General Motors (GM) has announced plans to make Holden a hub for engineering autonomous technology and electric vehicles, pouring an additional $28 million into local research and development, and promising 150 new engineering and design jobs.
That takes the annual spend on research and design for Holden beyond $120 million, an increase of around 30 per cent, and will push the local design and engineering team to around 500 employees.
Half the new recruits will start this year, with the remainder to join the workforce by mid-2019. During development of the Zeta platform and VE Commodore, the Holden design and engineering team was home to around 900 employees.
The commitment was announced by Dave Buttner, managing director and chairman of Holden, Mike Simcoe, vice president of global design at GM, Mark Reuss, GM vice president and president of global product, and Brett Vivian, Holden executive director of engineering.
"We are investing in Holden so we can win in Australia and New Zealand," Mark Reuss said. "Holden engineering will play a significant role in GM's global strategy to lead the future of personal mobility today, and for the foreseeable future."
The new workforce will be integrated into the GM Advanced Vehicle Development (AVD) team, working on personal mobility across electric, internal combustion, autonomy and ride-sharing. A broad remit, we realise.
The AVD program includes around 350 staff in North America, meaning the 150 new Holden employees will form a significant chunk of GM's global future mobility team.
"While we cannot reveal exactly which products the team will be working on, I can say that Australia and Holden will be working at the leading edge of future technology and mobility within General Motors," Reuss later explained.
General Motors has promised a fully-autonomous rideshare vehicle at some point in 2019, although it'll be launched in North America, not Down Under. It also wants to launch 20 electric vehicles by 2023 – some will be global, others will be aimed solely at China.
"This is an exciting time for our industry, where we can expect to see more change in the next five years than we've seen in the last 50," Reuss mused.
"And it's an exciting time for Holden, with Australian engineers playing a vital and key role in the future of the whole industry globally for General Motors."
This is not the first time Holden has played a part in GM's electric vehicle work, with the original Chevrolet Bolt concept designed and developed right here in Australia.
Revealed in early 2015, the Bolt concept (shown above in orange) was developed to offer around 320 kilometres of driving range at a US$30,000 price tag – an achievement largely unheard of at that time in the EV world.
The final production version of the Bolt (shown in silver) went on sale in the US in 2017, priced – as promised – from around US$30,000.
For now, however, the Bolt is available only in left-hand drive, ruling it out for Australia. With today's announcement, we should see new Holden EVs in the coming years.