Some disappointing news from Australia over the weekend, with word from General Motors that it intends to pull the plug on its historic Holden brand. Set to wrap up its operations by the end of the year, the move marks a sudden and unceremonious end to the 164-year old company.
Of course, Holden hasn't really been itself for a few years now. Having begun trading as a saddle maker in 1856, the South Australian company didn't move into vehicle production until 1908. It was acquired by GM in 1931, the start of a partnership which would go on to produce legendary models like the HQ, A9X Torana, Commodore, Monaro and Ute. In 2017, however, it was announced that domestic production of Holden cars would cease, with models manufactured more cheaply abroad instead being imported into Australia.
The move led to the loss of almost 3,000 jobs, and was marked by the release of three special edition Commodores: the Motorsport, the Magnum and the Director. All powered by 6.2-litre LS3 V8s and equipped with lighter brakes, 20-inch split-rim wheels, magnetic dampers, enhanced styling and upgraded upholstery, they were a fitting tribute to the brand's historically muscle-bound approach.
From that point on the company mainly sold re-badged GM products, with the Commodore taking on the same guise as the European Vauxhall/Opel Insignia. This somewhat inevitably led to a slump in sales; last year's total of 60,751 cars representing not only a fall of 32 per cent year-on-year, but the marque's worst result since 1948. All of which has brought us here, with Holden's remaining 600 employees set to be made redundant, GM's Melbourne design studio and Lang Lang test facility scheduled to close, and the fate of its factory Supercar team - run by Triple Eight Race Engineering - up in the air - despite a commitment till the end of the 2021 season having been signed just last year.
"Through its proud 160-year history, Holden has not only made cars, it has been a powerful driver of the industrialization and advancement of Australia and New Zealand," said GM Senior International Operations VP, Julian Blissett. "Over recent years, as the industry underwent significant change globally and locally, we implemented a number of alternative strategies to try to sustain and improve the business, together with the local team. After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritize the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally."
In addition to the mothballing of Holden, GM will restructure the rest of its international operations. The move will see it pull out of right-hand drive markets such as Thailand, with Chinese firm Great Wall purchasing its manufacturing plant there. Explaining the shake up, Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said: "I've often said that we will do the right thing, even when it's hard, and this is one of those times. We are restructuring our international operations, focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in the areas of EVs and AVs."
PHers are already discussing the news in the forums here.