HOLDEN’S future has today been given a shot in the arm, with General Motors investing in the Aussie outpost to become a research and development hub for autonomous and electric vehicles.
The announcement will see the creation of 150 new jobs - set to be a mix of experienced and graduate engineers - taking Holden’s total design and engineering workforce to more than 500.
It will also increase Holden’s R&D budget by $30 million, boosting the Lion Brand’s total spend to “more than” $120m.
The move positions Holden to play a key role in GM’s plan to build 20 all-new electric models by 2023, and helps to sure up the brand’s future amid speculation surrounding its relevance to GM globally.
Holden has endured a spectacular sales slump since it ceased local manufacturing at the end of 2016, seeing some question how much patience General Motors has for a foreign outpost with just 5.3 percent market share – a number that’s half of what it was just five years ago.
“Holden’s engineering unit has a bright future undertaking important local and global work, from ensuring imported Holden vehicles can master Australia’s unique driving conditions, to developing the technologies that will power the future of mobility globally,” said Holden’s executive director of engineering, Brett Vivian.
“With today’s announcement, we will now be spending up to $120 million annually on automotive research and development at our operations here in Australia.”
Much of the work will take place at Holden’s expansive Lang Lang proving ground – itself recently upgraded courtesy of a $15.9m investment that includes the creation of a new emissions lab – with the Aussie workers set be fully integrated into GM’s global engineering team. That should ensure the transfer of crucial technological know-how into the local workforce as GM strives to be a world leader for electric and autonomous cars.
In a show of support for Holden, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, Mark Reuss, and GM’s global design boss, Aussie Mike Simcoe, both flew to the company’s Melbourne HQ to make the announcement.
“GM is determined to be the first company to bring safe, autonomous vehicles to market – not within years, but in quarters,” said Reuss. “The world-class vehicle engineering capability we have at Holden in Australia will play a significant role in GM delivering its commitment to create a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.”
Like Holden, Ford retains a significant design and engineering presence in Australia having invested nearly $3 billion in R&D in Australia the past seven years, and more than $475 million confirmed for 2018. A Ford spokesperson told Wheels the company’s Australian workforce sits at more than 2000, making it the country's largest auto employer.