Holden’s hallowed Lang Lang proving ground will continue on as a motoring mecca and new-car nursery following its sale to Vietnam’s first and biggest car manufacturer Vinfast.
General Motors today announced it had signed an agreement to sell the 877-hectare site to Vinfast, sealing the future of the much-loved testing and development facility and preserving its original purpose.
But, it appears the apple has not fallen far from the tree. While it may have only been forged in 2017, Vinfast is the closest entity to a General Motors Vietnamese outpost.
All (formerly GM Vietnam) operations were transferred to the freshly founded company Vinfast in 2018 and, furthermore, a partnership was later announced between Lang Lang’s new owners, giving Vinfast exclusive Chevrolet distribution rights in Vietnam.
With the sale of Lang Lang to Vinfast, a not-so-tenuous connection to General Motors will continue, GM has confirmed.
Not only will development of GM models continue in Victoria, it will do so alongside new models coming to the General Motors Special Vehicles line-up, which has also recently undergone its own brand transition from HSV to GMSV.
That said, Vinfast has its own affairs to take care of. From launch, the car maker offered two models based on a curious amalgam of previous-generation BMW models including its first crossover, and major componentry from other suppliers, but it is busy developing fresh machinery that is all its own.
It recently revealed a pure-electric SUV undergoing testing and development in Hanoi to follow its current portfolio which includes electric scooters, a large SUV, large sedan and a small hatchback which is mechanically based on the Holden Spark.
Vinfast has been steadily building its Australian presence and officially opened a research and development centre in Port Melbourne, employing a team of about 100 and drawing on the skills and expertise of former Ford and Holden employees.
Holden has not revealed how much the site has been sold for but figures about the $20m mark have been previously suggested as the asking price. As anyone knows shopping for cars however, the asking price is rarely what is paid.
It’s perhaps the least disruptive fate that could have befallen the Lang Lang site compared with scenarios that could have included selling to a local private outfit such as Linfox – which already owns a vehicle development facility near Anglesea – or a conversion to fulfill a different purpose.
It’s likely that, given Vinfast’s willingness to employ former Australian manufacturing and development personnel, some existing proving ground staff will be retained in similar capacities.
“The Lang Lang Proving Ground will continue to shape the global automotive industry,” said GM interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina. “Over the past five years, GM has invested in the laboratories and tracks at the site, which will now be well utilised by its new owners.
“This deal hits a sweet spot of a fair sale value, a ready-made facility for Vinfast’s needs, ongoing employment for departing Holden employees and the preservation of amenity for the community.
“In some ways, it’s the end of an era. We pay tribute to rich automotive history created at the Proving Ground, and the brilliant Holden people who worked there. At the same time, its genuinely pleasing to know there’s a bright future there as well”.
PUBLISHED JUNE 5, 2020
It seems as though Holden's iconic proving ground at Lang Lang has hit the open market, signalling the potential loss of one of the final pieces of Holden left in Australia.
A brochure of sale was leaked to Facebook detailing the site to prospective buyers, apparently from within Holden's four walls.
The purchase of the proving ground was linked to transport magnate Lindsay Fox even as far back as 2013, but it appears negotiations have fallen through now that the sale sign has been erected.
CBRE commercial real estate is the seller of the compound and have been contacted for comment on the listing.
The last time the property was floated on the market it was valued at $20 million, but one would assume that offers above that mark are what'll catch the brunt of GM's interest.
Holden is progressively selling off assets like its Salmon Street headquarters (which also houses its design studio) in the wake of GM’s Australian market withdrawal, and next on the auction block is Holden’s proving ground which is situated in the south-east of Victoria.
The site is 877 hectares (2167 acres) and is almost 100 kilometres from Melbourne, situated on the way to Phillip Island.
Inside is a whopping 44 kilometres of vehicle testing track, skidpans, laboratories with emissions testing capability, off-road test areas as well as a high-speed bowl.
Our favourite Lang Lang tales
- Commodore launch - a day to remember
- This Vietnamese car company is keen on Lang Lang
- Holden closure - what happens now?
The compound is surrounded by 18km of fencing, and shrouded in thick bush to keep the secrets within from prying eyes.
The listing states that the site will be available as soon as Q3 2020, which aligns with the fact that current Holden employees working out of Lang Lang will vacate the premises as of August.
Operations at Holden’s Salmon St HQ and its local design studio will cease one month earlier at the end of July 2020.
GM Holden has several irons in the fire as it works to wind down a business that's been active in Victoria for more than eighty years, including reaching a settlement with its dealer group about compensation packages.
The company has also just reached an agreement with its racing team operator, Triple Eight, to end its association with the Supercars championship one year earlier than planned.