“Either you’re here or you’re not.” That was what Joe Hockey, Australia’s Treasurer, told General Motors’ Australian arm Holden only yesterday, after the company said it still wasn’t sure whether it was committed to manufacturing in Australia.
Holden has absorbed $A1.8bn in government subsidies during the past decade and had sought more funding to secure the development of its next generation of cars. The Australian opposition suggested Hockey’s reaction had “dared Holden to leave”. Today Holden left.
Holden will stop building cars in Australia in 2017, meaning the company will join Ford and Mitsubishi in pulling out of manufacturing in a country that has the combined difficulties of a strong currency and a small local market. Only Toyota is left committed to manufacturing in Australia. For now.
Holden’s failure to sell enough cars in its home market is its ultimate downfall. In 2002, Holden sold 80,000 Commodores (its staple large saloon, built locally). Last year it sold just 30,000. With a break-even figure of 40,000, this has been a long time coming.
When Autocar visited Holden and Holden Special Vehicles (which we’ll come to in a moment) in July, the stock answer to questions about its future was an honest “we don’t know”. Today we do, and the announcement, though a shock and disappointment to many, will be a surprise to no-one.