Holden has announced October 20, 2017 as the date it will shut the doors of its Elizabeth car plant outside of Adelaide for the final time, and become a full-line vehicle importer.
Holden has assembled vehicles for domestic and export markets at Elizabeth since 1963. Nearly 1000 employees will remain in production, engineering and support roles until production ends. GM says there are no plans for any further workforce reductions ahead of October 20.
Holden also says that, of the nearly 700 people who have left Holden’s Elizabeth plant since 2015, 80 per cent have “successfully transitioned” within 12 months of leaving (69 per cent employed, five per cent in training, three per cent have retired and three per cent are volunteering).
The timing means GM Holden lives up to the promise it made in 2013 that it would make cars until the final quarter of this year. The Lion brand says it will make more than 30,000 Commodore, Caprice and Ute vehicles before the shut down.
Naturally, there will be strong demand for final edition Commodore and Ute models, which will be the last of their kind. Special edition models will also be made available before the end. Holden ceased Cruze small car production late last year.
Commodore and Ute sales still made up about one-third of Holden’s volumes in 2016, and the imported Opel-based front- and all-wheel drive replacement due next year will be hard-pressed to get close to those volumes.
Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard said Holden’s manufacturing workforce had “set new benchmarks for quality and performance in the past four years”.
“They have continually pushed to improve the quality of their work for the benefit of our customers – this commitment, continuous improvement attitude and passion have been exhibited in spades in challenging circumstances,” Mr Bernhard said.
“It’s not surprising that their skills, work ethic and flexibility are highly sought after and they are leaving a legacy for Holden that deserves to be honoured by ensuring this company has a bright and successful future.
“Holden continues to change but we are proud to retain a significant presence in Australia for the long-term that includes more than 300 people across our local design and engineering workforces, in addition to the approximately 700 corporate staff and 10,000 people employed across our [230-site] dealer network.
“Holden remains committed to Australia and our customers for many, many years to come," he added. We would add that the 10,000 staff in Holden's dealer network are largely employed by its franchise partners rather than directly.
Holden says it will launch 24 major vehicles and 36 new drivetrain combinations by the end of 2020. Holden vehicles also continue to be tuned and tested for Australian conditions at the Lang Lang Proving Ground in Victoria.
Holden’s Global Design centre also continues to be based in Port Melbourne, contributing to local and global product programs, especially by designing and fabricating concept cars. Ex-Holden design boss Mike Simcoe was appointed GM’s global design boss, a massive coup, in April last year.
All Holden employees leaving the business have access to transition services and up to $3000 in approved training and $500 for financial advice. Holden has spent $15 million helping a federal government-led Growth Fund for local car workers.
Holden's confirmed closure only leaves questions surrounding Toyota's imminent departure. Tony Cramb, executive director of sales and marketing for Toyota told CarAdvice no firm date was in place. Yet.
"We haven't announced a date for the end of production yet," Cramb said. "We're in the process of finalising the date – we'll be looking at the volumes and sales volumes for 2017, and we'll be announcing within the first quarter. By the end of March, you'll know when local manufacturing will be complete."
Toyota's public relations manager, Steve Coughlan, added Toyota employees will be informed of the closure date ahead of the public announcement.