Plans for the continuation of Holden’s South Australian production line post-2018 faltered today, after talks between a Belgian entrepreneur and General Motors concluded.
Punch International owner Guido Dumarey's plan, dubbed Project Erich, was to spin new models off GM’s Zeta architecture after Holden ended production at the end of 2017 and manufacture them at the Elizabeth plant.
Punch Corporation owns a plant in Strasbourg, France, where it manufactures transmission units under license for ZF. This was also a former GM site, with Dumarey’s affection for Australian cars the catalyst for his bid.
The Project "Erich" moniker is derived from Erich Bitter, a maker of modified Opels and Holdens over the past few decades. It relied on GM handing over the rights and tooling for Zeta to Dumarey, so he would take over from 2018.
According to Wheels, there were "insurmountable" challenges that eventually killed off Holden's rescue attempt.
The two parties are bound by a Non-Disclosure agreement; nevertheless, a GM spokesperson commented:
“General Motors and Punch Corporation have undertaken and completed a detailed global evaluation of a proposal from Punch Corporation to continue manufacturing vehicles at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia. Both parties concluded that a viable business model was not possible for this case. Therefore the proposal will not be taken forward."
Local government support was needed if such an ambitious move had any chance of succeeding. While Australian government ministers vocalized their support, they didn’t offer any incentives.
Although it was a long shot, things are now bleak for any prospects of an Australian manufacturing revival. Another Adelaide-based company, Ethan Motors is expected to reveal their proposal next month, hoping to gain enough private capital to get it off the ground.
By Mitchell Jones