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Aussie to head up GM’s Canadian carmaking industry

By Barry Park, 26 Apr 2018 Industry

travis hester sit down

Travis Hester, a former Holden engineer who cut his teeth on the VT Commodore, moves on to bigger things

FORMER Holden engineer Travis Hester will head up General Motors’ Canadian carmaking and sales operations in a sign the manufacturing giant may one day have an even bigger role in store for him.

Last week’s announcement that Hester would leave his role as GM’s vice-president of global product programs, where he was in charge of more than 100 projects in various stages of development, is a promotion for the former development head of the Omega-based Cadillac CT6.

“Hester brings extensive global leadership and global product development experience to his new role at GM Canada,” GM said in a statement. “Since 2016, he has led the team responsible for balancing all aspects of vehicle development, including quality, cost, appearance, purchasing, customer acceptance and performance targets.”

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The praise comes in light of criticism from some GM insiders that the CT6 project was late and over-budget; Hester claims his team weren’t in a rush to finish it.

Hester will report to former Holden chief Alan Batey, who is currently president of GM’s North American division. His previous role kept him in close contact with another former Holden chief, Mark Reuss.

Canada is also a major GM manufacturing hub for North America and other global markets. The Zeta-based Chevrolet Camaro that was designed and developed in Australia was built at Oshawa, Ontario from 2010-15. However, in what draws deep parallels with the slow decline in Australian manufacturing that eventually led to GM’s exit late last year, Hester will have to deal with the Canadian carmaking industry’s struggles with pressure from the cheaper Mexican labour that is swaying multi million-dollar budgets at the boardroom level.

Hester moved to the US for the first time in November 2005 as an advanced program engineering manager working on the global rear-wheel-drive advanced vehicle development for both the Zeta-based Holden VE Commodore and Chevrolet Camaro platforms.

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His last three years in Australia included working closely with then-Holden boss Denny Mooney, where he assisted across Holden’s global business operations including sales and marketing, manufacturing, IT, purchasing, engineering, design and finance.

Hester is one of a number of rising Australian stars at GM. They include former sales chief Phil Brook, now vice-president of marketing for Buick and GMC, former Holden product planner now Chevrolet Cruze global product manager Jess Bala, and former Holden design chief Mike Simcoe who now sits at a desk as GM’s vice-president of global design.