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Holden: The Day For Closing Is Coming.

Holden, along with Toyota, will cease to manufacture cars in Australia. But how has the process leading up to that day been handled, what about the people involved? Private Fleet‘s Dave Conole had a one on one interview with the head of PR for Holden, Sean Poppit. This is part one of a two part story.

With Holden stopping manufacturing in Australia, what has been the process to wind down making cars up to the final day?
October 20 is the final day of production and we’ll continue building cars up until the final day and it will be full speed up until that point. Let’s say we’re doing 170 cars per day, we’ll stay at that figure right until the final day. Obviously that day won’t be a full production day and we’ll hold a private employee only ceremony at the plant to mark and honour our heritage and our people.
What is being done to support the workers across the factories?
At the plant in Adelaide we’ve got just under a thousand workers there. One of the things that has been ABSOLUTELY non-negotiable from us, right from the outset, have been what we call the transition services and the transition centres. Our HR and manufacturing teams have won several national, and in fact, global awards for the quality of that work.
We’ve got a full time transition centre set up at the Holden Vehicle Operations which is at our plant in Adelaide. We’ve fully decked out the bottom floor of one wing and that’s a dedicated, permanent , centre to assist people in getting new jobs or be retrained. We have independent people from many industries, government support including the military, people from the private sector like engineering groups…it’s been a benchmark piece of work and it’s something we’re justifiably and extremely proud of in the way it’s helped and continues to help people transition.
Up until this chat we’ve had an eighty percent success rate, meaning eighty percent of those that have left Holden since 2013 have found or gone onto new work, while that other twenty percent have either gone into full time study or chosen to retire. So it’s been an amazing success rate which I think is a testament to what we have in place to helping our people transition AND how eminently employable our people are.
That’s some really good news for the people involved, yes?
Absolutely. Not just in the north of Adelaide but in Adelaide itself Holden was seen as a job for life. It’s a great place to work, really fair pay, you get to work with a brand you are passionate about and get opportunities to move around the plant and do different roles. There’s lots of long term employees and we know it (the change) can be daunting to re-skill and re-train which really is the reason for being, these transition centres.
However there will still be roles for current employees, right, in places and roles such as Lang Lang or in research and development?
True. We’ll become a vehicle importer, engineering, and design centre and we’ll still have the second largest dealer network in the country. Our corporate HQ will remain here at Port Melbourne and there’ll still be our team of 150 designers as part of the international design studios and yes we’ll retain the Lang Lang proving ground (south east of Melbourne) and the 150 engineers on site there. What that means is there will be somewhere between 350 to 400 designers and engineers working on local and international products as well as the hundreds of people in the corporate side, sales, marketing etc.
With the new Commodore on the way, how does Holden see the vehicle being received?
We ran a drive day at the proving grounds earlier this year, with the next gen Commodore. We had the V6 and four cylinder version. We had a dozen Commodore customers there. I’ll be up front, we had a couple of them come up and question why they were there, saying yes they were keen to see the proving ground but didn’t have a lot of interest in a front drive Commodore.
(It’s here that Sean shared some quotes from those that attended.)
“I wouldn’t have considered this car, now I’d even consider the two litre, never mind the V6.”
“ I’m really surprised at how well it gets the power down, it feels quicker through the corners than expected.”
“The new Commodore is really impressive, I particularly like the V6 model with the all wheel drive, even the two wheel drive model is not bad and very quick with the turbo.”
It’s going to be on us to present the car in the right way, we don’t imagine for one second it’s going to have the same emotional and nostalgic appeal. Our sales numbers, we don’t expect it’ll sell in the same numbers the locally built car did. But what’s critical, and what was reinforced to us in a pilot program we ran recently…. what we want is for people to drive the car and understand that Holden magic, what made the Commodore so great, there’s a very, very big streak of it in this new car. Rob Tribbiani (Holden’s legendary chassis engineer and the driver of the Holden ute that set a record at the famed Nurburgring) is super excited about the all wheel drive V6 with the adaptive dampers and tricky real differential system, is a real belter. We just want the car to be driven and judged on its own merits.


  1. Wayne Sheffield says:

    Like many other Australians and business colleagues we have watched GMH, Ford, Toyota and other vehicle builders go cap in hand to the various Governments over many dozens of years for a bottom line top up just to help them out.
    I have been one of those unwitting taxpayer members who have contributed to such schemes to help the incumbent local Member of Parliament to look good.
    In earlier years, I supported local manufactures by purchasing many Australian brands both privately and in business.
    As the greed become more apparent and I was able to see the vehicle manufacturing industry for what it was with the result that I ceased purchasing locally built vehicles.
    Now this may not have been patriotic, but neither were the Australian vehicle manufacturers. Their business plans were obviously set at least 10 years before I had the penny drop in my mind.
    If the vehicle industry here in Australia decries the drop in sales over their respective trend sheets, then I can only say that they brought it on themselves.
    In the last 18 years, I have never purchased an Australian built vehicle.
    Each one of the Australian vehicle manufacturers should have rescinded all of their Australian properties and infrastructure back to the Crown as a reparation means of giving back to the Australian Tax Payer.
    All of those vehicle manufacturers who have pulled the plug on Australia have done it in their own nest.

    Comments here by a now older and wiser head.
    Wayne Sheffield.

    September 25th, 2017 at 10:44 am

  2. Brian Webb says:

    With Holden and Toyota going off shore what happens with all the poor people that will lose their jobs not to mention the flow on effect for parts and accessories

    September 25th, 2017 at 5:47 pm

  3. Peter Yates says:

    I always view the Federal Govts employment figures with a great deal of scepticism when they announce they have established so many thousands of new jobs in a set period of time,but fail to say how many jobs have been lost over the same period.I am waiting on the next lot of employment figures and how they get around the massive loss of jobs due to the closing of the vehicle manufacturing industry and its massive support base.
    I fully understand the massive issues in trying to maintain an industry looking for handouts all the time but trying to disguise the employment figures by highlighting only only one side of the equation will not help when the true facts come to light.

    October 4th, 2017 at 3:31 pm