The manufacture of mass-produced cars in Australia is all but over, with General Motors’ local division Holden announcing today it will cease production by the end of 2017. The news comes just months after Ford announced it will end production in Australia by 2016, and the third local manufacturer, Toyota, has stated that the impact to the supplier base in the country should Holden exit would render its own production operations unviable.
General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] cited the high Aussie dollar, high cost of production and limited domestic sales as factors behind the decision. It also said the decision was part of ongoing actions to decisively address the performance of the company globally. You may recall GM this week also announced it is pulling most of Chevrolet out of Europe by 2016, and promoting Mary Barra as CEO after the U.S. government sold off the last of its shares in the company.
Sadly for Australia, it means the once-beloved Commodore will no longer be locally developed, with future versions to simply be rebadged global cars within the GM portfolio. The Holden brand will remain, though all the cars will be imports.
The decision to end production in Australia also means that approximately 2,900 jobs at Holden will be impacted over the next four years. This will comprise 1,600 from the Elizabeth vehicle manufacturing plant and approximately 1,300 from Holden’s Victorian workforce. Not counted are the thousands of jobs in supporting firms that are now potentially on the line. Some estimates have put the figure as high as 50,000.
Beyond 2017, Holden will still manufacture some engines and will maintain a global design studio.
“This has been a difficult decision given Holden’s long and proud history of building vehicles in Australia,” Holden boss Mike Devereux said in a statement. “We are dedicated to working with our teams, unions and the local communities, along with the federal and state governments, to support our people.”
Holden, which started life as a saddle manufacturer, became a subsidiary of GM in 1931 but didn’t build its own complete car until 1948. Today, the company is most famous for its rear-wheel-drive Commodore range of sedans, utes and wagons, but it also manufactures the Cruze small car. Prior to the announcement, Holden was negotiating with the Australian government for funding to guarantee local production. However, the government remained by its stance to not offer more than what it was already offering.
It looks like the current VF Commodore, sold here as the Chevrolet SS, will be the last of the Aussie-engineered cars… a piece of history.