The Holden brand will be retired by 2021 in Australia and local design and engineering departments shuttered, General Motors announced last week.
In what is monumental news for the Australian automotive industry, Holden’s Melbourne design studio and Lang Lang proving ground are expected to shut with up to 600 of 800 local jobs lost.
However, while the final act came in 2020, the demise of Holden can be traced back to 2013, when GM announced that it would transition the company to a 'sales and marketing' operation - code for the cancellation of local manufacturing.
This announcement, triggered by Ford's decision to kill the Falcon and Territory, saw the lines stop in 2017, and the brand killed off in 2020.
To many, it seemed inevitable, but Holden’s decision to cease manufacturing in Australia was a long and sometimes painful journey. Here’s how it unfolded back in 2012 and 2013.
March 22 2012
Holden Chairman and CEO Mike Devereux announces deal with federal and South Australian and Victorian state governments to build two new global architectures at Elizabeth, guaranteeing local manufacturing out to 2022.
Co-investment is $275 million from governments and $1 billion from GM, generating an estimated $4 billion in economic activity. Second generation Cruze and Commodore replacement are the expected vehicles, although not confirmed on the day.
May 7 2012
Announces at $89.7 million profit for 2011 – identical to Automotive Transformation Scheme assistance handed out. Result is down from $112 million in 2011, but still way ahead of the $205 million loss suffered in 2010.
18 May 2012
VF Commodore to be exported to USA as Chevrolet SS from late 2013.
31 August 2012
Daily output at Elizabeth drops from 430 to 400 cars per day as part of an efficiency initiative claimed to save $10 million per annum.
27 September 2012
Confirms Elizabeth will close for an unspecified number of days as slowing sales hit VE Commodore and Cruze.
2 November 2012
170 voluntary redundancies at Elizabeth announced. Blamed on slowing sales.
27 November 2012
Mike Devereux uses Colorado 7 launch press conference to urge the federal opposition to clarify its automotive manufacturing policy or risk the future of the industry.
30 November 2012
VF Commodore breaks cover as Chev SS NASCAR.
At the Detroit show Devereux talks of the Commodore’s Zeta architecture continuing in production beyond 2017, suggesting VF replacement will be front-wheel drive.
8 February 2013
Devereux confirms the Commodore nameplate will roll on beyond 2017 when VF expires, says local engineering and development work has begun.
10 February 2013
VF Commodore officially revealed months ahead of on-sale date as car is about to star racing as a V8 Supercar and NASCAR.
16 February 2013
Chevrolet SS road car unveiled at Daytona by Mark Reuss. More talk of Zeta legacy, possibly built in the USA.
8 April 2013
Devereux announces the loss of 400 jobs at Elizabeth and 100 in Victoria, including Lang Lang test track validation staff. Line speed slows from 400 to 335 cars per day. Cruze sales downturn - driven by cheaper imports benefiting from high Aussie dollar – blamed.
5 June 2013
VF Commodore pricing announced, with drops of up to $9800.
8 May 2013
Holden CFO George Kapitelli announces $152.8 million loss for 2012, blames exchange rate that “puts particular pressure on our Australian manufacturing operations.”
23 May 2013
Ford announces end of local manufacturing and death of Falcon nameplate by October 2016. News breaks during VF Commodore national media launch. "Ford’s gone, we are not – that's the story," Devereux tells journalists. Holden issues a statement saying 2012 agreement was “based on the economic and market conditions at that time”. Effectively it means GM’s future investment is on-hold.
18 June 2013
Devereux announces he will be seeking labour cost reductions from the Elizabeth workforce, claiming an added cost of $3750 to build cars in Australia.
Says move is crucial to continued survival of local production. Subsequently emerges Holden loses about $670 on each car it builds and the plant roughly $40 million per year.
13 August 2013
Elizabeth workforce agrees to three-year wage freeze, dependant on new models being built post-2016.
14 August 2013
Devereux says he aims to have Holden’s business plan for the manufacture of the next-gen Cruze and Commodore ready for his General Motors superiors in early October, just weeks after the federal election.
Voluntary separation packages confirmed, seeking a reduction of 45 staff from engineering in Port Melbourne and Lang Lang.
The coalition wins the federal election, with a $500 million cut to car industry assistance and a Productivity Commission review its key auto policies. New Industry minister Ian MacFarlane says he is a fan of the local car industry.
2 October 2013
After much-anticipated Elizabeth tour, Devereux outlines to MacFarlane revised government investment needed to continue manufacturing. Announces Productivity Commission review of the industry will hand down preliminary findings in December.
25 October 2013
GM announces Devereux being promoted to regional sales and marketing job from the new year.
4 November 2013
Productivity Commission deadline for submission closes with more than 70 received.
Confirmed Devereux’s boss Stefan Jacoby has made a brief visit to Australia, but no meetings with governments.
5 December 2013
Senior ministers within federal government leaks to ABC that GM has already made the decision to cease manufacturing in Australia.
In subsequent days, Government goes on the offensive with PM Abbott, Treasurer Hockey and stand-in PM Truss all demanding a definitive answer from Holden, before the Productivity Commission preliminary findings are announced.
10 December 2013
Devereux appears before Productivity Commission and says no decision on Holden’s future has been made. Leaves hearing to make conference call with GM senior leadership team where closure decision is confirmed.
11 December 2013
Devereux announces closure of Elizabeth in 2017, Port Melbourne V6 assembly plant in 2016, Lang Lang test ground and engineering department. Holden will become a full-line importer. Design studio to continue.