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Holden To Stop Selling Cars In Australia, 600 Jobs Lost

Holden will drive away from Australia and New Zealand after 160 years, with the sale of all cars to be scrapped by next year and around 600 jobs lost.

Local design and engineering operations will also wind down by 2021, in what General Motors described as an "agonising and difficult decision".

The company said a number of factors came into its decision, including the "highly fragmented right-hand-drive markets, the economics to support growing the brand and delivering an appropriate return on investment."

GM International Operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett said Holden had a proud 160-year history in Australia.

Holden Adelaide. Image: Getty

"Over recent years, as the industry underwent significant change globally and locally, we implemented a number of alternative strategies to try to sustain and improve the business, together with the local team,” Blissett said.

“This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team.”

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne on Monday, Blissett said the decision had been "agonising".

"With a brand as iconic as Holden, clearly this decision could only be taken after extensive deliberation and after exhausting numerous options for continuing operations," he said.

GM Holden Interim Chairman and Managing Director Kristian Aquilina said Holden was "part of the engine room fuelling the development" of Australia and New Zealand.

“Today’s announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holdens, drive Holdens and feel connected to our company which has been with us for 160 years and is almost ubiquitous in our lives," Aquilina said.

“Unfortunately, all the hard work and talent of the Holden family, the support of our parent company GM and the passion of our loyal supporters have not been enough to overcome our challenges."

What Does This Mean For Holden Owners?

The company has promised to honour all warranties and service offers made to existing Holden customers at the time of sale, including warranty, spare parts, servicing and recalls.

"Holden will provide servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years, through national aftersales networks in Australia and New Zealand," GM said in a  statement.

"As required, Holden and its aftersales network will also continue to handle any recalls or safety-related issues if they arise, working with the appropriate governmental agencies."

"If you own a Holden now you can go on enjoying Holden like you have been," Aquilina told reporters in Melbourne.

"The vehicles we have sold were fantastic yesterday, they are fantastic today and will be fantastic tomorrow."

The company has also promised that Holden employees impacted by the decision will be provided separation packages and employment transition support.

It's believed around 600 of the 800 Australian jobs are set to be lost as a result of the decision.

GM said the majority of impacted roles will cease by the end of June 2020.

"Some roles will need to continue a little longer, others will be ongoing to support our after-sales commitment," Aquilina said.

Dealers have also been notified, GM said, adding that work was being undertaken to negotiate their transition plans and compensation.

The Australian Automotive Dealer Association responded to the announcement saying it came as a "hammer blow" to Australia's 200 Holden dealers.

CEO James Voortam said Holden is one of the biggest dealer networks in the country.

"It is crucial that these Dealers are adequately compensated for the significant investments they have made in capital, time and effort over many many years," Voortman said.

"Dealers will naturally step up and help service the large base of Holden customers.”

Government Says It's 'Disappointed' 

Shortly after Monday's press conference, the government said it was "disappointed" by Holden's decision and said it was concerned for impacted workers.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the government was only advised that Holden was walking away from Australia "just before" their public announcement.

"I don't think it's acceptable for Holden to have made this decision without any consultation with government and without significant advice decision," Andrews told reporters at a press conference.

"I understand they need to communicate and consult with their workers, but quite frankly this is an unacceptable process that Holden has undertaken."

"It is disappointing that this is the end of an era."

Andrews said the government was committed to assisting the displaced workers in looking for other opportunities.

"As a government, our heart goes out to them. Our concern is for the workers who have been displaced and undoubtedly are very shocked by this decision of Holden," she said.

Scott Morrison also blasted General Motors in a press conference, saying he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the announcement.

The Prime Minister accused GM of allowing the Holden Brand to "weather on their watch" after Australian taxpayers "put millions in this multinational company."

"Now they are leaving it behind. I think that's very disappointing," he said.

"It showed throwing all that taxpayer money at them at the end of the day they were never going to respect that .... and I think that is very disappointing."

Morrison's comments come after the Australian Council of Trade Unions accused the government of failing to protect local jobs and said Holden's demise began with the Abbott government's lack of support for the industry.

“Most successful countries plan to support their manufacturing industries, but the Coalition is so committed to globalisation and the free market, they will not lift a finger," ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said, following Holden's announcement.

"The Prime Minister likes to talk about creating local jobs and never misses a photo op, but he’s missing in action when it comes time to ensure that local workers have secure jobs they can count on."

“The Abbott Government was the beginning of the end for the Australian car industry, now the Morrison Government is finishing the job."

Holden's Aussie History

Holden first made its mark in Australian history when it opened as a saddlery business in 1856.

It first began manufacturing vehicle bodies in 1917 and was bought out by General Motors in 1931.

The Holden FX, the first Australian-designed car, was released in 1948 before it rolled out sales of its first ute three years later.

In the following years, the company would make its first V8 engine before introducing Australians to its now iconic models, including the HQ, FJ and Commodore.

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Holden Won't Make Commodores Anymore, Focusing On SUVs Instead

Holden is axing the Commodore after decades as its top-selling car and 26 wins at Bathurst.

In 2013, the company announced it would end manufacturing in Australia by 2017, with the Commodore set to become a fully-imported car.

On October 20 2017, the company rolled its last car off the assembly line, ending more than 50 years of car production at its Elizabeth site in South Australia.

Monday's announcement comes just two months after the company announced it was retiring the Commodore after decades of it being its top-selling car.

The Commodore was set to be retired by the end of 2019 with the ZB model the last to be produced as Holden moved to an all SUV and commercial vehicle line-up.

Holden also dropped the popular Astra model from its lineup, as the company focused on other models instead.

On Monday, GM said it was intending to focus its Australia and New Zealand business on speciality vehicles.

With AAP.