been made to address the utility’s different requirements. The suspension revisions were driven by the higher rear axle load range.

Lane change behaviour at curb and gross vehicle weight (GVW) was a high priority and targets were achieved by: changing the roll couple distribution front to rear; increasing the wheel width of the entry level model and developing a unique tyre for the entry level model; refining front and rear axle tyre pressures; reducing the rear wheel rate at GVW and increasing rear suspension compression travel.

To ensure durability, rear suspension crossmembers and semi trailing arms and the shock absorber lower bush have been upgraded.

The front suspension is based on the VX Series MacPherson strut system.

Major suspension changes over VS include:

- Higher castor - 8 degrees compared to 5.5 degrees

- Hydraulic tension rod bush

- Five per cent slower steering ratio on-centre

- Variable rate front spring instead of linear

- Front bar diameter increase from 26 mm to 27 mm

Entry Level Ute Suspension Changes over VX Series Wagon:

- Front spring rate increased

- Front stabiliser bar diameter increased to 27 mm

- Rear stabiliser bar diameter reduced to 13 mm

- Front strut damping revised

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- Shock absorber diameter increased by 35 mm (from 300 mm) and damping revised

- Rear spring rate increased

- Tyre pressures revised for increased payload

- Rear suspension geometry revised

- Standing height of vehicle at curb increased

- 15-inch x 7-inch steel wheel

- Higher rating Bridgestone RE 88 205/65 R15 99H tyre

- Increased rear wheel bearing capacity (tapered roller bearing fully sealed for life)

The S Ute shares these features, but is fitted with 16-inch x 7-inch wheels and 225/55 R16 Bridgestone Turanza tyres.

The SS Ute has a unique suspension with a lower trim height and new rear spring.

Front suspension is based on FE2 sedan.


While the VU is essentially the same design as the VX forward of the B pillar, it has 81 major new body components.

Compared to the VX, the main unique body elements are the B pillars, the seat back assembly and a load compartment framework that is strengthened and reinforced to handle higher payloads. It supports a heavy-duty fully galvanised steel load compartment.

The cross-car structure is provided by the seat back panels, the upper panel angled to achieve load bed length, the lower reinforced for additional stiffness.

The B pillars are high-strength components integrated into the side assembly to achieve structural, safety and integrated design requirements. Structural stiffness increases by almost 30 per cent over VS.

Basic Dimensions:

- Overall length 5049 mm

- Overall width 1845 mm

- Wheelbase 2939 mm

- Front Track 1569 mm

- Rear Track 1587 mm

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Maximum Payload Capacity:

- Holden Ute 830 kilograms

- Holden Ute S 735 kilograms

- Holden Ute SS 665 kilograms

Load Area Dimensions:

- Load length at floor 2193 mm (takes a 2.4 m sheet with tailgate down)

- Load length at belt level 1820 mm

- Load width 1477 mm

- Cargo width between wheelhouses 1226 mm

- Rear opening width at floor level 1273 mm

- Cargo depth 486 mm

Eight tie-downs are provided in the load tray to anchor heavy objects

Noise and Vibration:

An intensive N. & V. development programme for VU included full evaluation of each prototype, laboratory testing and a full road noise study of air and structure-borne noise paths.

Cabin road noise has reached passenger car levels of refinement - 67dB(A) in motorway cruising conditions compared to 72dB(A) in the VS Series. This has been achieved through structural improvements such as the stiffer lower back panel and the addition of new, sound-absorbent interior trim. The relocation of cabin air extraction vents to the floor further reduces wind noise.

Unique VU features such as the roof moulding, B pillar, fixed window encapsulation and roof and sailplane cappings were subjected to wind tunnel testing.

A dual rubber coupling propshaft contributes to a noticeable improvement in driveline refinement.

Tonneau Cover:

Airflow over the back of the VU was optimised through full-scale wind tunnel tests.

The B-pillar sailplane geometry and roof rear capping were designed to smoothly direct airflow on to the rear third of the tonneau cover, minimising air disturbance and boom.

In parallel, the tonneau cover’s three-bow configuration was optimised via on-road and wind tunnel testing. A unique VU feature is the isolated front bar, mounted

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behind but separate from the cabin, reducing noise transmission as it decouples the vibration energy of the tonneau from the cabin.

A total boom reduction of 10dB(A) has been achieved at highway cruise speeds.

The tonneau cover is attached by extrusions that snap to the upper rails, making for a tauter fit and providing an even tension. It is the result of a three-year research and development program that tested and validated dimensional stability, construction and design under extreme environmental conditions.

The VU tonneau cover has a secondary elastic cord and an individual hook system so that it can be used for covering oversized loads. When not in use, it can be easily packed in a dedicated storage bag.

Prototype Development and Durability Testing:

VU constituted the first Holden engineering programme to substitute a computer-generated virtual buck for the traditional hard model buck, a process which resulted in faster and superior prototype build. Structural analysis in CAD supported significant design changes that were incorporated into the development programme.

The VU was durability tested over 808,000 kms of accelerated testing at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria, Australia, and thousands more kilometres were clocked up on extended test and validation trips.

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