Holden bosses ‘blindsided’ by move to axe brand
Senior Holden executives are believed to have been blindsided by Detroit's decision to axe the brand on Monday and are scrambling to come up with a plan to shift thousands of cars in the coming months.
A senior dealer for the brand said Holden had indicated it would be building cars for the rest of February and into March, adding to the large stockpile of 2019-build cars that built up as Holden sales slowed but production lines didn't.
Industry sources suggest the company is looking to sell its last vehicle by the third quarter of this year, which will require massive discounts of current cars.
The fact that supply lines are still running suggests the decision to pull the pin on Holden was a sudden one.
Adding weight to that theory is the fact that Holden had sent out invites for a national dealer meeting in March to outline its future product plans.
One dealer, who declined to be named, said: "It begs the question: When were local management informed? It seems as if they had pretty short notice about this."
Arch rival Ford reaffirmed its commitment to the local market and the company's president, Kay Hart, said it may even employ some former Holden staff.
"No doubt there's a great depth of talent and experience at Holden. If skill sets match, we'd naturally be keen to consider opportunities as they arise."
Kay said Ford planning to spend $500 million on research and development in the next year. It continued to play a major engineering role in the development of the Ranger ute, which is sold in more than 180 countries. More than 2000 staff work on the project.
Kay's comments came amid growing anger over the more than $4 billion in subsidies provided to the car industry over the years.
In particular, questions have been raised about the $2.17 billion GM received, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking of his anger on Monday.
Mr Morrison said GM had let the Holden brand "wither away" despite taking billions of taxpayer dollars.
The company defended itself.
George Svigos, GM's director of communications for international operations, said the company was proud of the contribution it had made to the Australian economy.
"For every dollar we received in assistance, $18 flowed into the Australian economy in the form of wages, taxes and spend with suppliers," he said.
GM found support from Labor senator and former industry minister Kim Carr but former prime minister Kevin Rudd blasted the company.
In a tweet, Senator Carr said: "This Gov has waged a campaign of vilification against General Motors. $17.40 (less than the price of a footy ticket) was the per capita the cost of car industry support for Australians compared to $90 for every German and $264 for every American and $334 for every Swede".
But Mr Rudd tweeted: "Time for all of us to boycott GM brands. My stomach turns when I think of successive Labor governments working to build the car industry."
He accused the Liberal Party of killing off the industry through "pure ideological spite".
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said GM's decision dated back to 2013 "when the Liberals dared Holden to leave".
He was referring to Joe Hockey's famous "you're either here or you're not here" speech given in 2013 after GM asked for an additional $750 million over five years to build a new Commodore.
The Minister for Industry, Karen Andrews, tweeted she was "very disappointed" Holden was "walking away from Australia after billions in support from successive governments".
Holden executives will this week tell dealers of their plans to dispose of the thousands of vehicles in dealerships, on boats and coming off production lines in the coming days. Heavy discounts are likely to be offered to tempt buyers and current owners will see the value of their Holden drop by thousands of dollars.
The future of current Holden boss, Kristian Aquilina, remains up in the air, with GM declining to say whether he will be offered a role elsewhere in the organisation.