Holden to invest $120m in local jobs
HOLDEN has confirmed it will quadruple its investment in design and engineering and spend $120 million a year to boost its design and engineering workforce to develop cars of the future for General Motors globally.
And one of the highest-ranking executives in Detroit has restated the company's commitment to Holden, despite record low sales in the wake of the factory shutdown last year.
"We need to support this brand in a huge way; know that the commitment is long term," said General Motors' head of global vehicle development Mark Reuss, who was the boss of Holden from February 2008 to August 2009.
"(Holden) is part of who we are and always has been," said Mr Reuss. "Either we're in the game or we're not. It's a fundamental part of our company … and this industry here, and we take that very seriously."
Mr Reuss added: "(Australia) is not an easy place to do business but it's a worthwhile place to do business. Frankly we're worried here (but) we're here to support it."
When asked about a possible switch to the Chevrolet badge, Mr Reuss said General Motors is "very proud" of the Holden name and indicated a change is not even a consideration.
Visiting Australia from Detroit to make the announcement of 150 new engineers - taking the local design and engineering workforce to 500 - Mr Reuss said Holden will play a key role in "leading edge" autonomous and electric cars and other future models.
"Make no mistake, we're moving to a driverless future - a future of safer roads and zero crashes," said Mr Reuss.
"We can expect to see more change in the next five years than we've seen in the past 50. Holden engineers will play a vital and key role for General Motors' future vehicles."
General Motors says it will introduce 20 new electric cars by 2023, some of which are destined to be sold in Australia, although details of those models are yet to be revealed.
Holden will also play a key role in developing autonomous vehicle tech that will eventually be able to avoid a crash.
"The world-class vehicle engineering capability we have at Holden in Australia will play a significant role in GM delivering on its commitment to create a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion," said Mr Reuss.
The 150 recruits will be a mix of both experienced and graduate engineers will be based in Melbourne but work with Detroit's advanced vehicle development team.
Holden engineering boss Brett Vivian said the jobs boost follow significant upgrades to the company's emissions test lab and test tracks at the Lang Lang Proving Ground on the southeast outskirts of Melbourne.
When asked why Holden was so important to General Motors, Mr Reuss, himself an engineer, said: "There's a lot of engineering talent in Australia … my experience with the people here is extraordinary".
The investment announcement comes less than a month after Holden posted its lowest sales since the brand was established as General Motors Holden in 1948.
The new boss of Holden, former Toyota chief executive Dave Buttner, has been in the new job for just 14 days but has the support of Detroit to turn the business around.
"We're here to make sure Holden is strong," said Mr Reuss. "I have great confidence that under Dave's leadership … we can build a strong future for Holden. A strong Holden is vital for General Motors (globally)."