General Motors’ Australian operation Holden built 133,151 vehicles at its sole assembly plant in South Australia during 2000 – 4,949 units more than in the previous year.

And the company’s engine manufacturing operations in Melbourne turned out a record 390,000 units – despite a dramatic fall in demand from Daewoo in Korea in the fourth quarter, writes Mike Duffy.

Buoyed by record export earnings and leadership in the passenger segment of the Australian market, Holden recorded a net profit of $A237.4 million ($US125.2 million) for calendar year 2000.

The result was $A102.4 million ($US54 million) higher than last year and took accumulated profits since 1994 to an impressive $A1.4 billion ($US738.6 million).

Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger told that the result was particularly satisfying in a year severely disrupted by the introduction of a goods and services tax and currency exchange difficulties.

Overseas revenue grew 34 percent over 1999 to $A1.3 billion ($US686 million), clearly positioning Holden as the nation’s leading automotive exporter.

$A780 million ($US411 million) came from the sale of almost 30,000 completely built up vehicles and $A450 million ($US237 million) from engines and engine component exports.

Holden sold 155,307 vehicles in Australia in 2000 for a 19.7 percent share of the market – 170 fewer cars and commercials than the previous year and 3771 less than overall market leader Toyota Australia.

Holden’s turnover rose from $A4.096 billion ($US2.1 billion) in 1999 to $A4.721 billion ($US2.49 billion) last year.

Net returns rose from 3.3 to five percent in 2000, reversing the downward trend of recent years.

Hanenberger said Holden would turn over in excess of $A5 billion ($US2.6 billion) this year – for the first time in its history – due to growth and the inclusion of Isuzu commercial and four wheel drive models.

“The global pressures within the industry have seen imports reach 61 percent [of the Australian market],” Hanenberger said.

“Holden will respond to this threat to our industry with the introduction of an aggressive product portfolio.”

He said Holden’s contribution through state and federal government charges – including company tax, PAYE, sales tax/GST, payroll taxes and fringe benefits taxation totalled $A400 million ($US211 million); 32 percent more than 1999 and almost double the level in 1997.

Holden announced a massive reinvestment programme late last year including $A700 million ($US369 million) in a new V6 engine plant in Melbourne, Victoria, and $A400 million ($US211 million) in car assembly plant upgrades at Elizabeth, South Australia.

The company has also announced further plans to build the GM North America GEN III V8 engine in Melbourne to reduce exposure to currency fluctuations.

Holden currently imports its V8s from the U.S.

Last week the company launched its new Barina, a high-value small car sourced from Opel in Spain and priced to take on Korean imports.

The company’s forthcoming product line-up will include the exciting Monaro Coupe – a two door version of its bread-winning Commodore – due for release towards the end of the year.

The car maker has enjoyed burgeoning success with Chevrolet-badged Commodore and Statesman models in the Middle East and plans to grow exports progressively to South Africa and Latin America.

Holden aims to earn $A2.3 billion ($US1.2 billion) from exports of cars and engines by 2005.

Author Mike Duffy is the motoring editor of The Advertiser and the Sunday Mail, in Adelaide, South Australia.