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Bolt out of the blue, Holden announces brand to be retired across New Zealand and Australia by 2021.

Bolt out of the blue, Holden announces brand to be retired across New Zealand and Australia by 2021.

Posted on 17th February 2020 by Russell Phillips


Motor vehicle dealerships and employees representing the Holden brand in New Zealand have their heads spinning this afternoon.  Just after 2.30pm today we received no fewer than 20 calls.  An announcement had been made by GM that indicated an axing of the Holden brand.    


The big question becomes is what will happen next.  The company's owner, General Motors, announced it would "retire" the brand from sales, design and engineering across Australia and New Zealand by 2021. The statement did not clarify how many jobs would be lost. In a statement, GM said the Holden brand was no longer competitive in the current market.


Holden is reported by RNZ as saying,  “it intends to focus its growth strategy in Australia and New Zealand on the specialty vehicles business and plans to immediately work with its partner on developing these plans to sell selected US models – most of which will be converted to right-hand-drive by the company formerly known as Holden Special Vehicles, and which currently imports the Chevrolet Camaro and Chevrolet Silverado.  It would likely also include the RHD Corvette”. 


Perhaps, if the above statement is as true as reported then GM has a future in NZ.  The Chevrolet brand…perhaps?  How they would achieve this is the question we ask at Automotive Employment NZ.  It would be hard to imagine Holden dealerships in their current form being able to survive with a specialist product offering as narrow as reported with similar overheads so surely there must be more to this storey, much more is our guess.  Just how big will the offering be over what range of models and just how many cars can be converted from left to right hand drive? There are a lot of questions to ask here.  Also did you pick up the word most above when it referred to the number of cars being converted to RHD?


Over the next few days I am sure we will hear more about it.  Is Holden “dead” as reported by several news outlets or does GM have a sustainable plan moving forward under the Chevrolet brand which perhaps seems likely?    Maybe its wishful thinking but there seems to be a confirmed future in some capacity it seems.  


For now, employees of Holden Dealerships are rightly concerned and from the volume of calls received there is much confusion. 


As a specialist recruiter in this area it is our estimation there must be some 500 + employees over 30 sites employed in Holden sales and service dealerships in New Zealand.  Holden NZ may also have some 75 to 100 staff at the head office.  Perhaps as many as 600 employees in NZ could well be  impacted by this announcement. 


If up to 600 candidates across New Zealand were to simultaneously enter the employment market this would be a game changer.  This said there are over 600 vacancies broadly advertised under the banner of vehicle sales alone and up to 700 automotive technicians’ roles nationally that we estimate are vacant.    Employees in these primary categories should largely all find employment if worse comes to worse.  Many of the larger groups may also be able redeploy workers to other brands in larger groups if it comes to that.   The big impact will be in more senior roles and support roles.  If GM does not provide a significant replacement product offering or there is no alternative storey, the largest number of general managers, sales managers, service and parts managers along with service advisers, administrators and similar candidates may flood the market with their applications. Once again this is unless GM have a silver bullet and make future crystal clear, quickly.  We all await more news. Surely this can’t be the end like so many are telling us?


What cannot be denied is that as of 2.30pm February 17, the New Zealand motor industry has changed.  If Holden does exit the market entirely with no alternative or limited product offering there will be unprecedented opportunity to secure market share for other national distributors. 


While the extent of this announcement is yet to be made clear it is easy to see Holdens announcement is a game changer.  The worry for Holden employees right now is intense as they await further information.  For those multitude of Holden employees who are still calling as I draft this news item let’s hope the news is better than it first seems, and Holden employees merely become GM employees with a strong line up of vehicles.       


If further news articles prove to confirm the impact employees are expressing concerns about, what is the next step? Do you wait for up to 600 employees to come onto the market simultaneously or bring your plans forward?


Just like the 600 employees in Holdens dealerships and head office here in New Zealand we just as eagerly await additional news.  The announcement when first read and the feedback from Holden Dealership employees sounded final but it is the content around selling the “selected US models” that has us thinking.  The new Corvette is quite some car so what is the full extent of what else is planned?


We are left wondering whether Armageddon is on the way or Utopia. We will keep you posted because right now there seems to be a very large number of nervous brand loyal employees.