Holden closure brings future of Australian manufacturing back to fore

Photo: Holden Special Vehicles

The announcement earlier this week that Holden manufacturing will cease has brought the future of the manufacturing sector back into the public’s eye. While pundits proclaim the “death” of Australian manufacturing, the news is not an accurate indication of Australia’s manufacturing sector according to the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’s (AMGC).

“General Motors’ decision to retire the Holden nameplate marks the end of an iconic brand but, is in no way indicative of what’s happening right now in Australia’s vibrant manufacturing sector. All industries experience change, so let’s stay focused on transforming our domestic manufacturing capabilities,” AMGC’s managing director, Dr. Jens Goennemann, said.

While the brand will shut down by 2021 with most dealerships to close by the end of the year, Holden’s exit strategy is not yet clear. Parent company General Motors, which closed its local manufacturing operations in 2017, have also announced plans to shut a car plant in Thailand and withdraw the Chevrolet brand from the market there. The two shutdowns will cost the company more than $1 billion.

The decision to close Holden’s operations was based on the company’s global priorities, according to GM International Operations senior vice president Julian Blissett.

“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,” Blissett said.

Automotive manufacture is experiencing an overall transformation, like most manufacturing sectors, and the AMGC remains confident about local expertise.

“The best way we can support those impacted by this announcement is to continue our efforts to grow our local manufacturing capabilities across the entire value-add chain, be it in automotive, or other manufacturing sectors. For example, Holden Special Vehicles who could enter into further remanufacturing agreements, in turn, increased their workforce and its skills as a result,” Goennemann said.

Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) is Holden’s performance vehicle division. Established in 1987 and based in Victoria, HSV modifies Holden models for domestic and export sale. HSV also modifies other non-Holden cars within the GM portfolio in low volumes.

With the discontinuation of Holden, Chevrolet plans to continue exporting the Camaro and Silverado to the Australasia region under a newly proposed formed entity, General Motor Specialty Vehicles, which would handle the distribution and conversion of key Chevrolet vehicles after Holden ceases operations, continuing under the HSV arrangement.