THE president of General Motors says Holden will have more choices regarding sourcing of future models following the company’s shock $3.1 billion sale of the Opel/Vauxhall division planned to provide one third of Holden’s vehicles in the next few years.
For now, GM president Dan Ammann (pictured, left) says it is business as usual for Holden, despite the sale of the division that will produce the 2018 Commodore and already supplies the Astra hatch.
Speaking candidly to Australian media at the opening of the 2017 Geneva motor show – he kicked off by joking “you’re going to ask a lot of questions, I’m not going to answer them” – Ammann said the company was “100 percent committed to the business in Australian and New Zealand”.
He said product plans for the Astra, Commodore and at least two crossover models would not be impacted by the sale of the struggling European arm of the GM business to Peugeot/Citroen owner PSA.
However, Ammann, who confirmed Holden was only made aware of the imminent sale in recent weeks, refused to detail where Holden may source its vehicles from once the current models reach the end of their lives, likely to happen from 2022 and beyond.
“No specific decisions have been taken on that front,” he said. “We have, I’d say, as a result of yesterday’s announcement, there’s more opportunity [of where Holden sources future models from] not less.
“Clearly the current models that are just launching will run through their full life cycle and then what we do beyond that is yet to be determined.”
Ammann also confirmed that future Opel models planned as part of the 24 new or updated models Holden has slated by 2020 would continue.
“For the overall [Opel] Vauxhall product plan it will either stay intact or actually expand,” he said.
When pressed on whether – longer term - it was more likely Holden would source cars from GM factories Ammann refused to go into more details. To be fair, the company has time up its sleeve to make those decisions.
He also declined to go into details about future model names; given the Astra is part of the Opel portfolio it stands to reason that nameplate was included in the sale to Opel, so does that mean Holden will eventually have to relinquish the Astra name?
“I’m not going to get into future naming strategy but we’re going to stick with what’s working,” Ammann said, adding that people were “overthinking this a little bit at this point in time”.
But he did say that there was a commitment from GM to ensure right-hand drive markets had access to new models, something that has not regularly happened in the past.
Ammann said that removing the right-hand-drive Vauxhall brand – a UK-specific brand – from the General Motors portfolio would impact that commitment.
“As we have been developing the next generation of all of our architectures globally we’ve increased, not decreased, the flexibility for right-hand drive and made that a much easier thing to do, so we remain totally committed to that,” said Ammann.
Ammann also ruled out a sale of the Holden brand. He said the company valued its potential for GM. “We’ve got a strong brand, we’ve got a lot of history, we’ve got a lot of work today,” said Ammann. “My perspective is we’re doing all the work we need to, we’re starting to see some of the early results, we’ve just got to stick to it and get where we need to go.”
He also said there was a commitment to building Holden and helping it recover from record low market share in a year when it is planning to shut down local manufacturing (the end date for the Elizabeth plant in South Australia is October 20) after 69 years.
“We’re 100 percent committed to the business in Australia and New Zealand. There’s nothing we want to see more for the business to be really successful and prosper down there and we’re totally committed to making that happen.”
As for the possibility of Chevrolet returning to Europe or Opel expanding to other countries, Ammann said that was all theoretically possible.