Holden’s death ‘dignified’ as 800 jobs in limbo

 

A 'DIGNIFIED' death is being planned for Australia's homegrown Holden after its American owner made the shock announcement the brand would be axed.

Holden's parent company General Motors revealed yesterday that, due to "highly fragmented right-hand-drive market" and the lack of return on investment, the Holden brand would be axed before 2021.

The decision will close all the brand's import operations, engineering and design facilities and finance arm.

About 800 staff, including a "small number" in Queensland, will be out of work by the end of June as the company's operations wind down.

The American corporation's decision to pull the pin on Holden altogether comes just two months after it decided to stop producing the once loved Commodore.

Australia's 185 Holden dealers, including 39 in Queensland, will also be offered compensation with the end of the 160-year-old brand likely to also spell the end of some dealerships.

 

Holden dealership at Newmarket, Brisbane. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Holden dealership at Newmarket, Brisbane. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

 

The Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTAQ) believes about 780 staff across the state's dealers will be affected.

Holden owners have been assured all warranties and servicing offers will remain and General Motors has pledged to provide servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years through national aftersales networks.

Holden's Australian leadership team presented a business case to General Motors' executives, who decided the investment in future Holden models would not generate a significant return.

"After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritise the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally," General Motors' International Operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett said.

"It's tough to support a brand and a business that operates in just two markets.

"This was an agonising decision for us and one we didn't make lightly or easily."

General Motors says the move will cost more than US$1 billion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday voiced his anger over General Motors taking billions of dollars in government subsidies only to let the Holden brand die and then walk away from the Australian market.

 

GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquailina (left) and GM international operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett address the media in Melbourne. (AAP Image/James Ross)
GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquailina (left) and GM international operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett address the media in Melbourne. (AAP Image/James Ross)

 

"They took money from Australian taxpayers for all those years just to let the Holden brand wither on their watch - that's disappointing," he said.

Holden started as a saddlery in Adelaide in 1856 and moved into building vehicle bodies before it was purchased by General Motors in 1931.

In 1948 the first Australian-made Holden car was launched in Port Melbourne, which Prime Minister Ben Chifley declared "a beauty".

It was the first of 7.6 million cars sold over the next 72 years as Holden became embedded into the fabric of Australia.

The retirement of the brand yesterday came less than three years after the last Australian-made Commodore V8 rolled off the Adelaide production line.

Sales of the Commodore, considered the heartbeat of the brand, fell from 200,000 annual sales in the mid-2000s to just 5915 last year.

In 2019 Holden posted its lowest annual sales since 1954.

 

HSV W427 with race driver Mark Skaife in 2008. Picture: Joshua Dowling.
HSV W427 with race driver Mark Skaife in 2008. Picture: Joshua Dowling.

 

MTAQ CEO Brett Dale said the death of Holden was a shock, but not unpredictable.

"Holden never really understood the Australian market once they took the Commodore offshore after 2017," he said.

"We didn't see a long future but this closure is certainly sooner than I thought."

Dr Dale said Queensland dealerships were eagerly waiting to see the detail about Holden's compensation package, with most unable to swap manufacturers when Holden closes.

AP Eagers has partnered with General Motors since 1930, 18 years prior to Holden's launch in Australia.

AP Eagers CEO Martin Ward said it was a "very sad day for our company" who have diligently represented the Holden brand.

"General Motors has indicated that it intends to outline proposed transition and compensation

arrangements with each dealer on a confidential basis and that these arrangements will be fair," he said.

He said AP Eagers would assess the financial effect on the company once further details were received from General Motors.



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