GENERAL Motors tried to sugar coat yesterday’s announcement, saying Holden would “transition to a national sales company in Australia and New Zealand”.
The company statement, coming out of Detroit, then came to the crux of the matter: “... it would discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing and significantly reduce its engineering operations in Australia by the end of 2017”.
Holden will still sell cars (from South Korea and other Asian countries), parts and have a design studio, but 2900 jobs will go, and with them the last “real” Holden.
Yesterday’s announcement is symbolic of the death of almost the entire Australian car industry.
Much of the damage has already been done to suppliers – not just in Melbourne, Elizabeth and Geelong, but also in Ballarat and other regional centres.
How long Toyota can continue building cars in Altona, now many suppliers have left Australia, remains to be seen.
The causes are legion: a high Australian dollar that ruins the country’s ability to be competitive, high costs and an absurdly competitive environment where there are more brands selling in Australia than the United States.
There has been some short-sighted decisions by governments and the car buying public itself as well.
It’s a shame: the cars themselves are brilliant.
The Holden Calais VF and Ford Falcon EcoBoost Country Cars has sampled are as good as anything we’ve driven.
Many people, myself included, will regard the loss of Holden as a national disaster.
It says goodbye to something of cultural significance to a great many Australians.
But it also says Australia has lost its ability to do something as fundamental as building cars.