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AUSTRALIA: GM's Holden muted on future model speculation

By Graeme Roberts | 3 November 2011

General Motors' Australian unit Holden has responded to local media speculation regarding future model development in Australia but declined to detail the planned new cars.

"The issues being raised in the media relate to confidential discussions with the engineering union, APESMA, as part of the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) negotiations which are currently under way," the automaker said in a statement.

"This speculation also relates to decisions for new products - which Australians won't see until closer to the end of the decade - and these decisions have not been finalised yet.

In a veiled reference to the difficulty Holden faces making business cases for new model production in a 1m unit a year market in which it is second for both domestic sales and exports behind Toyota, Holden noted: "[Management] has been very open with employees, unions, media and government about some of the options and the challenges the company faces in the local market, as well as from global competition for capital investment in this country and in the regulatory environment.

"Holden has very good working relationships with its unions. However, Holden does not comment on its EBA negotiations in the media, nor do we speculate about very long-term future models and we certainly don't intend to give our global competitors a free kick."

Holden makes its core Commodore model line at its plant in Elizabeth, South Australia. Its largest export market is neighbouring New Zealand but some Commodores - rebadged as Chevrolet - go to the Middle East (LHD) and South Africa (RHD like the home market).

Holden began local production of the GM Korea-designed Cruze sedan line earlier this year and, last month, added the hatchback version. At the time it acknowledged the Cruze 'localisation programme' received "co-investment from the federal government’s green car innovation fund and the South Australian state government".

Chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux, said at the time: “It’s a challenging time for manufacturing but Holden is one of the most flexible automotive manufacturing operations in the world and we’re incredibly proud of our capability,” he said.

“With Cruze hatch models going into production this month we’re now building 51 models across the global small car and Commodore short and long wheel base architectures, all on the same line.

“As global economic conditions changed we set ourselves a very clear goal to be profitable first and foremost on our domestic business. This means building in Australia the large and small cars that Australians really want to drive."