Its official! The Lion Brand will be axed from right-hand drive markets globally by the end of 2020. The withdrawal announcement comes not as a last-minute snap decision but has been years in the making. GM Holden interim chairman and managing director, Kristian Aquilina, said the company had "chased down every conceivable option" to prevent the closure of the brand. Sadly, the economics did not allow Holden to remain afloat.
Holden’s parent firm – General Motors Corporation said the brand was no longer competitive in the current market and will be retired from sales, design and engineering across Australia and New Zealand. In 2017, GM shut down local manufacturing operations, leaving the firm to sell a mix of imported and badge-engineered Opel and GM cars such as the Astra, Trax and Trailblazer.
“After a comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritize the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally. This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team” said GM International Operations Senior Vice President, Julian Blissett.
Holden will leave behind as many as 800 jobs, with many of them to cease by the end of June this year. However, GM officials said that around 200 people from the above figure will remain in their ongoing roles connected to the company’s pledge to offer up at least 10 years of customer service to existing Holden owners. This should at the very least calm the nerves of existing Holden customers and those looking to swoop in on a good going-out-of-sale sale.
Unfortunately, the shutter doesn’t just end in Australia and New Zealand but rather it goes as far as Thailand, where General Motors is winding down its factory operations, which made the Colorado ute and Trailblazer SUV, along with 1,500 workers and selling it to China’s Great Wall Motors. GM also pulled the Chevrolet brand from that market. In a report by CNN, they estimate the cost to GM, for winding down the entire Holden operation, to be in the range of $1.1 billion (AU$1.6b), roughly $300 million (AU$447m) of which will be a cash loss.
No doubt news of Holden’s demise will be met with mixed reactions. For example, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "I am disappointed but not surprised. But I am angry, like I think many Australians would be. Australian taxpayers put billions into this multinational company. They [GM] let the brand just wither away on their watch. Now they are leaving it behind." Mr Morrison’s anger perhaps stems from the “more than $2 billion directly provided to General Motors for the Holden operations” as reported by the Australian Financial Review. Elsewhere, throngs mourn the passing of the quintessential Aussie brand.