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Holden, GM still silent about Inchcape import deal

By Tim Robson, 12 Feb 2019 Car News

2019 Holden Commodore

No clear picture emerging on possible Holden import rights handover to Inchcape

  • General Motors reportedly considering cutting Holden brand loose
  • Holden could be imported by UK company Inchcape
  • Neither party are denying multiple stories
  • Holden's Astra and Commodore will eventually be built by Peugeot

Speculation continues to run rife as both Holden and global automotive exporter Inchcape decline repeated requests to clarify whether the two are in discussions to partner, though neither party is publicly dismissing the speculation either.

Reports emerged late last week that Holden's parent company General Motors is fielding an offer from Inchcape to take over the importation of Holden vehicles into Australia.

Holden chief and former head of Toyota Australia David Buttner is reported as telling Holden dealers that there is no weight to the story. A Holden spokesperson told WhichCar that there was no more to add to the comments it made last week.

A request to clarify with Inchcape whether it intended to reboot the Opel nameplate for Australia also met with a noncommittal response.

“We are always assessing a range of opportunities and initiatives in support of our Ignite strategy and we do not comment on speculation,” said a spokesperson from the UK-based importer.

READ MORE Holden owner GM to leave Australia?

What about Opel?

More recent speculation suggests that the Opel nameplate will be revived as part of the shakeup.

In 2017, the PSA Group, which builds Citroen and Peugeot cars, bought General Motor’s European brands, including GM’s British arm Vauxhall, and the German-based Opel brand, fuelling those rumours.

Opel currently supplies Holden with two vehicles; the Astra and the Holden Commodore, but the future of both cars now looks considerably different in light of the possible ownership change.

PSA has managed to change the fortunes of Opel, turning the company around from a heavy loss-maker to turning a small profit in 2018 largely by curtailing research and development costs. The next step for Opel is to be brought into the fold of the PSA Group by way of platform and powertrain sharing.

This means that all future Opel products – including the Astra and the Commodore – will be based on current or future Peugeot and Citroen architectures. For example, the group’s new EMP2 platform slots under cars as diverse as the Peugeot 308 hatch and the larger 5008 SUV (below), and will easily accommodate both the Astra and the Commodore.

2019 Peugeot 5008

Inchcape’s Australasian operation is the only one in the wider group that imports the French brands into a market, which in theory will give it access to new models coming out of PSA plants in the future, be they Peugeot, Citroen or Opel.

READ MORE 'More opportunity' for Holden after Opel sale

Opel an unlikely starter

WhichCar believes, however, that reports the Opel brand will be revived locally are wide of the mark. GM foisted the brand onto Holden in a failed experiment in 2012 that lasted just 12 months, while Australia’s uniquely crowded automotive marketplace makes it an expensive exercise to launch a brand.

As well, the waning fortunes of both the Commodore and Astra are such that basing a standalone brand on their sales success – even taking into consideration that additional Opel-badge SUV products may contribute to the mix – does not currently make for a strong business case.

As well, launching any brand without some form of SUV or dual-cab pick-up product to hold up its bottom line would make it a tough sell in our ute and SUV-mad market.

Holden design and engineering 'safe', said GM

As recently as November, Holden was given assurances by GM that its design and engineering portfolios were safe from a massive round of job cuts across the GM world, with more than 14,000 people set to lose their jobs across the company.

WhichCar has contacted several industry experts for comment, and we’ll update this story accordingly.