Holden brand to disappear in Australia; nearly 600 jobs gone

(Source: Suttons City Holden)

General Motors (GM) has announced that Holden will close down for good in Australia, with nearly 600 jobs to go.

The local sales, design and operations teams will be wound down by 2021 and the decision comes after several options were considered to maintain the brand in the country, according to GM international operations senior vice president Julian Blissett.

But the business has been hampered by “highly fragmented right-hand-drive markets”, the economics of growing the brand, and poor return-on-investment, a statement from GM said.

“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,” said Blissett.

The closure means 70 per cent of 800 jobs – roughly 560 jobs – will be lost, with most of these in Melbourne. The remaining 240 jobs will service customers for the next decade.

Blissett added that the Australian team’s performance was not to blame for the closure.

“This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team.”

Holden Commodores as the car brand bows out of Australia. (Source: autocar.co.uk)

According to the statement, GM will instead focus on the “specialty vehicles business”.

GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina said the announcement would be felt by people who drive and love Holdens, but that the hard work of the Holden team was not enough to overcome challenges.

“We understand the impact of this decision on our people, our customers, our dealers and our partners – and will work closely with all stakeholders to deliver a dignified and respectful transition,” Aquilina said.

Maven and Holden Financial Services will also be wound down in Australia.

How will Holden staff be impacted?

600 Holden employees will be given ‘separation packages’ and employment transition support, according to the statement.

“Holden will work with its dealer network on appropriate transition arrangements, including offering dealers the opportunity to continue as authorised service outlets to support Holden customers,” the statement said.

What happens to me if I’m a Holden customer?

Holden has said it will continue to honour all warranties and servicing offers that were made at the time of sale, and will continue to provide servicing and spare parts for the next 10 years at minimum through “national aftersales networks” throughout Australia and New Zealand.

This aftersales network will also handle recalls and safety-related issues that may arise.

Australian Holden customers can get in touch with Customer Care at 1800 46 465 336 or holden.com.au.

Holden customers in New Zealand should contact 0800 465 336 or holden.co.nz.

Yahoo Finance has contacted Holden for comment.

Holden’s 164-year history

Although Holden is now known and loved for its vehicles, the iconic Australian company began as a saddlery business in 1856 in Adelaide, and grew over the years to become a full-scale manufacturer of vehicle bodies.

In 1931, General Motors bought Holden Motor Body Builders, and the two companies merged to become General Motors-Holden’s.

Car production was put on pause when World War II broke, and Holden became an armaments manufacturer, creating army trucks, aircraft engines and field guns. However, producing these goods helped Holden sharpen their skills and depth.

A new headquarters and assembly plant was opened in Port Melbourne in 1936, and the first all-Australian motor vehicle was launched in Australia in 1948.

Holden in the 1950s. (Source: Holden)

From the 1950s, Holden dominated and shaped the Australian vehicle market, and the 1960s saw the brand export cars to Africa, the mIddle East, South-East Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean.

The Commodore was introduced in 1978, and a $300 million Holden expansion program was announced in 1977.

Holden in the 1970s. (Source: Holden)

Holden encountered some hiccups in the 1980s, and the Ford Falcon pipped Holden Commodore as the best-selling Australian car, though Holden reclaimed its place as Australia’s top car manufacturer by the end of the decade.

However, in the 2000s, Toyota beat Holden as the top-selling brand. In 2013, a high Australian dollar, tough competition and a diminishing large car segment hit Holden hard, alongside then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement that it would reduce support for automotive manufacturers. That year, Holden announced it would cease manufacturing cars by 2017.

In 2019, GM announced that the Commodore and Astra models would be discontinued in 2020.

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