Holden has confirmed it is retaining its powertrain engineering department “indefinitely”, operating in parallel with a new Advanced Vehicle Development (AVD) team to support its design studio in Port Melbourne.
Speaking on the eve of the launch of the final Series II version of the VF Commodore, Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Mark Bernhard said the company will retain a design, engineering and vehicle development workforce of more than 300 people beyond the closure of local manufacturing operations at the end of 2017.
Bernhard added the new team will form a key hub in GM’s global product development network, helping to develop international models, at the same time refining their styling, suspension tune and mechanical specification for local consumption.
This is in addition to a previous commitment that Holden will retain its iconic Lang Lang proving ground in South-East Victoria.
Holden intends to release 24 models over the next five years, with product drawn from Europe, Asia, and the USA, completely turning over its range in the transition from local manufacturing to a full import operation. Holden also says its retail network has collectively committed to a$200m investment in new or upgraded facilities to support the program.
But Bernhard has softened the bold claim made by then Holden MD Gerry Dorizas (in early 2014) that Holden would knock off Toyota as the country’s top-selling car brand by 2020. He stressed Holden is still “here to win”, but is in the sales race “over the long haul.”
Sadly, Mr Bernhard would not be drawn on the question of Holden’s teasing 2014 statement that it will import a rear-wheel drive, V8 sports car to combat Ford’s up-coming Mustang release.