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Holden admits to tough year

Holden Chairman Mike Devereux describes the last 18 months as "the toughest in history".

For the first time, Holden's chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux, reveals the pain of the Global Financial Crisis and how it ripped away Holden's vital 50,000-car Pontiac G8 export contract "literally overnight".

"The last 18 months were the toughest in history," he says.

But he says his company has done an amazing turnaround.

It will early next year announce a multi-million dollar profit for 2010 - its first annual positive-figure posting for five years.

It has put its employees back to full-time work after a job-sharing program. It has recently added 165 staff to its Adelaide plant and more may come if Holden can wrest a substantial US police vehicle contract.

It has five of its staff on international assignment in other parts of the GM world for every one from other countries working in Australia.

Holden has financially embarked on a venture to produce ethanol fuel from household waste as it expands its alternative fuel models, and within 18 months will launch 10 new or refreshed models.

Pivotal to the turnaround has been Holden's role in the design and creation of new vehicles.

"Look at the car they chose to rev-in the day's trading when GM went public last month - Chevrolet Camaro," Devereux says.

"The quintessential, all-American muscle car and hero of movies like Transformers. A car designed and engineered by the (Holden) team, tested at Lang Lang and made in Oshawa, Ontario in Canada.

"Welcome to the new GM, where one of the most loved American cars of all time can be designed and built by two members of the Commonwealth - and they can do it better than anyone else in the world. The all-American, Australian-designed, Canadian-built car."

Devereux says this ability by Holden to adapt to niche, international market needs led to its bid for manufacture of the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicles (PPVs). It eases some of the pain caused by the loss of the Pontiac G8 program.

"Chevrolet is in the middle of a 20-city ride and drive test program," he says of the trial long wheelbase models built in Australia and sent to the US. "Five of the 20 cities have been completed. We know we have the superior product ... and expect results in the first quarter."

Concurrently, Holden is building pilot vehicles for police authorities in nine US states that have accepted its tender for a "detective" version of the Caprice. Production starts next month.

"We're not in a position to disclose the number of orders in the system at this time but we're confident the orders will continue to ramp up in the new year," Devereux says.

He says the company is as much a net exporter of talent and software as it is of vehicle hardware.

But aside from being known as a leader in rear-wheel drive cars, Devereux says Holden is working on the future.

"EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) is Holden's space-age vision for the future of city motoring and was showcased at this year's International Expo in Shanghai," he says.

"It's an all-electric, zero-emissions, self-driving, two-wheel concept vehicle designed to help overcome big city issues like traffic congestion, parking availability and air quality. EN-V highlighted the advanced design capabilities of Australian car designers - but it also showed Holden is developing the showroom of the future - and that showroom will have something for everyone."