In a statement on Monday, GM announced that the Holden brand will be retired from sales, design and engineering in Australia and New Zealand by 2021, meaning that a majority of its 800 staff would lose their jobs by mid-2020.
The car maker’s move has not come as a huge surprise, given that in 2017 it ended its Australian manufacturing operations, forcing hundreds of job losses.
At a press conference, held in Melbourne on Monday, GM international operations senior vice-president Julian Blissett explained that 600 of its 800 employees would be let go by the end of June this year, while some 200 will remain as part of the company’s promise to provide its customers with servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years through national after-sales networks.
The 600 employees facing unemployment have been promised separation packages and employment transition support.
Mr Blissett said GM had taken the “difficult decision” to end Holden’s proud 160-year history after implementing and considering numerous options to maintain and turn around its operations.
In the end, the decision came down to “global priorities”.
“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.”
According to GM, the giant undertook a detailed analysis of the investment required for Holden to be competitive beyond the current generation of products. Factors impacting the business case for further investment included the highly fragmented right-hand-drive markets, the economics to support growing the brand and delivering an appropriate return on investment.
Mr Blissett said: “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.
“This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team.”
GM now intends to focus its growth strategy in Australia and New Zealand on the specialty vehicles business and plans to immediately work with its partner on developing these plans.
Following GM’s announcement, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews took to Twitter to voice her disappointment.
“My first car was a Torana I bought from my grandfather. I’m very disappointed @holden_aus is walking away from Australia after billions in support from successive governments. @GM has assured me they will take care of workers and dealers. I will hold them to that,” the minister said.
‘Dignified wind-down’ in the works
GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina said that given the significance of Holden through its history, it was critical the company worked with all stakeholders to deliver a dignified and respectful wind-down.
“Holden will always have a special place in the development of our countries. As Australia and New Zealand grew, Holden was a part of the engine room fuelling that development,” Mr Aquilina said.
Acknowledging that Monday’s announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holdens, drive Holdens and feel connected to the company, Mr Aquilina noted that the challenges were just too great.
“Unfortunately, all the hard work and talent of the Holden family, the support of our parent company GM and the passion of our loyal supporters have not been enough to overcome our 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.”