55 Rocky jobs in limbo after Holden drops business bombshell
GENERAL Motors' sudden decision to axe production of the Holden brand for Australia has stunned the nation and blindsided its Rockhampton dealership, putting 55 local jobs in jeopardy.
Due to the Holden brand no longer being competitive, General Motors said on Monday it would be "retired" from sale by 2021.
In his first and only job, Rockhampton's principal of Lawrence's Motors Trent Dunn has worked for 28 years at the dealership, including five years as the principal, and now he's under pressure to find a way forward for their 100-year -old business.
He said both the public and his staff were saddened by GM's unexpected decision to wind up the Holden brand, with the news communicated to them in a teleconference call at 10.30am.
"It's a shock announcement. I wasn't thinking this was happening today," Mr Dunn said late yesterday.
"They said it was no longer viable for General Motors to produce right-hand drive vehicles for Australia because apparently one per cent of the world's vehicle sales are right-hand drive.
"The parent company General Motors is based on the other side of the world and without the support of governments, it doesn't make it viable."
It was the decision to end manufacturing Australian Holdens in 2017 which Mr Dunn says was when it "all started to go wrong" for GM.
"Unfortunately they were losing money doing that and when the government decided to pull their support, it just wasn't viable. They've had to make a business decision," he said.
"You can be as passionate as you want but if they're not making money, it just doesn't make sense."
Holden's sales have sagged from 106,092 vehicles sold five years ago to 43,176 in the past year.
In December, Holden axed the Commodore and Astra due to slow sales, saying at the time it was concentrating on more profitable, higher volume SUVs.
While Mr Dunn could understand the financial necessity behind GM's decision to wind up its Australian manufacturing, he didn't expect it to end its presence in Australia.
"We thought the line was due to end but we thought General Motors would rebadge it Chevrolet but they've just decided to pull out entirely and that's where the biggest shock is," he said.
While it was still early days and they were still grappling with the implications of the shock decision, Mr Dunn said his staff were safe for the time being but the business would need to shift its focus to embrace alternative strategies in the future.
"Lawrences has been in Rockhampton for 100 years and it's not the first time that brands have changed," he said.
"We're still a Suzuki dealer and a HSV dealer, which is selling Chevrolet product that's converted.
"We'll look to find other franchises to plug the gap that Holden's left."
A concerted push to sell more used cars was another option they could pursue to offset the loss of Holden.
GM has provided the guarantee to the dealership that it would continue to provide spare parts and service support for Holden vehicles for the next 10 years.
He said after 10 years, if there was still a business case for spares and servicing to continue, GM "would probably continue it".
Additionally, he anticipated spare parts would also be available at businesses like Rare Spares.
It's not all bad news for those in Rockhampton looking to get behind the wheel of a Holden with Mr Dunn suggesting there would be plenty great deals up for grabs over the next year.
GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina emailed Holden's customers yesterday to provide more details regarding the decision to retire the Holden brand.
By now, you may have heard the news that General Motors will be retiring the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand. This announcement will be felt deeply by the entire Holden family, our customers and our fans.
While we understand the impact that this decision may have on you, we want to provide assurance that Holden will continue to support customers in the following ways:
•Honour all existing warranties and guarantees
•Honour all free scheduled servicing offers
•Ongoing call centre support
•Provide servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years, through national aftersales networks in Australia and New Zealand
•Recalls or safety-related issues if they arise
We have a long transition in front of us and we are focused on supporting our customers and our Dealers through this change. The doors do not close tomorrow. In fact, your local Dealership remains in operation and any existing bookings and agreements remain in place.
We are commencing work with our Dealer partners on timing to cease sales of new vehicles, as well as transitioning dealerships to authorised service outlets. Any future changes to our Dealer network that have a direct impact on you, will be communicated at that time.
This decision has not been taken lightly, especially considering the iconic status of the Holden brand. Holden will always have a special place in the development of our countries. As Australia and New Zealand grew, Holden was a part of the engine room fuelling that development.
This announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holden, drive a Holden and feel connected to our company which has been with us for 160 years.