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Holden finds a buyer before its Adelaide factory closes

By Barry Park, 06 Oct 2017 Industry

Holden sells Elizabeth site_wide

An unnamed investor plans to turn Holden’s Elizabeth site into an innovation hub, while the car maker plans for a heritage centre

FIRST it was going to go to a Belgian businessman with a proven track record of turning businesses around. Then it was going to grow medicinal marijuana, then make solar panels, and later even electric cars. But now Holden says it is finalising the sale of part of its Elizabeth manufacturing site in South Australia to an unnamed interstate buyer.

Confirmation of the sale comes only weeks before the last locally built Commodore rolls off the production line to close off almost 70 years of car making, and as the global liquidation sale of the site’s equipment used to build the cars enters its final stage.

Holden told the ABC it would name the buyer once the deal was completed. However, it appears the new owner has the same ambitions for the site as the former Mitsubishi factory at nearby Tonsley Park, which has become an “innovation district” with the support of the South Australian government since its closure in 2008.

“A preferred investor/developer from interstate has been identified for the property based on their long-term investment strategy," Holden manufacturing executive director Richard Phillips said. "They have a good performance record and ability to deliver a high-quality outcome, with a willingness to work with local authorities and the community.”

Holden will keep part of the 122 hectare site – listed for sale in March for a rumoured $70 million – as its national spare parts distribution centre and a heritage display. The last Commodore will come off the line on October 20, significantly marking the end of Australia’s post-war strategy to keep alive the nation’s ability to mobilise itself again if ever needed.

However, Holden won’t be moving out in a hurry. The future full-line importer is expected to remain at the northern Adelaide site well into 2019 as it decommissions the site it has owned since the late 1950s – production on the site started in 1962. The Queen even visited it in 1963.

Part of the decommissioning process includes decontaminating the site of potential pollutants, which according to the EPA include trichloroethene, a solvent, and tetrachloroethene, the chemical used in drycleaning. So far, 12 notifications of contamination related to “motor vehicle manufacture” have been lodged with the EPA, while Holden has lodged plans for a two-year clean-up process.

“Site contamination at the Holden site comes from the chemicals used during the manufacturing and assembly of motor vehicles,” the EPA said.

Meanwhile, the garage sale of the Elizabeth-based equipment used to build the Commodore, and the Cruze small car, rolls on, with online auction house Maynards announcing bidding will close on October 20 – the same day as the factory officially winds down. Bidding opened on August 18.

Equipment offered for sale include a press and die shop, plastic body component facility, paint shop, tyre to rim assembly, body shop, final assembly line, and general plant equipment.