Holden will continue to design cars beyond 2017, but the vehicles will be advanced styling previews for models that could be sold around the world in the likes of North America, China, India and in some cases Australia.
The confirmation follows last December’s announcement that Holden would cease local manufacturing in three years’ time and secures 140 jobs in the year the Port Melbourne-based design studio celebrates its 50th year.
General Motors’ executive director of international design, former Holden design boss Mike Simcoe (below) said the local studio had the support of Mary Barra, who in January became the first female CEO of a global car maker.
“[GM design chief] Ed Welburn has been a strong supporter and there’s been a lot of speculation that when he retires, will the good feeling for Holden design run away or fall apart,” said Simcoe.
“That’s not the case. The commitment now is through Mary Barra. The studio stays alive.
“This is not a sideshow anymore, we actually do have a design studio in Australia and it’s here to stay.”
Holden’s design studio opened as the General Motors Holden Technical Centre in 1964 and has created (or adapted) all locally made Holdens since the HR of 1966.
It has also created a range of concept vehicles over the decades, including the 1969 Hurricane, the 2005 Efijy (below), 2000 Mambo Sandman, 2008 Coupe 60, and arguably most famously the 1998 Commodore Coupe that turned into the Monaro in 2001.
GM Australia Design, as it’s known within its parent company’s empire, is one of 10 GM studios around the world, though it’s one of only two – including the Detroit ‘mothership’ – that can build a car from the ground up and make it production viable.
GM Australia Design boss Richard Ferlazzo (above) says one of the studio’s strongest cards to play is value, in terms of what the operation costs to run compared with the contribution it makes.
“The real skill set is in the production,” said Ferlazzo. “Our people are experienced in designing, executing a production car, and that’s where you make your money. The production cars are the cash cow. The concepts help you get there and [our work] reaffirms that, ‘Hey these guys know what they’re doing.’
“It means we’re adding value to the organisation. It’s not all about fun. It’s about demonstrating ability.”
GM Australia Design’s input to other General Motors markets was most recently demonstrated with the Chevrolet Adra concept (above) developed for the 2014 New Delhi motor show.
The Adra was a collaboration between the Australian and Indian design operations, with the concept being constructed and fabricated at the Holden operations in Melbourne.
Welburn told CarAdvice earlier this year that GM Australia Design would have input to the new Commodore that will be imported to Australia from 2017.