A relatively unknown start-up car company called Vinfast – owned by one of Vietnam’s richest men – has been confirmed as the new owner of Holden’s historic test track.
The General Motors proving ground in Lang Lang on the south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne has been the birthplace of every Holden since 1958, but will now be used as a test track to develop vehicles by a foreign car maker for the Asia-Pacific region.
The vehicles will be manufactured in Vietnam but torture-tested on life-like roads inside the secret facility near the town of Lang Lang.
CarAdvice reported three weeks ago that Vinfast was the likely buyer, outbidding transport magnate Lindsay Fox who owns a vehicle testing facility in Angelsea, south west of Geelong.
According to a report today by the Reuters news agency, Vinfast did not provide a value on the deal, but CarAdvice understands it was in excess of $20 million.
Initially, Vinfast vehicles will be based on previous generation BMW models – bought under license from the German manufacturer – but will have unique design.
A local environmental group near Lang Lang had lobbied local council – and state and federal governments – to set aside a large portion of the former Holden test track site for preservation.
Approximately half the 872 hectare (2155 acre) facility has been undisturbed since 1958 and has unique species of flora and fauna.
As previously reported, a spokesman for the Save the Holden Bushlands Group wants the new owners of the facility to be compelled to preserve the eastern half of the site, which has been left largely untouched for more than 60 years.
Local wildlife authorities had been granted access over the years to study changes in the site’s flora and fauna.
A statement issued by Holden said Vinfast was "committed to the ongoing protection of the local bushland and environment and it intends to continue to allow access for community Landcare activities".
"(Vinfast) also intends to honour Holden’s heritage at the iconic site by allowing access for Holden car clubs and former employee open days," the Holden statement continued.
Under the agreement, General Motors Specialty Vehicles will "continue to access the Lang Lang site for testing and engineering validation new products in local conditions".
As reported earlier, Vinfast already has links to General Motors, having secured a partnership to distribute Chevrolet models in Vietnam, and is due to take ownership of a former GM factory in South Korea.