On the eve of the 2012 Beijing Motor Show, Holden announced details of an important new agreement whereby a Melbourne-based Holden engineering team will be responsible for the design and development of at least two new cars for the Chinese market.
Given the spectacular growth in the Chinese automobile industry, that saw it produce over 18 million motor vehicles in 2011, more than double that of any other country, the new agreement is not only a major opportunity for Holden to become involved in the China boom but also a recognition of the respect by which Australian car designers and engineers are held internationally.
General Motors is an important player in China, selling more that 2.5-million vehicles last year through its various joint venture partnerships including both international brands such as Buick, Cadillacs, Chevrolet and Opel as well as a number of domestic brands
The new long-term agreement announced by GM Holden chief Mike Devereux to Holden employees, coincided with the news that Toyota had cut its local staff by 350 and once again stressed the importance of an outward perspective for the Australian automotive industry.
Mr Devereaux said: “It gives the Holden workforce a great sense of pride to work on global vehicle programs like this and to see Australian design, engineering and manufacturing expertise exported around the world.”
The agreement is with two of General Motor’s eleven Chinese joint venture partners, Shanghai General Motors (SGM) and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC).
Both are 50-50 partnerships between GM and China’s largest automobile manufacturer Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC). Although there have been previous cases where Holden, SGM and PATAC have worked together this is the first long-term and most significant project.
Based at Holden’s Technical Centre in Port Melbourne, the Holden team will be responsible for the design, development, testing and validation of components of the vehicles which will be tailored for the Chinese domestic market.
Holden remains tight-lipped on details of the type or size of the initial two new vehicles that its team will be working on, only stating that they will be built on GM global platforms and effectively ruling out any chance of them being built in Australia.
Ford Australia has also been involved in similar projects. The Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 had almost all their engineering work done by large engineering teams in Melbourne. Though it’s not economically possible to build these pickups in Australia they are being manufactured in several overseas factories and sold in over 100 countries. Ford Australia also did the engineering work for a number of cars sold specifically in India.
The shape of the Australian automotive industry is changing .Though the manufacturing side of the business is suffering here, the engineering work being done by GM Holden and Ford Australia is highly respected globally.