Devereux – who confirmed this afternoon Holden would cease its local vehicle and engine manufacturing operations and significantly reduce its local engineering presence by the end of 2017 – said he was informed of parent company General Motors’ decision hours after fronting the Productivity Commission on Tuesday morning.
“I went to the Productivity Commission yesterday as I was requested to do,” Devereux said.
“Subsequent to my appearance, they [GM] had another review of the situation in Australia yesterday afternoon and I was informed by GM leadership – and I concur and agree with the decision that they made – that we will exit manufacturing in Australia.
“General Motors made the decision to exit manufacturing in Australia a number of hours after my testimony at the Productivity Commission yesterday, and I got on a plane as soon as I could after that final decision was made and I came here today to talk to our employees first and now I’m taking the courtesy of telling you too.”
Devereux said he assured employees that Holden and GM looked at “every possible option” to build its next-generation cars in Australia.
“No matter which way we apply the numbers, our long-term business case to make and assemble cars and engines in this country is simply not viable,” he said.
“General Motors has all the information it needs to make this decision that we’ve announced today, and the bottom line for General Motors is that building cars – as difficult as it is to say – building cars in this country is just not sustainable.”
Devereux said he would not be drawn into speculation about the company’s dealings with the federal government and whether the promise of additional financial assistance could have changed GM’s decision.
“GM has made this decision. It is irreversible, and going into speculation really doesn’t help the situation,” he said.
Devereux was gracious about Holden’s relationship with the government for the entirety of its 65 years building cars in Australia, and said he understood the government’s hard-line stance on additional funding for the industry.
“There is no question this is a difficult day not just for Holden but for the country. I understand that.
“We don’t mean to make light of the fact that since 1948 post-war Australia, that Holden, since the very first 48-215 that rolled off the line with then-Prime Minister Ben Chifley, that we have been part of the industrialisation of this country and have always had a strong relationship with the government of Australia, with the people of Australia and in their hearts, and we have nothing but gratitude for that relationship that we have had with the government over time.
“General Motors – you can read this in our press release and I believe it in my heart, as does our CEO Dan Akerson – we understand the point of view of the government of this country.
“It’s a difficult situation, and as I said before, it is literally a perfect storm of conditions. GM needs to make its decisions on its business, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The decision to close its local operations will lead to the loss of 2900 jobs at Holden’s South Australian and Victorian manufacturing facilities over the next four years, and is expected to lead to the death of the local car making industry, with Toyota Australia, hundreds of parts suppliers and tens of thousands of jobs likely to follow.