The Holden brand was GM’s Australian manufacturing arm forever. But GM has been retracting for years. First, it sold its Opel brand in Europe, and then it killed the Holden brand last February. But now it has done a partial reversal and started another company. It’s called GMSV (General Motors Specialty Vehicles). And the Aussies are really mad at Chevy about this.
That’s because GMSV will be importing standard Chevy trucks and Corvettes into Australia. Then, it will convert them into right-hand-drive vehicles. Tuesday GM announced it will work with Walkinshaw Automotive Group to create GMSV.
For years Walkinshaw was the parent company to HSV which was a tuner for Holden
For years Walkinshaw was the parent company to HSV which was a tuner for Holden vehicles. HSV also started converting Chevy Camaros and Silverados to right-hand-drive. These were sold both in Australia and New Zealand. For now, HSV will continue to do Camaro and Silverado conversions. It is also slated to start selling Corvettes later in 2021. It will come from the factory with right-hand-drive.
Working at Holden for almost 20 years, Joanne Stogiannis will head the new company. “I am thrilled to be leading a new automotive venture by GM in Australia,” she said in a statement. “Sales of large U.S. pickups have been growing consistently and I believe the ongoing strength of that segment will provide a very solid basis for us to build a successful long-term business.”
Holden was established with a large workforce and dealer network going back to 1856
GMSV vehicles will be sold through a few former Holden dealers. But the new distribution will be far smaller than Holden’s was. And that is part of the rub. Holden was established with a large workforce and dealer network going back to 1856. Instead of integrating the conversion business into Holden and continue the brand, GM chose to scuttle the whole thing.
Many Australians were upset that it happened so quickly. Then, suddenly a new version ramped up without regard to past Holden history and employees. While everyone understands GM is partnering with GMSV for business reasons, poor brand management they say is also partially to blame.
Japanese-made vehicles have been making headway for years. It makes vehicles Australians want at a price they can afford. GM never moved as fast as Toyota or Nissan did. And the quality was inferior. So, naturally, customers shifted toward the Japanese brands.
Australia and New Zealand make up less than 1% of the global automobile market
Everyone saw this coming once Holden stopped building the Australian-made cars and started importing Commodores from Europe. That was in 2017. Then last December it killed the Commodore after 41 years. Australia and New Zealand make up less than 1% of the global automobile market. And on top of that small slice the vehicles needed to be converted to right-hand-drive. The margins just weren’t there.
GM today runs a similar operation in Europe, importing Cadillac and Chevy models. Opel marches on under the French PSA Group that is now looking to merge with Fiat Chrysler. GM couldn’t make a profit from Opel for 40 years. In 18 months PSA has Opel profitable. It’s too bad GM can’t do a better job of shepherding its foreign brands better.